Police in Australia - issues and innovations in Australian policing (case studies)
The AFP investigation into Japanese sect activities in Western Australia
Compiled by Richard Crothers
Australian Federal Police Media and Public Relations
Contributions by Federal Agents Mark Boyle, Tracey Dickerson and Jeff Penrose
Australian Federal Police
January 1, 2008
The release of nerve gas on the Tokyo subway in March 1995 resulted in 12 people dead and more than 5500 injured and revealed the existence of a Japanese doomsday cult dedicated to bringing about 'Armageddon' through acts of mass murder.
Aum Sect leader, Chizuo Matsumoto, or as the world knows him, Shoko Asahara, attempted to bring about his doomsday vision by recruiting young intellectuals to develop weapons of mass destruction. Sect members operated under a mix of Buddhist reincarnation and deliverance beliefs and were occupied in legitimate enterprises as well as a range of criminal activities which included murder, extortion and subversion.
The Sect was structured similarly to some aspects of the Japanese government which the Sect was set to replace when it instigated the government's downfall.
Background to the Aum Sect and its founder
Chizuo Matsumoto was born on 2 March 1955. He was one of seven children, an especially large family by Japanese standards. Matsumoto was educated at local schools for the blind because of infantile glaucoma. After completing his secondary education, Matsumoto made an unsuccessful attempt to enrol at Tokyo University, one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Japan.
In 1977, Matsumoto married Kazuko, and had six children. Matsumoto adopted the alias Shoko Asahara, and in 1987 founded the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) Sect.
In August 1989, the Aum was granted official religious status by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Official recognition meant the Sect was able to take advantage of significant tax breaks which apply to those religious organisations which have been officially recognised. The Sect also benefited from the provisions of Japan's Religious Corporation Law, in that authorities are prohibited from investigating the religious activities or doctrine of a group that has been granted official recognition.
Subsequent to the granting of official recognition the financial status of the Sect and membership changed dramatically. From humble beginnings membership by early 1995 had grown to about 50 000 worldwide. Similarly, the worth of the Sect grew to more than a billion US dollars.
In concert with its financial and membership growth, the Sect adopted a more aggressive and dangerous stance, engaging in kidnappings, assaults and ultimately murder. Despite its increased propensity to operate outside the law, the Sect made an attempt to gain widespread legitimacy.
Asahara, along with a number of other Sect members contested elections for the national parliament in February 1990. The attempt failed with all the Sect candidates receiving only a small number of votes. The failure of the Sect at the ballot box was a turning point in the Sect's history. After the election, the Sect gave up all pretensions of being law-abiding and set its sights on apparently ensuring that Asahara's prediction of Armageddon became reality by committing a number of heinous criminal acts.
The magnitude of the problem
The dangers the Aum Sect presented to society were significant. By the time it released deadly sarin gas into a Tokyo subway in March 1995, the Sect had evolved into a highly sophisticated terrorist organisation. The Sect had a membership in the vicinity of 50 000, spread through at least six countries. Aum membership included individuals who were highly trained in fields such as medicine, biochemistry, genetic engineering and architecture. Of note is that some of the Sect members who travelled to Australia in 1993, had expertise and training in some of those disciplines.
The Australian connection
According to Aum Sect followers, Australia would be one of the few places to be relatively unaffected by their doomsday prophecy and would be an ideal place to establish a permanent facility.
Documents seized by Japanese authorities after the Tokyo subway gassing revealed a detailed strategy for achieving the cult's objectives. This included a reference to an abandoned uranium mine in Australia. In 1993, the Sect purchased a remote property in outback Western Australia. Until the Tokyo gassings, the world was ignorant of the capability, extent and determination of this fanatical cult to achieve its philosophies.
In April 1993, two years before the subway attack, the Sect's "construction minister", Kiyohide Hayakawa, and the "intelligence minister", Yoshihiro Inoue, arrived in Perth. They were met by an Australian real estate agent of Japanese origin. Over the following three days, the group flew to several sheep stations and inspected them as prospective locations to establish a Sect facility.
