‘I thought we would be killed,’ alleged neo-Nazi victim tells court

A hiker, who was with two friends when their car was surrounded by a group of alleged neo-Nazis in regional Victoria, said he thought he was going to be killed when he saw a man thrust a knife through the vehicle’s window.

The man told a court on Thursday that a group of men, some armed with knives and dressed in black, allegedly attacked the car after he had filmed them on his phone following a hike in central Victoria.

Police allege Thomas Sewell, 28, and Jacob Hersant, 22, both leaders within Australia’s national socialist movement, were among the group dressed in black T-shirts with white symbols on them.

The pair are facing a committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on charges of armed robbery, affray and violent disorder over the alleged incident on May 8 at the Cathedral Range State Park.

On Thursday, several of the alleged victims, whose identities are suppressed, gave evidence.

One man told the court he had returned from the hike with his friends and was in the car park when a man dressed in black with an eagle tattoo on his calf passed him.

He told the court he recalled news coverage earlier in the year about the neo-Nazi meetings in the Grampians in which “someone had … advised to take photos or videos”.

“I thought well, if people have been told to do this before maybe that’s the appropriate course of action,” he said. He began filming on his phone. Shortly after, he saw men running towards the car, the court heard.

“It was frightening, I had grabbed onto the door to hold it closed because they were running towards us,” he said. “There was lots of banging from people kicking the car.”

He said he was panicked and terrified, and he saw three men – two in balaclavas – holding knives. One of the knives was thrust through a car window, he said.

“At that time, that’s when I came to feel we might be killed.”

Another man who was in the same car told the court he had been looking at his phone when he “looked up and there was a whole group of men running around us and [my friend] said lock the door”.

Asked how many people he believed surrounded the car, he said: “I thought we were going to be killed, I don’t remember counting men.

”It all happened in a flash.”

At the start of the day, prosecutor Danielle Guesdon applied to restrict access to the online court hearing after she raised issues about the conduct of a number of people who had tuned in the day before.

“There was one particular person [on Wednesday] … who said some things in the chat facility including coded hate speech and ‘Free Tom Sewell’ on at least two, possibly three occasions. When Your Honour was having a break, he turned a camera on and had a ‘Free Tom Sewell’ sign,” she said.

“The complainants are very concerned for their safety.”

Magistrate Peter Reardon said he would not restrict access to the hearing, but warned anyone who was misbehaving would be expelled.

However, in the afternoon, Ms Guesden said there had again been interruptions. She said someone had flashed up a picture of a gorilla doing what looked like a Nazi salute, and another person had put up a picture of a topless woman and then left the online hearing.

The case, which will test the evidence against the pair and determine if the charges go to trial, will continue on Friday morning.

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