Grafton GP Dr Russell Pridgeon.
Grafton GP Dr Russell Pridgeon. Adam Hourigan

Alleged child snatching ring members face court

TWO men alleged to be members of a criminal syndicate involved in some of Australia's longest-running child stealing cases assisting the parental abduction of children across the country have appeared in Grafton Local Court.

On Wednesday, Australian Federal Police charged Dr William Russell Massingham Pridgeon, 64, with two counts of conspiracy to defeat justice and one count of deal in the proceeds of crime, while Patrick O'Dea, 63, was charged with two counts of conspiracy to defeat justice, one count of using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence and one count publish an account of proceedings

In court solicitor Greg Coombes represented both parties, and filed an application for bail for Mr O'Dea. Mr Coombes proposed an "acceptable person" could post an assurity of $5000 and surrender his passport, and abstain from using social media to contact and alleged victims or witnesses.

Mr Coombes said his client's wife had a number of health issues as well that Mr O'Dea needed to attend to.

The Crown Prosecutor opposed the application for bail and cited the seriousness of the offences and the high risk of potential contact to alleged witnesses and victims.

Magistrate Roger Prowse agreed with the Crown Prosecuter, and said he was not satisfied there could be any conditions made that would mitigate the risk of Mr O'Dea's bail concerns and it was refused.

"Considering the very serious allegations made, no conditions I could impose would mitigate the risks, and given the short period of the adjournment being sought to extradite Mr O'Dea to Queensland with a warrant I'm inclined to have the strength of the case analysed further in Queensland," Mr Prowse said.

Mr Coombes said Mr Pridgeon did not give him instructions to make an application for bail and it was formally refused.

Under instructions from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosections, the Crown Prosecutor moved for the charges to be withdrawn and dismissed, and a warrant was served on the two men to be extradited to Queensland, where it is expected similar charges will be filed.

Mr Prowse ordered Mr Pridgeon and Mr O'Dea to remain in the custody of the Australian Federal Police to appear in Brisbane Magistrate Court tomorrow (Friday, October 19).



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