Sect members indicated they wanted to inspect remote properties where they could conduct experiments of benefit to humankind, but they did not disclose what the benefits would be. After landing at each station, they went off by themselves for some hours. At the time, they were equipped with plastic boxes containing electronic testing equipment to which probes were attached for inserting into the ground. It is not known what this equipment was used for during those times away from the aircraft.
After viewing several properties, the Sect members decided to purchase the remote Banjawarn Station, a property about 600 km north-east of Perth. The property covers about 190 000 hectares.
While in Western Australia, Sect members engaged a mining resources consultant to obtain mineral exploration licences which would ensure nobody could enter the property to prospect for minerals.
The Sect formed two Australian companies, Mahaposya Australia Pty Ltd and Clarity Investments Pty Ltd. Directors of each company were Mr Matsumoto and Yasuko Shimada, an Australian citizen of Japanese descent and Sect member. Mining exploration licences for Banjawarn Station were purchased by both companies for A$150 000 from the Western Australia Department of Mines. In September 1993, the Sect purchased Banjawarn Station for A$540 000 through Mr Hayakawa, who had returned to Australia with another Sect member Tsuyoshi Maki.
On 9 September 1993, Mr Matsumoto and 24 Sect members arrived in Perth from Tokyo. The group paid about A$30 000 for excess baggage which included tools, generators, ditch diggers and protective clothing including gas masks and respirators. Customs officers searched the baggage and found an array of chemicals including hydrochloric and perchloric acids. The hydrochloric acid was in large glass bottles marked "hand soap". Two crates of chemicals and laboratory equipment were confiscated.
As a result, two Sect members, Seiichi Endo, a biochemist, and Tomomasa Nakagawa, a medical doctor, were charged with carrying dangerous goods on an aircraft. They described themselves as office workers on their visa applications. Each was fined A$2400.
Among the group were Hideo Murai, the Sect's "science and technology minister", who was murdered in Tokyo on 23 April 1995. Also in the group was Niimi Tomomitsu, the "home affairs minister", who was arrested by Japanese police on 12 April 1995 on charges of false imprisonment. Another member of the group was the Sect's "intelligence minister", Yoshihiro Inoue, who was arrested by Japanese police on charges related to the Tokyo subway gas attack.
Transport logistics appear to have been planned well in advance. Sect members chartered three aircraft to fly from Perth to Banjawarn Station. A new batch of chemicals was ordered to replace those seized by Customs. One Sect member flew from Western Australia to Melbourne to purchase two 25 gram bottles of the chemical Thioacetamide, valued at A$190 - a return trip of about 6000 km.
Eight days after entering Australia, Mr Matsumoto and the majority of the group left the country. By 4 October 1993, all of the remaining Sect members had left Australia.
Investigation of the Aum Sect - an achievement
In carrying out its role as the main investigating agency into the Aum Sect's activities in Australia, the AFP successfully planned and executed a complex operation which to date is unique in the history of Australian policing.
When concerns were expressed that the Sect may be carrying out chemical experiments in Australia, the AFP sought advice from the Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) about the Sect. General verbal advice was provided about the Sect's possible involvement in kidnapping in Japan and that prefectural police were investigating allegations that members wanting to leave the Sect were being unlawfully detained. It would appear that the NPA was not conversant with the Sect's involvement in domestic terrorism or the production of nerve agents. It should also be noted that in Japan the rights of religious groups are highly protected by law.
In October 1993, Mr Matsumoto and four of the original group applied for visas to return to Australia. Their applications, along with those of another 12 Sect members were rejected by the Australian Embassy in Tokyo. The circumstances of the group's arrival in Australia and their failure to openly disclose their activities and antecedents coupled with the attention given to the group by Customs and Immigration raised a high level of suspicion. The AFP consulted the Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) and the level of suspicion rose to the point where the authorities took pro-active action to flag any attempt by the group to return to Australia. However, two Sect members avoided detection by obtaining visas from the Australian Consulate in Osaka. They travelled to Australia and became caretakers for the station.
