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'Rioter' wears towel to court

THE man police allege was the main instigator of the riot in Yamba fronted court yesterday dressed only in a small white towel.

Craig Jeremy McNeil, 50, of Yamba, appeared in a bail court hearing in Grafton yesterday and was formally charged with incite to assault police in the execution of their duty, riot, damaging property by fire (more than $15,000 value), escape from police custody and destroying or damaging property.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Chris Tuite said police ‘strenuously’ opposed McNeil getting bail. He said the matters were very serious and if McNeil was found guilty it was likely he would face a jail sentence.

“The police case is very strong and involves eye-witness accounts and video,” he said.

He said police would allege McNeil’s actions were that of the ‘inciter and precipitator’.

Sgt Tuite alleged violence against police included having pavers, rocks and bottles thrown at them.

“It is alleged he (McNeil) provided those missiles and that without Mr McNeil the situation would not have occurred,” he said.

“He is the reason the vehicles were damaged.”

McNeil, a self-employed handyman who has resided in Yamba for 10 years, appeared unrepresented in court yesterday.

He said the projectiles were not aimed at police officers.

“I certainly never threw anything at any police officer,” he said.

He said he had attempted to get out of the back of the police car after being arrested because objects were being thrown at the vehicle.

He said he had asked police to leave the party a number of times, but they had refused.

“I asked the officer to move the vehicle because we were having a game and one of them laughed at me,” he said.

Also facing court yesterday were Glen Leigh Ayres, 22, of Maclean; Robert Douglas Harvey, who turns 20 today, of Robinson Street, Yamba, and; Douglas Pearce, 19, also of Robinson Street, Yamba.

Ayres was charged with incite to assault police, aiding a person to escape custody, destroying or damaging property, riot and damaging property by fire.

He appeared in court wearing denim shorts and a black dress coat with no shirt.

Harvey and Pearce each faced charges of inciting to assault a police officer, riot, damaging property worth more than $15,000 by fire and destroying and damaging property.

All four men were refused bail and ordered to appear in court again in Grafton this morning.

No legal representation was available for any of the accused.

Meanwhile, a 21-year-old Wooloweyah man, two 19-year-old Yamba men, an 18-year-old Woombah man, a 17-year-old Yamba boy, 17-year-old Woolgoolga girl, two 16-year-old Yamba girls and a 16-year-old Maclean girl have each been charged with riot and malicious damage offences.

They will face Maclean Local and Childrens Courts on April 13.

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