Â Hundreds of Australian internet users have joined online vigilante groups called “Make it know [Deleted]Â is the man was arrested for arson.” and “[Deleted], the Victoian Bushfires Arsonist, must burn in hell”.
The groups name the accused arsonist and make repeated threats to kill him or commit acts of violence against him. The man – currently in custody – is accused of lighting the fire in Churchill in Victoria that killed dozens of people and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.
One of the founders of one of the groups, Yvette Langstaff – herself directly impacted by the accused’sÂ alleged antics – spoke with VEXNEWS about her motivation for starting one of the groups:
“I’m happy to give you a little insight on my reason for starting the group. I’ve relocated to Queensland from Morwell Victoria because of the fires. I didn’t want my family at risk as the Churchill fires were expanding to surrounding towns. Basically fear set in. I named [deleted] after confirming I had the right person mainly because I lost friends in Callignee, my sister lost her home in a separate fire in Wandong & I have felt the wrath of this man’s actions.”
She candidly continued:
I believe the public have the right to know who this man is. Firstly for closure for the family’s that have lost so much & question who could do such a thing. Secondly why should his name be protected? Sure there’s going to be anger toward him from the local community but he has taken the lives of 21 people who did nothing to him, they were completely innocent going about there daily business. He’s in protective custody so I figure isn’t that enough for his protection? Why should we the public be sypathetic to him? Enough is enough and I’m sick of criminals like this being protected by the government.
One of the groups has also obtained photographs of him from his MySpace page and point out his address is discoverable via White Pages. These photographs were also published in News Limited publications on Saturday although they have not published them online. It also speculates about a possible motive for his alleged crime including a failed relationship with a CFA volunteer.
The Facebook vigilante groups have hundreds of members and are rapidly growing in size.
This is despite a suppression order has been issued that prevents VEXNEWS and other media outlets accessible in Victoria from naming the accused mass murderer.
Facebook – an American company – is Australia’s most visited “social networking” site, with over two and a half million users here. The company is potentially subject to contempt of court proceedings if they continue to host the groups, legal experts today explained to VEXNEWS. The company potentially faces large fines and executives could be sent to jail. Even hyper-linking to them could be a breach of the order.
The company did not immediately respond to our requests for comment.
LORD OF THE FLIES JUSTICE
Broadly representative of the hostile sentiment towards the accused on the Facebook vigilante groups is a message on one of the discussion boards which reads “kill the c*nt.”
Many of the hundreds of members of the groups are from Victoria – and at least one – Sarah West – is an employee of the state government. West declared:
this guy is in the white pages…interesting thoughts are coming into my head now
In an outpouring of grief and fury, vigilante Joshua Mckay wrote:
yes thank christ his address was given out, just in case the police din’t catch him in time, i had a small chance to go and smash the c*nt’s knee caps in with a metal pipe.
CONTEMPT OF COURT
A Chris Griffiths showed his lack of enthusiasm for the court order requiring the accused not be named to protect him and his opportunity for a fair trial:
looks like that supression order didn’t do too much, lol.
Some aren’t so much advocating mob violence as proposing somewhat medieval punishments to be imposed on him. A young woman Carey Lee Grossman advocates:
Make this bastard go out in to the cars, the houses and pull dead charred bodies out, let him see the horrors of what he has done, MAKE HIM CLEAN UP THE MESS HE HAS CREATED.
Then build a bonfire, place him on a stake and light a fire up under his ass and see how much he likes fire now.
It’s interesting to see many of the angriest and most violent of comments are from women, shocked by the magnitude of the destruction caused by the nation’s worst bushfire tragedy. Melinda Kirkpatrick-Mundie offers:
You dirty piece os scumbag sh*t. how the f*ck can you do what you did. your lucky i dont get my hands on you cause i light you on fire then put you out and continue to do it untill you slowly burn to death you low life piece of sh*t. remember what goes around comes around your f*cked…..
Another, Carmen Bruno had given the matter some detailed thought:
you f*ckn worthless piece of shit… ur a f*ckn disgrace to human kind… to any living thing!!!! if i was the magistrate dealing wid ur case i would be giving ur the harshest punishment ever recalled… it wouldnt be putting u in prison it would be putin u in a tidy cell… n one day at a time cut ur limbs the burn them up the put lemon or salt on them n rub it… il make u f*ckn suffer like our family and friends did!! u DIRTY, PERVERT FUCKD UP HUMAN BEING…… not dat u are one!!!!!!!!!! rot in hell u bastard
Burning the accused arsonist is a popular and recurring theme, with another young woman, Kelly North, opining:
“They should hold on to him until Guy Fawkes night and make a real example of the c*nt”- I heard a man say on the train and i agree 100%
VOICES OF REASON
Although Facebook user Brooke Roach decided to swim against the tide and try to talk down the angry mob:
This isn’t right. I think u should delete this group. U don’t realise the extent of what will result from this. The legal system will play its part. My heart goes out to the victims of this terrible event.
Debbie Chilmaid disagrees:
like hell this fkr deserves a fair trial…. where was the victims fair go
A good question of course but isn’t the whole point of a system of justice that it applies equally to everyone. If only popular defendants got a fair trial we could dispense with the whole expensive process and let guilt or innocence be decided Australian Idol style.
We suspect the Facebook groups won’t stay up that much longer. Certainly they shouldn’t. Victoria has enough problems now without vigilantes adding fuel to the fire.
MONDAY 12PM UPDATE: The court order suppressing publication of the identity of the accused arsonist has been lifted. A win for the Facebook activists who campaigned for his identity to be known.