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Grafton News

Emergency call saves hotel from disaster

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The scene outside the Village Green Hotel, Grafton, early on Friday morning.

Emergency call saves hotel from disaster

By Tim Howard

A quick-thinking cleaner has saved an iconic Grafton watering hole from serious damage says Grafton Fire and Rescue captain Garry Reardon.
The cleaner at The Village Green Hotel was working early on Friday morning when he noticed smoke coming from the kitchen around 6am.
He opened the door but was left reeling when a column of smoked billowed from the room.
He called Triple-0 which alerted fire, police and ambulance services to attend the hotel.

Grafton Fire and Rescue personnel in breathing apparatus give the all clear to staff after removing the source of the emergency, a crate of smouldering cleaning cloths, from the building.

Grafton Fire and Rescue personnel in breathing apparatus give the all clear to staff after removing the source of the emergency, a crate of smouldering cleaning cloths, from the building.

The cleaner told emergency services he had dumped a load of washed cleaning cloths into a clothes dryer then put the hot, dried items into a milk crate on a bench.
Mr Reardon said it appeared there was enough oil still in the cloth for them to be combustible and they spontaneously ignited.
“It was really lucky the smoke was spotted early,” he said. “If they had been allowed to go another 20 or 30 minutes there would have been flames, which could have created a real problem.”
Mr Reardon said the hot material from the drier most likely created an exothermic reaction which allowed heat to build up until it reached ignition point.
“The presence of cooking oil in the cloth would only have accelerated this process,” he said.
A manager at the hotel, Mark Knott, was also at the scene.
He said there had been no fault with what the staff had done.
“We’ve been doing the same thing every day for 20 years and not had any problems,” he said.
“It’s something we’re going to look at and we’ll have to make some changes.”
Mr Reardon said it was a reminder to anyone that the rag you use to polish or clean something could retain some chemicals that make it potentially flammable.

Grafton Fire and Rescue personnel hose down the smouldering rags responsible for the call out.

Grafton Fire and Rescue personnel hose down the smouldering rags responsible for the call out.

“In this case the message to the staff is not to pile cleaning cloths together after taking them from the drier, but spread them out to let the heat escape,” he said.
Two Grafton Fire and Rescue trucks attended, plus ambulance and police.
Fireman carried the partially melted crate contained the still-smouldering material and played a hose on it for a few seconds.
There was no significant damage to the building and Mr Reardon told hotel management they could trade as normal.

Clarence Valley News

Second death in custody at new jail

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Clarence Correctional Centre

Second death in custody at new jail

By Tim Howard

A 29-year-old inmate has died at Clarence Correctional Centre on June, the second man to die in custody at the jail in the past six weeks.
The man, identified as Dictor Mayen Dongrin, was due to front Coffs Harbour Local Court the following day on two charges of common assault, one of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and two of stalking and intimidation. 
A spokesperson for the jail operator Serco said Mr Dongrin was found unresponsive in a medical holding room by staff around 1.30pm and was pronounced dead by paramedics shortly after.
Serco, Corrective Services NSW and NSW Police were investigating the incident.
All deaths in custody are subject to a coronial inquest.
Mr Dongrin was also involved in a apprehended domestic violence hearing with another family member
The court has ceased all proceedings involving Mr Dongrin because of his death.
The spokesperson said Serco extends its condolences to the family and friends of the man.

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Clarence Valley News

Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

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Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

