Mum accused of murder is ill, lawyer says

Mum accused of murder is ill, lawyer says Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Members of the local African community show their support. Picture: Darren Pateman

Zemarai Khatiz legal counsel for the Wallsend mother. Picture: Darren Pateman

TweetFacebookA WALLSEND mother accused of murdering her six-week-old baby is suffering from a severe psychological condition, her solicitor told Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday.

The Senegalese woman, 26, who cannot be identified, kept her head down and listened quietly to a Pulaar interpreter while she appeared by audio visual link from Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre.

Dozens of members of the Hunter’s African community filled the court for her appearance, but the feed had to be disconnected after the woman began feeling ill and nearly fainted.

The woman’s solicitor, Zemarai Khatiz, said about 40 family, friends and members of the community had come to court to support the woman because they were concerned for her wellbeing. He said the woman, who doesn’t speak any English, had hardly spoken or left her cell since being taken to the remand centre.

She is accused of cutting her six-week-old daughter’s throat at her home in Curry Street at Wallsend on Friday morning.

Mr Khatiz applied for a suppression order on the woman’s name because of fears for her safety in custody.

‘‘Considering the nature of the charge, the circumstances of the charge, my client’s life may be in danger in custody,’’ Mr Khatiz said.

But Magistrate Robert Stone refused the application, making an order for protective custody instead.

The Newcastle Herald has declined to publish the woman’s name to protect the identify of her children.

Outside of court, Mr Khatiz said his client had the support of the community.

‘‘She is suffering from severe psychological conditions and it is clear that she is suffering from mental illnesses,’’ he said.

‘‘Everyone was here, her husband, her friends, everyone is supporting her, everyone knows she was going through a very difficult time, everyone is aware of her mental and psychological conditions.

‘‘I would ask the community to take that into account. There is more to this story than what is contained in the fact sheet.’’

The woman did not apply for bail and it was formally refused.

The matter was adjourned until September for the woman to undergo a psychiatric assessment.

New insights after a day fighting over cobalt

In a move that was hardly surprising at Wednesday’s show-cause hearings into why the four trainers with elevated cobalt readings should retain their licences, the lawyer for Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh, Damian Sheales, labelled vet Tom Brennan a liar and effectively alleged Brennan was responsible for the cobalt positives in those two stables. It was hardly news after Brennan recanted previous evidence and last week said he sold both Kavanagh and O’Brien “vitamin bottles” for thousands of dollars. Given this change of evidence, it was simply a matter of which bus Brennan would be thrown under.

While this may not be surprising, it is certainly an interesting change in the direction of these cases, as both Kavanagh and O’Brien are clearly aiming to make Brennan fully responsible for their woes.

This could end up as a heavyweight battle between these parties, with each side claiming the other knew what was going on. It’s hard to believe Brennan will accept full liability because if Kavanagh and O’Brien are disqualified for long periods, the possible lawsuits resulting would spell financial ruin for the beleaguered vet.

Industry observers have said it will be hard to lay all the blame on Brennan, as in the past in racing the ultimate responsibility lies with the trainer to present his horse to the races drug-free. There is also the other matter that allegedly both Kavanagh and O’Brien paid Brennan $3000 for “vitamin bottles” normally costing about $15.

In other parts of the hearing, leading trainer Peter Moody, through his lawyer, stated he had more than 300 swabs tested annually and the cobalt elevation in Lidari must be an unexplained aberration, perhaps divine intervention.

In the most expected move of all,  Lee and Shannon Hope indicated they would challenge the science of cobalt. Robert Stitt QC outlined the Hopes’ claim that urine was the wrong test for cobalt and blood was a better test. This will be an interesting argument. In every other part of the world, urine is accepted as the best test sample.

However, in the US, because its racing allows the use of other drugs, urine could not be used and a blood test for cobalt needed to be developed. Some believe the blood test is difficult and unreliable.