Mr Matsumoto wrote to the Western Australia Minister for Mines and the Federal Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs asking that the applications be reconsidered. In the letter he said that as he was blind he needed the help of two aides and because his life was under threat, he needed 17 bodyguards to accompany him on his trip to Australia. His concerns were expressed by revelations that his Tokyo headquarters had been sprayed with "diluted harmful gas" and that during his visit to Russia he had received bomb threats to his life.
The international community was oblivious to the global and domestic criminal activities of the Sect. News broke throughout the world on 20 March 1995 that sarin gas had been used on commuters travelling in five trains on the Tokyo subway system. Twelve people were killed and 5500 injured. These trains were routed through Kasumigaseki Station which was located beneath the National Police Agency and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. Eleven pouches similar to those used for blood transfusions or intravenous drips were found on the trains. The pouches contained traces of sarin. Immediately after the attack, Sect leader Matsumoto went into hiding.
Sect activities at Banjawarn Station
After news of the subway attack was reported in Australia, the lawyer for the new owners of Banjawarn Station alerted the AFP to several unusual findings on the property. Immediately federal police officers from Perth, accompanied by a chemist, travelled to Banjawarn Station in a light aircraft provided by the Western Australia Police (WAPOL).
It appeared that the Sect had established a laboratory in the kitchen of an abandoned house on the station. The laboratory door was marked in Japanese handwriting, "Toyoda Laboratory". This is an obvious reference to Toru Toyoda, a Sect member who arrived in Australia with Matsumoto. Toyoda is a physics graduate of Tokyo University. He also described his occupation as "office worker" on his Australian visa application. Toyoda has been arrested for his involvement in Aum related criminal activities. He has admitted to producing sarin for the sect's gas attacks.
Chemicals Found Witnesses described the laboratory as a temporary facility containing laptop computers, digital equipment, glass tubing, glass evaporators, beakers, Bunsen burners and ceramic grinding and mixing bowls. There were limestone or calcrete-type rocks on the floor and benches. Other equipment included a small laboratory-size, rock-crushing machine and two small generators. Soil samples taken from a drain identified a presence of methylphosphonic acid (MPA), a residue of the nerve agent sarin.
Japanese documents found at Banjawarn Station were translated as procedures for dissolving rock or ore sample which may be used to determine the presence of a number of elements. Geological samples left at the station by the sect were accompanied by notes revealing the global position system (GPS) readings of where the samples had been found on Banjawarn.
Another document written in Japanese and titled Banjawarn Station was located at the station. This suggested the sect may have been experimenting on sheep as the document contained notations for classifying dead or injured sheep.
Sheep Carcasses Near the homestead, 29 sheep carcasses were discovered as well as large amounts of chemicals including hydrochloric, perchloric and nitric acids. These chemicals are commonly used for soil assaying and analysis. However, they also can be used to make simple nerve agents such as phosgene. No ingredients for sarin or other nerve agents were located. The chemicals were seized and soil samples from the sheep-carcass site were taken for analysis. The team then returned to Perth.
Initial analysis of soil samples taken from the site where dead sheep were found in a circle confirmed MPA residue. According to experts MPA does not occur naturally.
Believing that sarin gas had been used on sheep at Banjawarn Station, AFP and WAPOL formed a joint operation and co-signed a major investigation plan. Officers from both agencies returned to the property with a forensic officer and state and federal chemists to carry out a comprehensive examination to determine what the Aum Sect had been doing there.
At the site where the 29 carcasses were found, soil, wool and bone samples were collected for analysis. Also found were two ear tags indicating that the sheep were 2 to 7-years-old. The sheep were estimated to have died 18 months prior to their discovery by the new property owners. This site was considered unusual in that the sheep were gathered in a small area. A forensic pathologist's report on the damaged skulls suggested that some of the sheep may have been alive at the time the damage was inflicted. The report stated there was "... evidence of blunt-force injury, consistent with a flat hammer-head ... and there were signs of possible intercranial haemorrhage...".
