Seeking costs ... Peter Millhouse leaves Downing Centre
District Court with a supporter, Tate Peek-Silva, on Friday.
Photo: Nick Moir
The Bondi caveman says police held secret information that
quashed a sex crime charge against him and kept him in custody for 18
months, writes Les Kennedy.
FOR more than 11 years Peter Millhouse lived in a sandstone cave
overlooking Bondi Beach. It was where the 55-year-old chose to recite his
poems to passers-by in the hope of payment while relying on food handouts
He became known as the ''Bondi caveman'' but some residents and the
council sought to evict him because of the unsightly camp and for his own
Then the law intervened. On Melbourne Cup Day in 2009, a then 21-year-old
woman visiting the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition spent six hours
feeding birds and chatting to Millhouse.
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Council staff remove his belongings. Photo: Nick Moir
Within an hour of her leaving the cave about dusk, he was grappling with
police, arrested for allegedly raping the woman despite his protests that
the sex was consensual.
He spent the next 18 months behind bars, awaiting trial, during which
time he says he was assaulted.
But on the eve of his trial last month, the Director of Public
Prosecutions dropped the rape charge. Now Millhouse intends to sue the NSW
police for wrongful imprisonment by withholding information from the DPP
that would have led to the charge being dismissed earlier, says his lawyer,
Outsider ... Millhouse at his cave.
The case raises questions about the role of police in not revealing to
the DPP information about the troubled background of the alleged victim,
including a history of unsubstantiated sexual assault claims and multiple
Background information about the woman first emerged last month, on the
day Justice Reg Blanch was to assign a District Court judge to hear the
trial before a jury.
Crown prosecutors were granted a one-day adjournment to respond to a
request from Williams for information on the woman, such as medical reports
or criminal history.
The DPP had not received such details from Waverley police, who charged
Millhouse. When police provided files to the DPP later in the day, copies
were passed to his defence team.
The next day, without explanation, the DPP's office told Blanch it had
''no-billed'' the charge of intercourse without consent. In no-billing, the
DPP does not have to state its reasons for dropping a charge.
The files, seen by The Sun-Herald, contain reports from police -
including officers attached to joint police and Department of Community
Services child mistreatment teams - of investigations dating back to 2002,
when the woman was 14. They included numerous unsubstantiated claims by her
of being attacked and sexually assaulted by strangers - one calling himself
the devil - in bush and at her home.
One report investigated by police included allegations that she was raped
many times at a religious centre by an African immigrant who said it would
rid her of a demon.
In the 2006 report of the alleged incidents at the religious centre,
police wrote: ''History of mental illness and unsubstantiated sexual assault
In 2003 the woman made three reports to police about being dragged into
bush and raped. After reviewing them, police said: ''There is insufficient
evidence to proceed … no further action to be taken.'' Two more allegations
of sexual assault that year were dismissed.
The files also contained a report on the woman four months after the
alleged Bondi rape, when Millhouse was in custody, that was never declared
to the defence team. It said she was found slumped in her car covered in
dirt and insect bites near a coastal lake with no recollection of having
left her western Sydney home the night before.
In the car police found a fresh lamb's heart, a broken cross with a date
of birth engraved on it, a kitchen knife, scissors and a Stanley knife.
''Police are unable to determine if the [victim] slaughtered a lamb and
took its heart,'' the report said. It also said her guardians had informed
officers she had four personalities, each with a different name.
Williams said police should have reviewed the woman's background and
given that information to the police legal branch and the DPP for review.
In no-billing the rape charge against Millhouse, the DPP did not drop
charges of assaulting two police officers that arose from his arrest - one
was allegedly bitten and the other kicked in the groin.
On Friday Millhouse's legal team again appeared before Justice Blanch in
the Downing Centre District Court and received an adjournment to July 8,
after advising he would make an application to the DPP to no-bill the
assault charges and would also make an application for costs.
After his arrest Millhouse lost his cave home - council staff removed his
property - and he lives with a former Bondi family who have supported him
while on bail.