At the hearings on Wednesday there was a sustained attempt to discredit the opinions of two of Racing Victoria’s experts, Dr Brian Stewart and Professor Brynn Hibbert. Hibbert has been involved in establishing Australia’s cobalt threshold. He has calculated the odds of a normal horse exceeding the threshold could be  2.25trillion, so an attempt to discredit his finding is not surprising.

Sheales took direct aim at RV’s head vet Stewart and tried to blame him for the cobalt fiasco, saying cobalt wasn’t bad, there was no proof of performance enhancement, nor toxic side effects. However RV integrity stewards and Dr Stewart have a vital role representing everyone in racing and this includes the other 900 odd trainers and thousands of horses who do not have a Cobalt positive.

No one admitted or accepted responsibility for the Cobalt positives. While it is likely the stewards will allow these trainers to continue because of the number of staff they employ, there was no satisfactory explanation of the nine positives.

Griffin McMaster stood down for Goodes should be ‘deported’ rant

The offending tweet, which has since been deleted.FORMER Brisbane Roar goalkeeper Griffin McMaster was a spectator for Heidelberg United at Magic Park after the Victorian club stood him down for ‘‘offensive tweets’’ about indigenous Sydney Swans AFL star Adam Goodes.

Heidelberg arrived at Newcastle Airport on Tuesday night about 9.30pm, just before McMaster tweeted: ‘‘Adam Goodes calls Australia Day invasion day. Deport him. If you don’t like it leave.’’

The tweet, which was later deleted, sparked a wave of criticism. McMaster, 32, defended the statement, saying on Twitter that it was not racist, but he labelled Goodes ‘‘unaustralian’’. He tweeted later on Wednesday afternoon: ‘‘If anyone is offended. My apologies.’’

Griffin McMaster apologised for any offence his tweets may have caused. Picture: Getty Images

Just before 6pm on Wednesday, Heidelberg issued a statement saying McMaster had been stood down from the FFA Cup match.

‘‘The club has been made aware of comments on Twitter made by their goalkeeper Griffin McMaster and has made a decision to omit him from participating in tonight’s FFA Cup match,’’ it read. ‘‘The club will investigate this matter and take appropriate action in due course.’’

The governing body quickly supported the move.

‘‘Football Federation Australia applauds Heidelberg United Football Club for standing goalkeeper Griffin McMaster down from tonight’s Westfield FFA Cup match following a series of offensive tweets this afternoon,’’ an FFA statement read. ‘‘FFA condemns the content of the tweets sent from Griffin McMaster’s personal Twitter account and will continue to liaise with the club in relation to the matter.’’

The Swans announced on Wednesday that Goodes was taking a break from AFL because of the booing he receives from spectators.

Newcastle Knights dropped ball with sacking

Axed: Rick Stone, inset, Matt Gidley at the Knights press conference on the day the news broke. Picture: Darren Pateman, Simone De PeakBETWEEN THE LINES

THERE is no easy way to sack a coach, but the Knights dropped the ball when they sent Rick Stone packing on Monday.

While players were at Newcastle beach that morning for their recovery session, Knights directors were engaged in a telephone hook-up during which they decided Stone’s position had become untenable and they instructed chief executive Matt Gidley to show him the door.

Consistently sub-standard performances during the team’s run of 12 losses from the past 14 games, culminating in their humiliating 52-6 hammering from Souths last Saturday night, had convinced the board that players were no longer responding to Stone’s methods.

Gidley knew the board meeting had been called and that Stone was on shaky ground, and told the soon-to-be former coach as much early on Monday morning when they spoke in the club’s Mayfield headquarters.

Covering all contingencies, Gidley had also sounded out friend and fellow Knights Hall of Famer Danny Buderus the night before to ask if he would step in and fill the breach for the rest of the season if the board decided to sack Stone, which they did.

By the time Gidley emerged from the meeting to tell Stone around 1pm, and to plan the next step with Knights media manager Tara White, the news had already broken on social media.

Players had already been dismissed for the day, so some found out via social media before they received a club-issued text message sent by Knights operations manager Warren Smiles.