Samples collected from the sheep-carcass site were analysed by Australian forensic chemists using procedures to determine the presence of MPA. The procedures were developed by Dr Robyn Black, a world authority on nerve agents and their residues.
All government scientists and chemists consulted in the course of this investigation agreed that MPA was present in some of the samples tested. However, some argued that, according to Dr Black's research, the presence of another by-product known as isopropyl methylphosphonic acid (IMPA) was required as conclusive evidence of the presence of sarin.
Dr Black reports that IMPA is usually present at much lower levels than MPA in soil that has been exposed to sarin. Because MPA levels were so low in samples obtained at Banjawarn it is understood that most equipment currently available for testing for the presence of IMPA is not sufficiently sensitive to provide confirmation that sarin was used. However, when formed, IMPA exists in minute levels and even short-term exposure to the elements increases difficulty of detection.
To ensure the safety of the site, soil and sheep carcasses were buried in a deep pit by the investigation team in accordance with recommendations from scientific experts who advised that the sarin gas degradation by-product was harmless.
Search of Dump Site Forensic examinations were conducted at a rubbish dump near the homestead. Japanese food containers and wrappings, probably dumped by sect members, were found in one area of the dump site. Some rubbish at the site had been burnt with the assistance of an accelerant such as petrol. The ashes searched varied in depth to about 400 millimetres and covered about 15 square metres.
Many empty small bottles were found in the ashes, along with a ceramic "Buchner" laboratory standard funnel used for filtering solids from liquids. Also located was a rechargeable battery with the name of "Maki" written on it. Tsuyoshi Maki was a sect member who lived at the property until it was sold.
A front-end loader was used to remove a cross-section of the remainder of the dump site to a level where bare earth was exposed. No further material of evidentiary value was located and the site was declared safe from contamination. A line search was conducted of the area surrounding the main dump site which covered an area of about 2 to 3 hectares. Nothing of significance was found.
During the investigation at Banjawarn Station members of the joint operation team travelled to the Mulga Queen Aboriginal community 60 km north-east of Banjawarn Station and took statements about sightings of sect members. Witnesses reported seeing people believed to be sect members in and around Banjawarn homestead and on the airstrip at times wearing protective clothing which included rubber gumboots and large gloves.
The search at Banjawarn concentrated on photographic, video and forensic examinations of the building identified as the laboratory. Items were located which linked the sect with the building and included company markings from Mahaposya Pty Ltd on pieces of tape and cardboard.
Non-sect members employed to manage the property were told to leave by Aum Sect members in Japan for the two weeks that the laboratory was in use. The sect attempted to hire earthmoving equipment from a local mining company who refused to cooperate because the sect would not use a company employee to operate the equipment. The sect then hired a backhoe from an equipment hire firm in Kalgoorlie, a considerable distance from Banjawarn Station, and purchased a grader from a nearby property.
Based on the investigation, the AFP assessed that the Sect used Banjawarn Station to conduct nerve-agent experiments on sheep and intended to establish a permanent facility in Australia. No evidence of established Sect membership in Australia was found. These activities significantly pre-date the doomsday activities announced to the world following the Tokyo subway gas attack.
There is some evidence to support the contention that Mr Matsumoto and his followers planned to use Banjawarn as a remote safe haven for the Sect. However, it is more likely that Matsumoto intended to be in Australia during the time when the major attacks were to take place. This action, of course, was thwarted when he and his entourage were refused entry for their return visit.
Members of the joint Australian Federal Police/WAPOL investigation team visited Japan and the USA during their investigation. The NPA provided information about the progress of their investigation into the Tokyo subway gassings and related sect activity and the attempted murder of its director-general. A detailed briefing has been provided to the NPA on the significance of the Sect's activities in Australia.
Information was also exchanged with the FBI and the New York Police Department Joint Terrorist Task Force who were responsible for investigating the New York chapter of the Sect.