By Tim Howard

A former Grafton school teacher jailed for 24 years for the murder of his wife nearly seven years ago, will serve out his entire sentence.
John Wallace Edwards, 65, was convicted of the murder of Sharon Edwards in December 2019 and jailed for 24 years with a non-parole period of 18 years.
On February 14 a panel of three Supreme Court judges, Chief Justice Tom Bathurst and Judges, Stephen Rothman and Hament Dhanji unanimously rejected Edwards’ appeal against his sentence.
At the October 20 hearing, Edwards counsel argued a four-point appeal that the trial judge should have directed the jury to the availability of a manslaughter verdict, and that the murder verdict was unreasonable and could not be supported with the available evidence.
But the Appeal Court was not swayed.
They found the trial judge, Robert Hulme, had provided the jury with sufficient direction on the possibility of a manslaughter verdict.
In addition the defence, while aware of the possibility of a manslaughter verdict, had not argued for it until late in the trial.
Central to the four interconnected points of the appeal was Edwards post-offence behaviour.
Edwards counsel argued the judge should have directed the jury that this behaviour should be described as “intractably neutral”, that is, it was equally indicative of manslaughter or murder.
But the appeal judges found Edwards behaviour after the events of March14-15, 2015, was that of a murderer.
Although they disagreed Edwards had provided “13 different accounts” of what happened on the night of his wife’s disappearance and almost certain death, there were certainly a number of different stories.
They found the differing versions of events and other lies Edwards told indicated he had been prepared to inflict serious injuries that could have led to the death of his wife.
One of the accounts, told to two of his sons, was he had a physical altercation with this wife on the night of her disappearance.
“…yeah he said, ‘He’d, like he’d snatched the iPad, he’d wrestled with her’…he had her hand pinned behind her back or her side and he slammed her on the floor and she hit her head and then she got up and went to bed‘,” a son told the trial jury.
The appeal judges also said evidence he had broken a bone in his right hand, described by a doctor as a “boxer’s fracture”, around the time of the offence, indicated he had been capable of inflicting a blow powerful enough to cause serious injury leading to death.
In his finding Justice Dhanji noted: “There was no evidence of any disturbance consistent with an argument on the night of the deceased’s death. Nothing of this nature was heard by the neighbours. Nor was there any evidence that the applicant was intoxicated. Even if any assault was unplanned, these matters point away from an uncontrolled outbreak of violence. In these circumstances the possibility that the applicant struck the deceased with a blow sufficiently hard to break a bone in his hand suggests a level of force consistent with an intention to cause, at least, really serious injury.
“Further, if, for example the deceased hit her head as a result of falling on a hard surface after such a blow or otherwise, death was unlikely to have been instant. For the reasons discussed above, not seeking assistance and then disposing of the body suggest, a disregard for the deceased, and point away from an intention to do something less than inflict really serious injury.”
Edwards’ determination to withhold the location of his wife’s remains, despite the pain it caused the rest of the family was another indication his wife’s death had been deliberate rather than accidental.
Other indicators, such as Edwards realisation his wife was about to leave him for another man, and financial concerns about their jointly owned properties strengthened the case for a verdict of murder.
The murder of Mrs Edwards, who disappeared after a night out with friends in Grafton in 2015, shocked the Clarence Valley.
Initially treated as a missing person investigation, on April 1 it turned into a homicide case and Edwards and the couple’s three sons made impassioned pleas for people who knew anything to come forward.
The popular teacher had no enemies, but it emerged her marriage to Edwards was finished.
During the trial it emerged she had rekindled a relationship with an old flame, William ‘Billy’ Mills, who had been with her on the night of her disappearance and they had plans to live together.
By mid 2017 and despite no sign of her body, police were convinced Edwards had killed his wife and he was formally charged with murder.
At his trial, which concluded in December 2019, a jury found Edwards guilty of his wife’s murder. Son Josh said after the trial he no longer considered Edwards his father for what he’d done to his mum.
Edwards has never hinted at the location of his wife’s body.
He will serve out the remainder of his sentence of 24 years with a minimum of 18 years non-parole from June 20, 2017. His earliest release date is June 19, 2035.

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Clarence Valley News

Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

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Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

By Lesley Apps

FOR the first time in its 88-year history the Jacaranda Queen program will welcome kings and ambassadors into its entourage.

While the role of Jacaranda Queen is traditionally female, to honour the inclusive spirit that festival manager and the committee have been championing over the past few years, people of all gender identities are welcome to enter the 2022 event.

Reigning Grafton Jacaranda Queen, Hanna Craig said the committee decided the time was right to recognise the diversity of gender and update the festival’s program accordingly.

“We are an inclusive organisation and welcome everyone and support safe and diverse spaces, and this move is in line with this approach,” Miss Craig said.

She said accepting how someone identifies was the right step to take.

“Acknowledging this not only supports the Festival’s contemporary approach but paves the way for other (similar) events to do the same.”

Festival manager Mark Blackadder said all entrants will be referred to as Jacaranda candidates (junior or senior).

“Winners can choose whatever title they feel comfortable with, Queen, King or Ambassador.”

While the festival committee was looking forward to welcoming a more progressive competition this year it’s not the first time the format has deviated from its all-female tradition.

In 2003 two male candidates, Wayne Herbert and Scott Kelly, showed interest in entering, causing varying degrees of controversy as the local paper reported at the time before both pulled out of the competition.

It reported Mr Kelly had partnered two Queens vying for the title in the past but wanted to be called King, while Mr Herbert, then manager of the town’s Gay and Lesbian Resource Centre, was happy with the Queen title but withdrew his candidacy after challenging the festival’s fundraising rules after he wanted to nominate his own charity rather than support the annual event.

While the Jacaranda Committee at the time (almost 20 years ago) was supportive where possible, it generated plenty of press coverage and community conversation, prompting a former queen to write to the paper to say the behaviour of the male candidates was “inappropriate and distasteful” and made a mockery of the event.

Nominations for the 2022 Grafton Jacaranda Festival Queen, King or Ambassador are now open. A candidates information evening will be held at the Grafton District Services Club on Friday, March 18, 6pm. For more information on the Grafton Jacaranda Festival visit: www.jacarandafestival.com

Caption: Reigning Jacaranda royal party, from left: Junior Jacaranda Princess: Aaliyah Scarlet Roach, Jacaranda Princess: Breeze Paine, Jacaranda Queen: Hanna Craig, Junior Jacaranda Queen: Brooke Chapman. Change is in the air with a new gender inclusive Jacaranda Candidate program for 2022.

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