Details of that message were leaked, presumably by a player, to a journalist on Wednesday.

With the benefit of hindsight, the Knights could have conducted the recovery session at Mayfield on Monday, kept the players together, and told them of Stone’s demise in person.

That would have also given Stone a chance to say goodbye to them face to face.

After 10 years of loyal service, during which he did everything asked of him when pushed sideways to make way for Wayne Bennett, Stone deserved that.

■ It has been a big week for Knights five-eighth Carlos Tuimavave.

The Knights announced on Saturday that they had granted the former New Zealand Warrior a release from the final year of his two-year contract so that he could take up a three-year deal with English Super League club Hull starting next season.

The following day, the 23-year-old playmaker kicked the winning field goal to cap a miraculous 35-34 NSW Cup victory over Canterbury at Belmore Sportsground.

The Knights had trailed 34-12 midway through the second half, during which both teams were reduced to 11 players.

Tuimavave, who has played four NRL games this season but is yet to taste success in Newcastle colours, was then recalled to the top squad on Tuesday to play five-eighth against the Dragons at Jubilee Oval on Sunday.

Caretaker coach Danny Buderus named Tuimavave alongside Tyrone Roberts in the halves, pushed captain Kurt Gidley back to fullback and moved Jake Mamo to the wing.

■ Knights centre Dane Gagai is comfortable with his decision to re-sign with the Knights, despite the team’s poor results this season.

Gagai, who made a spectacular Origin debut this year, turned down offers from several NRL rivals to sign a new two-year deal with the Knights in April.

‘‘That’s why I re-signed here – the young boys we’ve got in the team,’’ Gagai said. ‘‘Jake Mamo had an unbelievable game for us against the Rabbits, the Mata’utia boys are still young, I’m only 24 myself, and we’ve got Joey Tapine who can come up and play.’’

Gagai was in doubt in the lead-up to the game against Souths due to an irregular heartbeat but was given the all-clear by his cardiologist last Thursday.

Chasing Rabbits for most of the night put his heart under more strain than he would have preferred, but Gagai said he felt no ill effects and would look out for warning signs in future.

‘‘It’s not uncommon for athletes to get it, there’s no cure for it, and they said it will probably come on again but it just depends how aggressive it comes back,’’ he said.

‘‘It was obviously a bit of a frightening thing and he said it will come back again, but if I don’t get the dizzy spells or anything like that, you can play through it fine.’’

Crystal ball guess for semi-final match ups

Lakes and Wests are battling for the Newcastle Rugby League minor premiership. Picture: Ryan OslandTHE battle for Newcastle Rugby League semi-final positions is wide open.

With various top-five matches scheduled in the final three rounds, there are myriad possibilities.


16 points (+65): Central (a), Cessnock (h), Souths (a)

Lakes have eyes on their first minor premiership since 2007. But their run home against three desperate opponents will not be easy. The Seagulls lost to both Cessnock and Souths in the first round.

First place could be decided on for and against, but Seagulls coach Dean Noonan said his squad could ill afford to focus on strengthening their points differential.

‘‘If you approach your preparation in footy on bigger-picture thoughts, then you’re going to get your pants pulled down,’’ Noonan said.


16 points (+46): Macquarie (h), Maitland (h), Central (a)

The match against cellar-dwellers Maitland at Harker Oval could be vital to Wests’ minor premiership hopes.

The three-time defending premiers could rack up a large winning margin to rein in Lakes.

However, Macquarie are arguably the in-form team of the competition over the past two rounds and could potentially derail the Rosellas, who have lost some of their previous aura.


13 points (+31): Souths (h), Lakes (a), Kurri (h)

Losses to Central and Macquarie have damaged Cessnock. Their minor premiership hopes are dead and they could yet finish fifth with difficult games against Souths and Lakes.

‘‘The top three is still achievable with two of our last three games at home,’’ Goannas coach Craig Miller said. ‘‘We’ve got to hold on to the battle as best we can.’’