Managing the media
As well as international law enforcement agencies having a great deal of interest in the Sect's Australian connection, it was not long before the international media also became involved. It soon became apparent to AFP and WAPOL investigators that there would be more than the local media with which to contend.
The AFP and other law enforcement agencies understand that the public wants to know what is going on. Investigators "on the ground" understood the media's need to "get a story", but imagine a remote sheep station in the heart of Western Australia 600 km from the nearest city, four Japanese television crews with a limited command of English and a team of investigators searching 190 000 hectares for one of the most lethal nerve gases ever invented at Banjawarn Station: the AFP encountered just such a situation.
After the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, the international media began to investigate the Aum Sect's activities in other parts of the world. Almost immediately, the AFP was inundated by media requests from Australia and Japan for information about the Sect's visits to Australia in 1993. The media were interested in the reasons for the visits by a number of Sect members which included Sect leader Shoko Asahara. In this particular instance, Australian media interest was fuelled by pressure from their Japanese counterparts. In Japan, the Tokyo subway gassing attracted immense publicity akin to the O.J. Simpson trial, the Oklahoma bombing and the Port Arthur massacre.
Media competition for information about major news events is fierce. Each journalist wants the "best story angle" and each camera operator wants the best vision. Exclusivity is important. Former director of public affairs for the London Metropolitan Police highlighted this phenomenon in a recent journal article:
Thanks to a network of contacts, many with radio scanners, the media will know about a disaster as soon as, or before, the relevant authorities.
At Lockerbie, the media outnumbered the entire Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary within 24 hours. At the Libyan embassy siege in London there were 1000. At Gander, in 1985, 300 were on the scene of an air crash within 24 hours, some from afar afield as London. The crash involved many US soldiers, and the Pentagon got its first news from CBC Radio Canada. The media were spreading the news within 15 minutes, before police and fire service had reached the site.
The demand for information during the investigation at Banjawarn Station was intense and both local and international media hounded the AFP media office. Regular briefings were provided to the media through the AFP media office and the investigators on the ground at Banjawarn Station. The information flow was hampered by a variety of circumstances. The remoteness of the location meant that there was no mobile phone reception and the AFP's media section's only contact with investigators was by cellular satellite phone. To add to communication difficulties, members of the media obtained the number of the homestead's private telephone which the owners refused to answer. Finally, problems arose because certain media tried to either drive or fly into the property without seeking permission first.
The Western Australian Police (WAPOL) media staff and on-site investigators on the ground eventually provided access to Banjawarn Station for representatives of the national and international media. About nine aircraft were allowed to land on the property and television cameras captured vision of the homestead and other areas of interest. This arrangement provided the media with the vision required for their stories while causing minimal disruption to investigators.
The media activity peaked early in May 1995 when the West Australian published a front page story revealing that sarin gas had been tested on Banjawarn Station - a fact that had been speculated on but not confirmed at that time. Following the publication of the story, regular media briefings were held to update media on the status of the investigation.
The type of work that police organisations are concerned with seems to generate more negative than positive media attention. The AFP is involved in many investigations which are covert in nature and for that reason, it is difficult to positively profile conclusions to successful investigations. The Aum Shinrikyo Sect investigation was problematic from an information flow perspective due to the sensitivity of the investigation. Generally, the rapport which developed with the Australian media during the Aum Shinrikyo Sect operation, was excellent. An honest and open relationship developed over this period which allowed the beneficial exchange of information.
The Aum Shinrikyo Sect story was one which turned out to be well worth chasing. As the investigation into the cult's activities deepened, so did the wealth of story lines for the media. Time magazine did several feature articles on the Aum Shinrikyo Sect and although journalist Anthony Spaeth's following quote sounds quite unbelievable, in this instance fact was far more sensational than any fiction:
Apocalyptic prophets are figures of fun because they're always wrong. Armageddon fails to arrive when they say it will. In Shoko Asahara's case, however, the prophet apparently made plans to ensure that his predictions would come true. They almost did.
