It’s Christmas, so let’s talk assassination

I know, I know, it’s the week before Christmas. The carols are playing, the shops are bustling, and the tinsel is glittering (which makes me wonder if scientists are including tinsel in their call for a worldwide ban on glitter).

But it was on 17 December 1980 that Australia’s first geopolitically motivated assassination took place in Sydney, which means I need to interrupt your Christmas cheer to share some breaking news.

SMH 17 Dec 1980.jpeg

This week, thirty-nine years after the assassination, a memorial was held for the two murdered men, Turkish consul-general Sarik Ariyak and his bodyguard Engin Sever. If you’ve read My Name Is Revenge, you’ll know this event kicks off the book. It brought the violent backlash against Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide to Australia, intimately involving the nation.

Though the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide took responsibility for the attack, no-one was ever charged with the murders. The case remains unsolved.

NSW Police announced a $1 million reward for information, increased from the $250,000 that has been on offer since the 1980s. The police are also reviewing the case. The NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team created Strike Force Esslemont to re-investigate. (I assume this strike force isn’t named after Canadian speculative fiction author Ian C Esslemont, but I could be wrong. Maybe someone on the strike force is a big fan.)

The police media release doesn’t state where the reward money has come from, or why they’ve reopened the investigation now. (It’s a total coincidence that after all these decades, this happened months after my book was released, right?)

I hope Strike Force Esslemont discovers the two men responsible for these murders, and I hope they’re brought to trial. The victims’ families deserve answers, and the case and its political context deserve more attention. It’s an important example of the ongoing repercussions of genocide denial and intergenerational trauma, and the need for a coming together between communities.


5 responses to “It’s Christmas, so let’s talk assassination”

  1. Very curious to be reinvestigated now. Ashley maybe your book did play a part. A possibility only reinforced by choosing the name of another Canadian author for the taskforce. Presumably they didn’t want to call it the Kalagian Blunt taskforce.

    I’m guessing the reward money comes from NSW general revenue. Unless it’s stated otherwise.

    The murdered diplomat’s daughter has returned as part of this renewed effort. First time she’s returned to Australia. I can only imagine her trauma then and her emotions in returning.

    I saw the announcement of the increased reward and renewed investigations on TV. As often happens the context of the murders wasn’t mentioned at all in the report I saw, apart from being part of a spate of similar killings at the time.

    In the announcement it’s being called the first international politically-motivated attack on Australian soil. Though there was an attack here in 1868 on Prince Alfred, a younger son of Queen Victoria. He was stabbed by an Irishman who’d just been released from a mental institution.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Peter. Yes, I wasn’t aware she actually witnessed the assassination as a child. That must have been incredibly traumatic. And interested about Prince Alfred in 1868; did the attack have a political motive?


  3. Hi Ashley. I didn’t know that she had witnessed her father’s murder but read that subsequently. Terrible for any one let alone a nine year old.

    Re Prince Alfred, there was always tension in relation to England’s overlordship of Ireland. And people willing to take action to protest it, such as the attack on Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Alfred here, and also action from both sides to either retain the status quo or sever the links between the UK and Ireland.

    The attack in 1868 doesn’t seem to have been part of a coordinated action. Just a lone operator in today’s parlance.

    The Prince had actually been shot (not stabbed as I said above) and needed surgery after the attack. The assailant had only recently been released from a mental institution, and his defence counsel tried to argue not guilty by reason of insanity. Which defence didn’t work.

    The assailant was sentenced to death which the Prince tried to have commuted, but in which he wasn’t successful.

    To commemorate the attack and Prince Alfred’s recovery it was decided to commission a public building which is how the Prince Alfred Hospital was inaugurated.


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