12 points (+66): Wests (a), Souths (h), Maitland (a)

The Scorpions are finally building at the right moment.

After three dominant wins, Macquarie are arguably the form team of the competition, and the next two rounds will determine their title credentials.

‘‘The one good thing is Cessnock and Souths play each other next week, so if we get two points, we’ll leapfrog one of them,’’ Macquarie coach Barrie Moore said.


12 points (-26): Cessnock (a), Macquarie (a), Lakes (h)

Souths assistant coach Greg Hurrell said attitude was an issue last Sunday when they were whipped by Central.

That attitude needs to adjust swiftly as the Lions have the most challenging run home of the top five, but they could still finish third if they win their remaining matches.

A potential two-week suspension for playmaker Scott Briggs (high tackle) is a concern.


8 points (-42): Lakes (h), Kurri (a), Wests (h)

Mathematically the Butcher Boys remain a top-five chance if they win their remaining matches. Probably a bridge too far, but they will provide nuisance value.

TAB says Dragons are our best chance of victory

“It is hard to see them starting favourites in another game this year’’: TAB杭州夜网 Picture: Jonathan CarrollKNIGHTS fans hope former captain Danny Buderus has the Midas touch when he takes over as coach against the Dragons at Jubilee Oval on Sunday, but bookmakers believe the odds are stacked against him.

Newcastle will start $3.25 underdogs to beat the Dragons, according to a market framed by TAB杭州夜网, and are rated a $4.50 chance of not winning another game this season.

In the wake of 12 losses from their past 14 games, most recently a 52-6 thumping by defending premiers South Sydney last Saturday night, Knights management sacked coach Rick Stone on Monday and handed the reins to Buderus.

The most-capped player in the club’s history will begin his six-game stint as caretaker coach against the Dragons at Kogarah, followed by the Roosters at Hunter Stadium, Wests Tigers at Campbelltown, Storm at AAMI Park, Bulldogs at Hunter Stadium, and Panthers at Penrith.

‘‘It is hard to see them starting favourites in another game this year,’’ TAB杭州夜网 media operations manager Matt Jenkins said. ‘‘The Tigers in round 23 at Campbelltown looks their best chance of a win in a game that could determine who finishes at the bottom of the table.

‘‘Despite meeting the Dragons, who have lost their past seven games, the Knights are still $3.25 outsiders.’’

After starting with four straight wins, the Knights were rated a $251 chance to finish with most losses, but are now $3 second favourites behind the Tigers ($2.20).

● Knights NSW Cup fullback Nathan Ross is expected to make his NRL debut against the Dragons on Sunday as one of two changes to the team Buderus named on Tuesday.

Joseph Tapine is on standby for injured back-rower Tariq Sims (shoulder), and Ross is being considered on the wing as a replacement for Chanel Mata’utia.


“I have come back a bit more mature in all senses”: Ian Parkinson. Picture: Jonathan CarrollIAN Parkinson was 20 when he played first grade for Parramatta in the Shute Shield.

But the University No.8 believes only now, after a six-month stint in the United States, that he is starting to mature as player.



Nelson Bay v Maitland,Bill Strong Oval

Singleton v Hamilton,Rugby Park

Waratahs v University,Waratah Oval

Merewether v Wanderers,Townson Oval


Parkinson, 23, played for the University of Iowa, leading the Hawkeyes to the national sevens tournament.

He was back on deck in Newcastle for the Students in round nine and has since been central to their climb up the table.

‘‘I went to the US purely to study but ended up playing a bit of sevens,’’ said Parkinson, who is in the second year of a construction management degree. ‘‘We ended up making the nationals, which was a bit of fun.

‘‘I have come back a bit more mature in all senses. The team is a bit more mature as well.

‘‘It is a young dynamic for the most part, but we have a few old heads to give us direction.

‘‘It is a lot of fun and still fairly competitive.’’

After playing most of last season for University in the second row, Parkinson has been switched to the back of the scrum by new coach Tony Hogg.