The AFP's achievements
As a result of the in-depth investigation, the AFP is confident that the Australian activities of the Aum Sect have ceased and the sect no longer has a presence or is in any capacity functional in this country.
The AFP provided detailed information and intelligence to overseas agencies, particularly those in Japan and the USA, which played a significant role in assisting the NPA to successfully reach set goals of bringing a speedy end to the unease the cult's terrorist activities caused the general public; restoring and maintaining law and order and ensuring that terrorist acts of this nature were not repeated.
Since the conclusion of the formal AFP investigation, the AFP has given, and continues to give, detailed accounts and briefings on all aspects of this unique and complex investigation to relevant domestic and international agencies. The study of the AFP investigation into the Australian activities of the Aum Sect has been incorporated into relevant internal AFP training courses as a case study. To enhance and aid ongoing training the AFP has produced a film and an electronic presentation on the investigation.
Recognition by other agencies of the AFP's contribution
Several agencies, including the NPA, have acknowledged the contribution the AFP made to the investigation. It is regrettable that sect activities cost Japanese lives and caused terror and suffering to a large section of the general Japanese population. The efforts of the main investigating agencies, such as the AFP, however ensured that the aim of Shoko Asahara to destroy major cities with sarin gas was never realised.
Anecdotal evidence would tend to suggest that there exists not an insignificant section of society who hold a deep conviction that society as it now exists needs to be altered. The AFP recognises that portions of these disaffected people such as members of the Aum sect, will resort to any means to achieve their goals. Aware of the dangers which these ideologically driven and often highly intelligent individuals present, the AFP will continue to develop it's intelligence data base and liaise with relevant domestic and international agencies. By adopting and maintaining these measures it is expected that the AFP will aid law enforcement to be alert and ready to deal with problems such as the Aum sect.
With the gas attack on the Tokyo subway attracting global attention and the activities of the Aum Sect being under the scrutiny of numerous law enforcement agencies it is clear that swift international action and co-operation is required to support any country affected by a crime of this nature.
Such cooperation will lead to better information flow, an improved pool of expertise and the establishment of effective law enforcement networks, all of which will bode well in the detection and circumvention of terrorist activities. AFP action disrupted the sect's activities in Australia and provided a basis for other international law enforcement agencies to counter the sect's international terrorist activities.
The story of the Aum Sect continues to unfold as the trials of sect members continue in Japan. Revelations about the sect's activities will continue to flow.
A 1995 report published in the New Scientist magazine has highlighted the threat of biological terrorism through the use of bombs or devices that spread disease and cause fear, panic and chaos.
The concern now is that terrorist groups will take note of the effect of the Aum Sect's sarin gas attack and find ways of doing it more effectively. The taboo that exists for governments to use chemical and biological weapons cannot be expected to extend to fanatical individuals and groups.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigates serious crime affecting Commonwealth interests including fraud against the Commonwealth, international drug trafficking and organised crime as well as special investigations referred by the Australian Government. This case study highlights the AFP's significant achievement in policing at an international level.
How To Spot a Killer Cloud
New Scientist, 146(1972) April 8 1995; 24
Other accounts in this topic:
"In 1995, British born Geologist/Geophysicist, Harry Mason, stumbled across a strange, unaccountable earthquake which rumbled across the vast open spaces of Western Australia two years earlier.
