EXCLUSIVE: Back in January 2020, True Crime News Weekly published an exclusive investigation into the NSW Police’s reopening of the long-dormant search for the killers of Turkish Consul General, Şarık Arıyak, in Sydney’s east more than 40 years ago. The report included then-unreported details of a female suspect thought to have been spotted at the scene one week before the attack, and who may have called local media outlets claiming responsibility.
Two years on, our intel appears to have been confirmed with the release of a phone conversation recording that police claim could be the key to unlock evidence “invaluable to the investigation.”
The developments come as a crowdfunding campaign is launched to investigate the assassinations. Joanna Psaros with this report.
Following the reopening of the 1980 cold case’s investigation by the NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team in December 2019, two months ago NSW police released the recording of a phone call made by an unidentified female to a local media office, appearing to claim responsibility for the crime.
“The attacks are a retaliation for the injustice done to Armenians by Turkey in 1915,” the caller can be heard to state, before uttering the phrase “We are the authors of (inaudible)…”
“We have no connection with the so-called Armenian secret army. Turkish institutions are our target,” the recording concludes.
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Police have urged anyone who recognises the caller’s voice, or who is able to distinguish the words spoken after “the authors of” to come forward, with a $1 million reward on offer for information that helps solve the crime.
“Anyone whose memory may be refreshed by the audio we’ve released, no matter how insignificant the information may seem, it could be invaluable to the investigation,” announced Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Commander, Assistant Commissioner Mark Walton.
“Police have strong reason to believe that there are members of the public who are aware of who this person is.”
WATCH: MOURNERS PAY THEIR RESPECTS AT FUNERAL IN 1980
Following analysis and discussion with Armenian language experts, True Crime News Weekly believes the woman in question states: “We are the authors of the above-mentioned act”. It is thought the woman, likely of Armenian origin and who had arrived in Australia recently and learned to speak English here, was reading in English a message written originally in Armenian. This information has been passed on to investigators.
The historical murders (now the subject of proposed true crime podcast series), in which the then-Turkish Consul-General and his bodyguard, Engin Sever, were gunned down by assailants from a car outside a Dover Heights residence in December 1980, are one of Australia’s longest-running unsolved crimes, and considered to be the first international politically motivated attack on Australian soil. While the attack has been attributed to international terrorist organisation Justice Commandos for the Armenian Genocide (JCAG), no individuals have ever been charged.
The identity of this mystery caller is just one of many questions that remain unanswered in Australia’s longest saga of domestic terrorism- not least of which is the question of why investigators waited some forty years before releasing key public evidence.
When True Crime News Weekly put this to the NSW Police they declined to comment.
“Thank you for your email and interest in this matter, however we don’t provide details on investigation strategies,” a spokesperson said.
The timing of the cold case’s long-overdue reopening is particularly interesting given NSW’s changing political context of the past few years- most notably the rise and fall of former Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
It has been suggested that Berejiklian may have influenced NSW police policy on the matter as a result of pressure from the then-Premier’s Armenian community links, with the case as good as closed until for years.
It’s reported the former Liberal Party frontbencher has a long history of using her office to promote the interests of Armenian-associated groups – both legitimate (parliamentary recognition of the Armenian genocide) and not so legitimate (siphoning thousands of taxpayer dollars to the Armenian National Committee, as revealed exclusively by TCNW in February 2022).
She also has proven ties to individuals and organisations for whom public enquiry into the Arıyak case could prove embarrassing, such as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation; a group named in top-secret ASIO briefings as being associated with the murderous Sydney JCAG faction.
Gladys Berejiklian poses with ARF’s Greater Washington Chair, Sebouh Asatoorian, in 2018 (Image: Supplied / ANCA)
After whispers of corruption, the public goodwill and political influence Berejiklian once wielded was decidedly waning by the time the re-investigation was announced. Could the Premier have had her hands full concealing her illegal and unethical relationship with corrupt former frontbencher Daryl Maguire at the time?
The long overdue re-examination of the historic crime is a police investigation which casts a spotlight on the echelons of Berejiklian’s own ethnic community. Proving trouble follows the former politician wherever she goes, Berejiklian was appointed to Optus’s executive team just months before the company’s headline-hitting hack despite the appointment going against the telco’s own published code of conduct.
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The Joint Counter Terrorism Team – a multi-unit taskforce comprised of the NSW Police Force, the Australian Federal Police, ASIO, and the NSW Crime Commission – have remained tight-lipped about the investigation’s progress, only providing that it is in “the early stages of review.”
However, public interest in the investigation was piqued when police released COMFIT images of two possible suspects in December 2019. At least one of these suspects is thought to be living in Australia. The following August, investigators began forensic examination of a number of mysterious items retrieved from Sydney Harbour by divers – though True Crime News Weekly understands the dive was largely for publicity purposes.
With no arrests made, those following the case can only speculate as to the value of evidence gleaned so far. And with police appearing to drag their feet, members of the public are attempting to take matters into their own hands.
As such, a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help produce a podcast investigation series looking into the assassinations. Producers of the podcast have already met with the families of Mr Arıyak and Mr Sever as well as sifted through mountains of archived evidence to begin piecing together the real circumstances of this crime.
If the campaign is successful, the team at True Crime News Weekly will be assisting with the commission and creation of the true crime podcast.
Meanwhile, over 40 years on, it seems that the police’s best hope to solve the dual murders is that someone, somewhere, will be willing to speak for the first time, lest the investigation drag on for another few decades.