A composite image of some of the men (file image)
Police are searching for a group of men involved in a riot outside a Sydney church. Image by HANDOUT/NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE
  • crime, law and justice

Further arrest over riot outside church


April 22, 2024

A further arrest has been made following a riot outside a Sydney church after police released images of 12 men they want to question over the wild melee.   

Four men have now been charged over the affray at Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley on the night of April 15.

The riot, which investigators say swelled to involve 2000 people and injured several police officers, followed the stabbing of Assyrian bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and priest Isaac Royel during a live-streamed service that day.

Police said on Monday night a 23 -year-old man who attended Fairfield Police Station had been arrested and charged with rioting and attempted aggravated break and enter with intent. 

He was refused bail to appear at Fairfield Local Court on Tuesday. 

Investigators continue to search for others who may have incited dozens more to join the violent fray.

NSW Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Andrew Holland said at least 50 people involved in the melee outside the church had “definitely gone there simply to start problems”. 

The 12 men identified in the released images were influential in fuelling the violence, he said on Monday.

“They’ve seen the anonymity of being in a riot, they thought they could get away with offences.

“They’re the 12 most serious offenders we’ve identified.”

Hours after the Monday morning appeal, one man depicted in the compiled footage carrying a large cross over his head had contacted police to assist them with inquiries.

Police on Monday night could not confirm if he was the man who had been charged earlier. 

One of the men during the riot
 Many of the men being sought have distinctive features. Image by HANDOUT/NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE 

Police continue to comb through 25 days’ worth of video filmed during the riot, much of which was shared on social media.

One man whose image was released bears a distinctive tattoo of Jesus on his stomach and a tattoo sleeve on his left arm.

A 16-year-old boy has been charged with a terrorism offence over the stabbing that ignited the riot and which police say was religiously motivated.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the bishop and priest, a crowd swelled outside the church as members of the congregation helped to hold down the attacker inside.

Dozens of police were injured, their cars vandalised and some officers and paramedics were forced to shelter inside the place of worship before the 16-year-old could be taken away safely.

Some of those who flocked to the church had gone to support its parishioners, but many others had attended “for the wrong reasons”, Mr Holland said.

Faith leaders have called for calm following the church attack, which was followed by threats on Islamic places of worship.

Some of the men being sought by police
 Police are seeking public help to identify the men. Image by HANDOUT/NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE 

More than 50 officers have been assigned to investigate the riot, during which emergency services personnel were pelted with projectiles such as bricks and fence palings.

Mr Holland said the speed of information-sharing on social media meant that thousands of people had quickly come to the site, while those same networks had also fuelled calls for the other religious sites to be targeted after the church attack.

Those events – and the wide sharing of graphic images and misinformation about a stabbing massacre at Sydney’s Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre – have fuelled calls for tougher legislation to address abuses.

The Elon Musk-owned social media platform X, formerly Twitter, plans to challenge an order from the eSafety commissioner to take down content, arguing Australian laws cannot dictate what overseas users can see.