The event took place at 11.03 p.m., on 28 May 1993 with an epi-centre close to Banjawarn sheep station in the Leonora-Laverton area - North-west of Perth. The event registered 3.7 on the Richter scale and was assumed to have been the first ever recorded quake in that part of Australia. Mason, who was very familiar with the region and it's geological composition, was intrigued. Initially believing the tremor was the result of a meteorite impact, he set about gathering detailed data.15
Eyewitnesses reported sighting a fireball trailing across the sky just minutes before the subsequent tremor. This was followed by a bright blue flash and shortly afterwards, by an earth tremor measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale. Shortly following this a "large hemisphere of orange light, lined with a silverish glow, rose above the apparent blast site."16
Extraordinarily, the dome of light remained in place for two hours, and then rapidly vanished like "someone turning off a switch."17
Extensive interviews soon revealed to Mason, a number of major inconsistencies with his meteorite theory. For one thing the object was heard before it arrived overhead and clearly was moving at a sub-sonic speed. Aware that meteorites generally have entry speeds of around 25,000 mph, Mason was bemused. In addition the object gave of "no sparks or other drop off fragments, and appeared to arc up over the observers before seeming to plunge down to the North."18
Moreover, the fireball emitted "a fiery spherical white-blue-yellow light..." and "...flew at relatively low altitude," and "emitted a regular pulsed swooshing roar" similar to a Diesel freight train engine roar. 19
Some witnesses told Mason they thought they had observed a jumbo jet or plane crash. Subsequent flights over the estimated impact site revealed no crater or blast damage."
The references are from here
And from the above atomicmpc site:
"Orbital Research Exploration Pty. Ltd., 1313 Armstrong Rd., Jarrahdale, Western Australia 6203 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 10-04-98
The author began private research into the nature of the "1993 Banjawarn Event" in early 1995. This work is still in progress today, and the event cause is still not fully understood, but it resembles an apparent "Mini 1908 Tunguska" type event.
The event occurred on or near the Banjawarn sheep station (ranch), close to the Celia Fault/Lineament, some 130km northwest of the mining town of Laverton, in the very sparsely populated and isolated semi-desert Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia. The event commenced at about 23.00hrs on the night of the 28th. of May 1993 with the sighting of a large aerial orange-red fireball plus a short conical tail low down on the southern horizon.
This "object" arced low overhead at an altitude of some 1-2000 metres in a "nap of Earth" type trajectory at less than the speed of sound making a loud pulsed roaring "diesel freight train engine" type noise in flight, before apparently diving to a ground level "impact".
The "impact" was hidden behind a range of low hills located northwest of Banjawarn sheep station. This was immediately followed by :-
(1) a high energy flash of blue-white light (reminiscent of a night time nuclear blast) that "lit up the surrounding 100km radius of scrub bush like day",
(2) a major long drawn out explosion and a concussion blast wave, and
(3) a co-incident 3.6-3.9 Richter earthquake picked up at 23 AGSO seismographs around the western half of Australia, with
(4) the simultaneous projection of a large column or "flare" of orange-red coloured light vertically skyward to an altitude estimated as several kilometres, followed
(5) by the slow expansion growth of a large "two setting-sun sized" orange-red hemispherical opaque light form structure, with a glowing silver lining, that remained lit up for 2 hours, on the horizon above "ground zero", in the clear cloudless, dark - no moon, windless night sky, and
(6) approximately one hour after the initial earthquake at 24.00hrs another very small blue-green fireball arced high over Banjawarn station following approximately the same course as the first fireball (but originating at ground level ?) - this then created a second minor ground "impact" with an associated very minor seismic "felt" event at 24.00hrs (but apparently of insufficient energy to be detected by the AGSO seismic chain), with this "ground zero" being adjacent, or in, the hemispheric light form structure described in (5) above.
The seismograph data suggests that the first incident involved a minimum of some 1-2Kt of TNT equivalent and therefore was similar in energy size to a tactical nuclear weapon blast.
This region consists of a very stable Archaean age cratonic crust which is generally considered to have no prior human historical record of natural seismic events.
In spite of a considerable aerial search by light plane and detailed examination of SPOT satellite imagery no crater or airburst ground damage nor relevant fire damage has been located.
Two other identical orange-red pulsed noise emitting fireballs (in October 1989 and in May or June 1993) are now known to have previously flown the same course/trajectory over Banjawarn.
Two other large orange-red hemisphere static light form structures have also been observed at night northwest of Banjawarn (in 1988 and in October 1992). This and other data mitigates against bolide impact as the probable cause of this event. Several possible causes are discussed including rock fault stress induced plasma fireball and "earthquake lights", clandestine military electro-magnetic Tesla type weapon tests, or covert exotic space craft drive tests."
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