‘I thought he would kill me’: Alleged kidnappers refused bail

Four people accused of tracking down and kidnapping two female relatives in an attempt to restore their family’s honour after the women fled to Victoria will remain behind bars after they were denied bail by a Melbourne court.

The women, who cannot be named for safety reasons, left their homes in Sydney and Brisbane with the help of police in March after years of violence and “extreme control due to strict religious and cultural beliefs” at the hands of their relatives.

A lawyer for and supporters of the accused outside a Sydney court after an extradition hearing earlier this month.Credit:Edwina Pickles

The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court heard on Wednesday that the relatives believed the women’s decision to escape their home brought “shame and dishonour” to the family and sought to rid themselves of the stigma by kidnapping the pair and forcing them back to Queensland and New South Wales.

Magistrate Carolyn Burnside refused their application for bail because she said there was a real risk the individuals would retaliate against the women and could flee to their native Iraq if released from custody.

The family migrated from Iraq to Australia as refugees in the early 2000s and retain some family links to the country. They remain citizens of Iraq.

The 51-year-old man, a 48-year-old woman, a 21-year-old man and a 33-year-old man, who cannot be named because it would identify the women, are facing charges of kidnapping and assault over the alleged incident in August.

They appeared via video link from prison on Wednesday afternoon and were not required to speak during proceedings.

“This is a serious and disturbing case of family violence where decision-making is clearly clouded,” Burnside told the court. “I find there is an absence of compelling reasons that could justify bail.”

The 21-year-old bent over as the decision was handed down.

Earlier in the hearing, a relative listening in with one of the alleged kidnappers’ legal representatives in Sydney, Elie Farah, blew kisses at the camera in an attempt to communicate with the four accused.

The woman also typed messages on her phone and held them up to the camera for them to read and attempted to take a photograph of the 21-year-old as he held his thumb up from jail.

“I love you, I miss you,” one of the messages read.

Police allege that on August 27, a cousin of both women drove from Sydney to Melbourne and checked into the Novotel hotel in Preston, where they waited for the mother and brother of one of the women to fly in.

Three days later, on August 30, the trio broke into the women’s home and waited for them to return from work. They armed themselves with two knives they found in the kitchen and put on blue plastic gloves they found under the sink.

As the women returned home later that evening, the cousin grabbed one of them from behind, covered her mouth and held a knife to her neck.

The mother of one of the women grabbed the other by the hair and pulled her to the ground. As she lay on the floor, the brother held a knife to her stomach, telling her: “You bitch, you think you can run away from home? I have a knife in my hand. Don’t move, don’t scream.”

“I could feel something sharp pressing to the side of my stomach,” the woman later told police. “He started calling me names and cursing me … I was so scared I honestly thought he would kill me.”

At one point, one of the men allegedly slapped one of the victims for wearing a crop top, as the other man asked: “Why did you bring us to this point? Why did you leave home?”

The man then ripped a golden cross from around the neck of the other woman, who had previously converted to Christianity, forced the pair into the back of a car and drove them back to Sydney.

Meanwhile, the father of one of the women drove a truck to Victoria with another man and cleared the home of their belongings.

Eventually, the women were freed from their restraints and one of them was able to grab her phone and tell her boyfriend via the Snapchat app to contact the police. The boyfriend had previously reported the women as missing after realising their Melbourne home had been emptied.

The court heard the women, who are cousins, had tried to escape their family last March but had been discovered within hours and talked into returning home. The pair had been hiding at an Airbnb and planned to move to Victoria together.

The lawyer appearing for the alleged kidnappers in court, Rishi Nathwani, argued intervention orders currently in place to protect the women, as well as additional bail conditions, would mitigate the risk.

But Burnside said the prosecution had a strong case to prosecute the relatives, adding the “use of violence by a mother, knives and other exacerbating factors” made the crime particularly serious.

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