EXCLUSIVE: Six years ago, the son of one of Sydney’s most wealthy and powerful real estate agents ran a red light without slowing down and then almost killed an innocent woman crossing the road, before attempting to flee. It’s an incident which would usually be reported on by many journalists. But in a city addicted to real estate speculation and property development, there are suggestions the media helped shut down the story. True Crime News Weekly publisher, Serkan Ozturk, reports.
It’s a story that for some reason never made the papers: James William Malouf, the prodigal son of Sydney property tycoon and real estate mogul, Bill Malouf, charged with Dangerous Driving Occasioning Grievous Bodily Harm after ploughing a high-powered European car through a busy intersection into pedestrians crossing with the lights.
Bill Malouf is the principal and director of LJ Hooker – Double Bay Group, right in the middle of Sydney’s glitzy and ritzy eastern suburbs. According to a bio on the company’s website, Bill is “acknowledged as the market leader in selling waterfront properties and prestige holdings” and apparently he “takes the No.1 position as the most iconic real estate agent who sells the most iconic homes”.
Just last year, in a News Corp puff piece in RealEstate.com.au it was reported that Bill – affectionately referred to as the “Grand Pooh-bah of real estate” by the gushing journalist who wrote the article – was “selling, on average, more than $300 million worth of Sydney prestige property each year”. It follows a 30 year career in the real estate business.
James’s brother and Bill’s other son, David, meanwhile is also now a successful real estate agent. According to one News Corp headline in 2016, the then-27-year-old “clocked up $70 million in sales in a year”.
The article further explained: “David Malouf’s dad is Bill Malouf, a pillar in the local property scene for decades. For Malouf senior a $20 million sale is all in a day’s work and his name is often attached to transactions with $40 million price tags”.
The Malouf family home is a palatial compound in Vaucluse; jutting with clifftops, the Pacific ocean facing suburb has long been considered one of Australia’s most exclusive locales.
On 28 August, 2012 at about 11.25pm James William Malouf was driving his high-powered Audi, cruising the city’s eastern suburbs. He drove toward the intersection of Belmore Road and Alison Road without slowing down, ran the red light and hit one of the pedestrians, a 55-year-old woman crossing the road. According to his statement, he had been kicked out of home, was extremely upset, and told police he wasn’t looking as he drove towards the intersection.
The victim was hit in the legs and thrown onto the bonnet of the vehicle. Her head smashed through the windscreen before the vehicle stopped, throwing her through the intersection. James William Malouf reversed his car, got out and ran.
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Witnesses at the busy intersection reported seeing the victim flying metres through the air before landing on the road. She lay motionless as the car reversed several metres, stopped, and they saw a man wearing a hoodie leave the driver’s seat.
In a sworn statement to police one witness reported that the driver of the car started running towards nearby Belmore Road where he tripped and fell over the gutter. He recovered, before eventually walking back to the accident scene.
According to the police who attended, none of the usual causes of a road accident were in evidence. No alcohol, texting, or speeding, just a very emotional young man who said he “wasn’t looking”. In his statement to the police James William Malouf said he had “family issues” and had been “kicked out of the family home” and “wasn’t in the best state”.
When questioned later by police he was asked if he thought it was wise to be driving a motor vehicle given his emotional state. He replied, “I’ve got more important things to think about than driving”.
According to police, Malouf stated that he had placed his head in his hands, taking his eyes from the road, and did not see the lights or the intersection. Crash scene investigators established that the lights turned yellow when James William Malouf was well over 120 metres from the lights, and he had at least five seconds of a red light in front of him before impact. Plenty of time for most people one would think to hit the brakes. Malouf did not.
Just a few weeks after the incident, it was reported in Domain that his father Bill sold “the Darling Point Road penthouse” of arts philanthropists Simon and Catriona Mordan for over $6 million. At the time, Bill would not comment on the sale price.
“LAWYERS, SONS AND MONEY”
James William Malouf and his entire family knew he was now looking at serious jail time. True Crime News Weekly understands Malouf had two prior driving offences for not displaying his P-plates while on his provisional license.
The legal negotiating started almost immediately. His high priced team argued doggedly to have the charge reduced from the indictable offence to a charge of negligence, a summary offence. The prosecutors were not prepared to accept his plea to the lesser charge. The matter was listed for 19 July, 2013.
Curiously, there had been no identifying media coverage of the accident. Not in the papers, and definitely not on tv. In all his court appearances at Waverley Local Court no one reported that James William Malouf, son of Bill Malouf, property mogul, in a city soaking with real estate speculation, was charged with an indictable offence.