‘‘He stiffens us up at No.8,’’ Hogg said. ‘‘He is a big body, hits the ball up well and defends well. He plays hard and gets in amongst it, which is what we need.’’

University are fifth, four points ahead of Southern Beaches, with four rounds to go.

‘‘We are a good chance of making the semis,’’ Parkinson said. ‘‘We just have to switch it on. We are similar to Parramatta in a way. We are fairly hot and cold. When we get our heads together we can put points on and keep points out.

‘‘That comes down to belief in ourselves. With that hopefully we will make those tackles that seem to leak points against the bigger teams.’’

It is a point not lost on Hogg.

The Students have just one win over teams now sitting above them on the table.

That was a 24-12 triumph over Merewether in round three. They drew 29-all with the Greens in round 11.

‘‘At the beginning of the year I ticked off teams I thought we would get away with,’’ Hogg said. ‘‘So far we have done that. The next challenge is to beat the teams above us.

‘‘A lot of that comes from self-belief. They are starting to believe they can match it with them. Our front row has been amazing. They are smaller than most front rows, but our scrum has been strong.

‘‘Darcy Barker goes all day.

‘‘Having Mark O’Brien has stiffened us up. James Wilkinson in the backs.’’

Next for Uni are the third-placed Tahs at Waratah Oval.

‘‘We just have to keep chipping away,’’ Hogg said. ‘‘The Tahs will be another hard task. We stuck with them in the first round and just did some silly things which cost us the game.’’

University then have a bye before rounding out the season against Southern Beaches (away) and Singleton (home).

‘‘We are just trying to get in the semis,’’ Hogg said. ‘‘If we do, it is anyone’s go.’’

‘Sticks’ moves up to NRC big time with Rays

FORMER Hamilton second-rower Nick Palmer has been signed by the North Harbour Rays for the National Rugby Championships.

Affectionately known as ‘‘Sticks’’, Palmer has spent the past two years at Norths.

After a maiden campaign hindered by glandular fever, the former St Joseph’s College student has developed into one of Norths’ key figures with his work in the lineout and in tight.

NSW Country Eagles coach Darren Coleman, the older brother of Hamilton mentor Scott, also had his sights on the 23-year-old.

■ Hunter Junior Rugby Union’s Boot Out Breast Cancer round is expected to raise more than $10,000.

In its second year, the promotion involved all 11 junior clubs, with many teams sporting pink socks and specially designed playing jumpers.

‘‘The rugby community really got behind it,’’ juniors president Greg Sellers said.

‘‘We are on track to raise more than $10,000 which will go to the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation to support services in the region.’’

■ Former Wallaroo Margaret Watson is a finalist for the Australian Rugby Union community coach of the year award.

Watson, a teacher, is in her first season at the helm of the Merewether under-14 boys side.

‘‘She brings a different level of skill and expertise,’’ Greens junior president Simon Charters said.

A film crew will be at Greens training on Thursday to get footage of Watson, who is one of five finalists, in action.

The winner will be named at the John Eales Medal on August 27 and receive a cash grant for their club and a visit from Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika.

■ Former Wanderers back-rower Marcus Christensen is headed to Spain.

The 2014 premiership winner played this season in Belgium at Dendermonde and is back home for a short break before taking up a contract near San Sebastian.

■ Mika Iopa made an impressive return from suspension for Southern Beaches but will spend at least another week in second grade.

‘‘He will need a little bit more time,’’ new Beaches coach Johan Lourens said. ‘‘The boys have to know they everyone has to work their way back. There are no walk-up starts.’’

Eagles tiltcould leadto biggerprogram

NEWCASTLE Barbarians could be expanded into a fully fledged development program.

Coach Scott Coleman and his selection panel are in the process of putting the framework together to assemble a squad for a clash against the NSW Country Eagles development squad, which is the main curtain raiser to the National Rugby Championship match at No.2 Sportsground on September 24.

The Eagles will be a mix of shadow and emerging players.

To ensure the Barbarians are competitive, Coleman is likely to draft in up to six out-of-region players.

