Innocent circus family’s fake sex-ring hell
A family falsely accused of being part of an evil child sex ring linked to a Blue Mountains circus training school have spoken for the first time.
Therese Ann Cook, 60, and her daughters Yyani Cook-Williams, 30, and Clarissa Meredith, 25, spent six months behind bars at Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre before they were cleared of any wrongdoing.
A 20-year-old man and 54-year-old Paul Cook, Therese's brother, were also cleared.
Seven members of the family, who have run a circus school in Katoomba for more than a decade, were charged with more than 120 offences in 2018.
But the horror allegations were dropped by police.
Seven months later the family will break their silence on their desperate bid to clear their name.
Appearing on 60 Minutes Therese Cook broke down in tears when she explained how she was told she could spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Some of the offences were said to have involved three boys younger than 10 and were said to occur between 2014 and 2016, but the charges were all dropped.
Court documents revealed bizarre allegations, including sticking needles in their eyes, tongues being bitten and that one boy was lifted up by his penis.
Charges included false allegations of rape, assault and kidnapping.
Therese Cook was charged with 43 offences, including aggravated assault of a child, sexual intercourse with a child under 10 and holding children against their will.
At the time it was also alleged the family took part in 'blood rituals'.
"I still get scared. Very, very scared," Therese Cook said in a preview for the interview.
All charges against her were quashed.
Paul Cook told the program he still feels "pain, sadness, some days despair".
The family's lawyer Bryan Wrench said the four accused family members had spent a total of 206 days behind bars for crimes they did not commit.
"It's been a saga, it's finally over, it's been two years since they have seen their family and today will be reunited," he told 9 News at the time.
Meredith, Therese Cook's adopted daughter, was hit with 13 charges and her daughter Yyani Cook-Williams with eight.
They all maintained their innocence throughout the ordeal and were finally freed after nearly two years of hell.
The family was arrested in February 2018. The three women spent six months behind bars before they were granted bail.
A year later a young boy, who was an alleged victim, penned a letter to his mother saying he lied about being assaulted. Mr Wrench argued that the boy mother had hidden the note from investigators.
All charges were dropped two years later in February 2020.
Originally published as Innocent circus family's fake sex-ring hell