Was the Malouf name too hot to handle? Did someone lean on the press or was it a favour for Sydney’s biggest print media buyer? True Crime News Weekly understands that both News Corp and Fairfax Media were alerted to the case on a number of occasions, but for some reason neither organisation followed it up. Both media organisations have been heavily reliant on their real estate arms, RealEstate.com.au and Domain, ever since the internet decimated print advertising. Indeed, it’s come to light that one of the main reasons Nine has taken over Fairfax in the last month is because of its links to things like Domain, and not its former proud record of independent journalism.
In Court back in 2013, Malouf’s crack medico-legal team had a new strategy: divert this matter from the Criminal Court and get it heard as a Mental Health matter.
James William Malouf had ADHD according to the medical reports presented by the defence. He suffered from, but was not diagnosed with, depression. According to their doctors, James William Malouf was not bad or mad, just easily distracted.
The magistrate eventually rejected that application and with that it became clear that an agreement had been reached between the parties.
James William Malouf changed his plea to guilty but instead of requesting a pre-sentence report the magistrate went straight to sentencing. No time allowed for a victim impact statement, despite the Prosecutor requesting it on behalf of the victim.
Young James simply received a Section 9 Unsupervised Bond, no fine, no supervision, no jail term. He walked out of Court a free man.
His license was suspended for two years, which meant he had to find another means of getting around.
In that two years, his victim spent her time in a wheelchair learning to walk again.
PHOTOS OF THE MALOUFS OVERSEAS POSTED ON THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
SENTENCING FOR SERIOUS INDICTABLE OFFENCES
If this wealthy, young man were Aboriginal he would be thirteen times more likely to be given a custodial sentence. Someone disaffected, or simply poor wouldn’t have much chance of avoiding jail either. Courts usually like to send a message.
An overworked Legal Aid lawyer would be pleading for a reduction in length of jail time rather than contemplating this extraordinary outcome.
And in Melbourne, rather than Sydney, another driver described as “privileged” and “spoilt” was handed a two-and-a-half-year jail sentence just this March for hitting a pedestrian in the the Victorian capital’s CBD.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW
After seven months of rehab the victim was finally able to return to her home. She spent the next 18 months recovering some ability to walk, and is hopeful of getting NDIS funding to pay for a leg brace that will enable her to walk more than a few metres at a time. She suffered head injuries that still affect her, and she’s in pain. She lives on a disability support pension. Despite all this, she seems optimistic that she can manage her injuries well enough to avoid the knee replacements that she has been advised she will need.
And what of the perpetrator? James William Malouf and his family have reconciled in the wake of this tragedy. He has a job with Coplex Constructions, a firm of developers with links to Bill Malouf. The Malouf family travels overseas every year to places like Greece to celebrate birthdays and holidays together. We have been unable to clarify whether James has been charged with any related driving offences since.
We approached James William Malouf for a comment. He did not respond to several emails and text messages sent by True Crime News Weekly over a period of one week.
We then approached Bill Malouf for a comment. We sent written questions to Mr Malouf’s work email address. We did not receive a reply. Although the Malouf family has a well publicised history of supporting charities and the disadvantaged, neither Bill nor his son have approached the victim to check on her welfare in the five years since the Court case.
Given that James’s defence in court partly relied on an assertion that he had a history of depression, we cannot be sure as to whether the Malouf family regret the goings-on that night before the crash. According to the court documents, James was being kicked out of home. He then got in his car and drove off, upset.
We also can’t be too sure of the full devastating effect this incident had on the woman he ran over. Firstly, dealing with the pain and trauma of a car ploughing into her, and then the niggling feeling over the intervening years that perhaps money and a famous name could mean more to the courts in this country than actual justice.
We contacted her for this story but she didn’t want to be formally interviewed. She did however provide the following statement:
“James Malouf is lucky. Lucky he didn’t kill me because then no-one could have kept him out of jail.
Lucky he missed the other pedestrians and only hit me and my dog.
Lucky he didn’t kill himself.
He’s had no commensurate consequences, showed no meaningful contrition or insight into his behaviour and hearing his excuses, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t do it again.
I’m lucky too. Lucky to be alive. Lucky to still have both legs. Lucky to be walking. Lucky I have the fortitude to manage pain, partial paralysis, disfigurement and the sheer terror of what James Malouf did to me.”
– Additional reporting by Gary Johnston