Initially, the Barbarians were to play one game and three training sessions. But NHRU general manager Andy Fairfull is in discussion with other NRC franchises about potential games against their feeder teams.

‘‘It depends how this game goes,’’ Fairfull said.

‘‘We are in a couple of conversations with other teams who want games.

‘‘We wont be naive about it. We want to be really sure the level that Newcastle is at.

‘‘We want to understand how many Shute Shield guys we need to make it competitive.

‘‘We want a co-ordinated approach. If we send a side around the country, we know why and how we do it.’’

After missing out on an NRC game in the inaugural season, Newcastle will be a host venue for the next three years, starting with the Eagles clash against arch rival Queensland Country.

‘‘We have signed a three-year understanding,’’ Fairfull said.

The commitment follows a formal affiliation between the Eagles and NSW Country Rugby Union last week.

‘‘There is now a pathway there for us to attempt to get as many Newcastle and Hunter players into the development squad and NRC side,’’ Fairfull said.

‘‘We understand there is a call for Newcastle to have its own NRC side.

‘‘At the moment we have a clear pathway. We need to support that and go very hard at that.

‘‘That is immediate where as an NRC side of our own is a few years away, if at all.’’

Revealed: the cost of bullying and violence in the Australian Public Service

More public service news

The annual bill to taxpayers for bullying, harassment and “occupational violence” in the public service is now approaching $80 million.

Trauma from workplace bullying or violence now make up the largest proportion of mental-stress compensation claims among public servants, according to the latest data from federal workplace insurer Comcare.

Mental-stress workers’ compensation claims are now costing $342,000 each on average, but there have been nearly 500 mental-stress claims by public servants over the past five years that have cost taxpayers $500,000 or more.

Mental-harm claims have soared by more than 88 per cent since 2009, according to Comcare’s latest statistical snapshot.

Nearly 39 per cent of claimants in 2013-2014 said bullying or harassment by their colleagues had left them unable to work, the same proportion of public servants who cited workplace stress as the cause of their psychological problems.

Another 8 per cent of mental-stress claimants said they had been traumatised by “exposure to workplace or occupational violence”, with 40 such claims accepted in the 2013-2014 financial year.

The 233 claims linked to bullying or violence accepted by Comcare in 2013-2014 will cost the taxpayer more than $79 million on present trends.

The figure represents just under 20 per cent of the total $410 million spent on claims across the Comcare scheme that year.

The statistics underline the impetus behind efforts across the Australian Public Service and the broader public sector in recent years to combat bullying and perceptions of bullying.

With premium bills to cash-strapped government departments increasing by 20 per cent in 2013-2014, their bosses are on notice that poor performance in preventing workplace injuries and getting public servants back to work will hit their bottom lines.

Since 2009, 2173 mental-stress claims have been accepted from government agency employees, with 475, or 22 per cent, costing more than $500,000 each.

By contrast, only 3.5 per cent of claims for body stressing, which remains the leading cause of public service compensation claims, cost more than $500,000, although Comcare planners are worried by the growing cost of body-stressing claims, which topped an average of $129,000 in 2013-2014.

The insurer has launched a campaign to get public servants out of their seats more often, targeting “sedentary” workplace behaviour, which it says leads to higher rates of chronic disease and injury.

Workers in the public sector, including drivers, call-centre staff or data-entry employees are considered particularly vulnerable to the dangers of prolonged sitting.

The Stand Up Comcare campaign has produced, fact sheets and guides for managers and team leaders on strategies to get their public servants out of their seats, with posters distributed to government workplaces, warning workers of the dangers of sitting down for too long.

“Comcare actively promotes strategies to reduce sedentary behaviour in workplaces and encourages the use of sit-to-stand workstations. We use this type of workstation in our own office locations,” a spokesman for the insurer told Fairfax.

“Comcare has conducted successful campaigns and seminars to promote research on the benefits of alternating sitting and standing in the work environment.

“Prolonged sitting is a risk that employers should consider in their work health and safety policies and practices.”

TOPICS: Couple of Waynes score a couple of Mo Awards

All dress-up, all fun, and it takes work. Wayne Cooper as Elvis and Wayne Rogers with partner James Hingston. TWO showbiz Waynes, both from Newcastle, are officially killing it.

Wayne Cooper has been named Australia’s best Elvis act, with an entertainment Mo Award to prove it. The awards were announced in Sydney on Tuesday night. We’re as shocked as you are to hear there are lots of Elvis acts.

‘‘It was a bit from left field,’’ says Cooper, who doesn’t have a favourite Elvis song so much as a top 100.

‘‘It’s one of those things where it’s announced on the night and you ask ‘how did that happen?’.’’

He’ll be hoping to channel the accolade into his Hunter Elvis Festival at Argenton, in October. And if the name rings a bell, he’s Wayne Cooper the decorated Newcastle cop, not the troubled fashion designer.

Wayne Rogers, a cross-dressing crooner from Wallsend, took out Best Versatile Variety Act for the second year running. The Australia’s Got Talent star performed at the Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL ceremony, resplendent in feathers, and Shannon Noll, Dicko and – gasp – Rob ‘‘Millsy’’ Mills were in attendance.

The previous night, Rogers walked the red carpet at the Capitol Theatre for the Helpmanns, alongside Todd McKinney and Cate Blanchett.

ARE you Newcastle’s funniest person? Then quick, you rascal, get down to tonight’s heat of the Crown of Comedy, and try not to crack anyone up on the way.

The comp is the baby of Shortland comedian David Gairdner, and last week’s first heat – won by Jordan Wunderlich, of Mayfield – was watched by 90 people at the Crown and Anchor Hotel.

Gairdner is looking for comics to sign up from 7pm, perform a five-minute bit and go into the running for the final on August 20. There are two $250 prizes to be won.

Er, yeah – upside down

TOPICS’S photo of Geoff Gunness’s sketch of the No.1 Reservoir (Topics, July 29), wasn’t an attempt to show how the architectural treasure might look to a restive bat.

It was just upside down. If you noticed, rest assured you’re not the only one. You can view more of Geoff’s work, the right way up, on his Facebook page, Gjgsketching.

STILL in the murky world of newspaper layout, Topics was desperate – frothing – to bring you the Isabelle Cornish mermaid photo (Topics, July 28) without the PETA watermark.

But the animal welfare group wouldn’t have it. They’d enlisted the Hunter model and actress to represent them as a scantily-clad siren and, with respect, their watermark would bloody well stay. Fair enough.

Then Cornish appeared on a rival website – let’s call it, oh, news杭州夜网 – in all her scaly glory. Same Cornish, same photo, this time with no watermark. Wha? Why’d they get a clean one, when we didn’t?

‘‘We didn’t actually send them that,’’ a PETA spokeswoman told us.

‘‘They doctored an image from a PDF we sent which was approved for use – we didn’t realise they were able to or would do that.’’

The lesson, kids: don’t ask. Just do what you want.

The Isabelle Cornish image doctored to remove the PETA watermark, and as it was originally supplied to Topics.

DOES Jakaya Kikwete, the Tanzanian president who Newcastle Uni made an honorary doctor yesterday, do his own PR?

The African leader’s Wikipedia page had listed the honour by mid-morning, virtually as it was happening. Didn’t muck around. The same can’t be said of his response to Tanzania’s dwindling elephant population, down by two-thirds in the past four years. Not exactly a champion of gay rights, either. But congrats.

Bikie getaway thwarted by police

Mark Douglas Buddle said he was going to surprise his long-term partner by proposing.IT was meant to be a dream South Pacific getaway highlighted by a surprise marriage proposal.

But instead of a beach in Noumea, the former national president of the Comancheros bikie gang will spend at least the next five days in a Hunter jail cell after he was allegedly caught with more than $60,000 in cash on board a private aircraft trying to leave Australia.

Mark Douglas Buddle, 30, waved and blew kisses to his partner Melanie Ter Wisscha during a protracted bail application in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday. The former bikie, who gave an address in South Yarra, was charged with dealing with the proceeds of crime and taking more than $10,000 out of Australia without reporting it.

But his solicitor, Avni Djemal, told the court his client had been given the money by a number of friends ‘‘as a sort of reward’’ for completing rehabilitation for alcohol and substance abuse issues. Mr Djemal said the money was for a trip away, where Mr Buddle was going to surprise his long-term partner by proposing.

He said Customs officers had found an engagement ring on board the aircraft.

After serving more than a year in custody for his role in a Melbourne strip club brawl in December 2011 – and with subsequent strict parole conditions concluding on Saturday – Mr Buddle boarded a privately chartered twin-engine BE20 King Air aircraft at Essendon Airport on Tuesday bound for New Caledonia, according to police facts tendered to court. Police estimated the chartered flight would cost between $50,000 and $60,000.

On board with him were his partner, Ms Ter Wisscha, the couple’s daughter and a fully licensed pilot. About 9.20am, the aircraft landed at Newcastle Airport to be refuelled and allow passengers to clear Customs.

Two Australian Border Force officers met aircraft VH ZMP on the tarmac and collected all passengers’ passports and departure cards, police said. ‘‘All the departure cards had been completed with the declaration that they were not taking more than $10,000 in Australian or foreign currency out of Australia,’’ the police stated.

It was when the officers asked to inspect the passenger’s luggage that both Mr Buddle and Ms Ter Wisscha admitted there was ‘‘significant amounts of cash’’ in their bags, police stated.

Supporters of former Comancheros president Mark Buddle outside Newcastle Court.

Officers found bundles of cash in a bum bag allegedly belonging to Mr Buddle totaling $29,045. They also found $30,000 in cash in a black suitcase allegedly belonging to Ms Ter Wisscha.

As police were being called, Port Stephens police Detective Inspector George Radmore and Acting Superintendent Guy Flaherty were at the airport on another matter.

Police facts stated Mr Buddle approached police and said: ‘‘My wife filled out the cards, I only had 10 and she had the rest’’.

Mr Buddle was later searched and handed over $1095 in a money clip and $145 in a wallet. He was arrested and taken to Raymond Terrace police station where he refused to take part in an interview, provide details about the source of the cash or divulge who organised and paid for the private charter flight.

He later told police he was self-employed and drove a fruit delivery truck for a friend – earning ‘‘thousands of dollars each week’’ – but was unable to identify the company in Melbourne he was driving for, police facts stated.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Maree Maynard opposed bail, labelling the accused an ‘‘unacceptable flight risk’’. She said Mr Buddle had only been out of jail for a month and had no legitimate means by which he could have acquired $60,000 in cash. Ms Maynard said Mr Buddle had limited ties in NSW and had a long history of failing to appear in court.

But Mr Djemal said Mr Buddle and his partner intended to live in NSW now his Victorian jail term was complete and had enrolled their daughter in a Sydney school.

He said his client had completed strict parole conditions ‘‘without a blemish’’ and had not committed an offence since 2012.

He also said Ms Ter Wisscha had filled out the declaration forms and upon learning of her mistake sought to amend them. ‘‘He might have signed it, but whether he understood what he signed is a live issue as to his culpability and liability in this case,’’ Mr Djemal said.

‘‘There is no doubt money was found, there is no issue there.

‘‘But the money was left by numerous people as a sort of reward for his coming through rehab.

‘‘It was for a trip away and there is no dispute an engagement ring was found.

‘‘This was meant to be a surprise, he was going to propose to her.

‘‘It was supposed to be a trip away and back, otherwise they wouldn’t have enrolled their daughter in school here, but it has become something quite sour.’’

Magistrate Ian Cheetham adjourned the matter until Tuesday to make a judgment on bail. Until then, Mr Buddle was remanded in custody.

Ms Ter Wisscha was not arrested but was told she was likely to face similar charges.