5 June 2017
A Star News Group Publication
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THREAT The grounded aircraft at Melbourne Airport. 169084 Picture: GARY SISSONS
The Dandenong man accused of threatening passengers and staff during a Malaysia Airlines flight was isolated from the local Sri Lankan community, says a Tamil refugee. Sri Lankan national Manodh Marks, 25, was restrained by passengers shortly after flight MH128 to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, took off from Melbourne Airport on Wednesday 31 May. Police allege the catering student tried to enter the aircraft cockpit armed with what appeared to be a bomb, which was later found to be a speaker. The flight returned to Melbourne Airport about 11.30pm. Police safely evacuated everyone on board about 90 minutes later. Mr Marks had been released from voluntary psychiatric care at Monash Medical Centre earlier that day.
Tamil Refugee Council’s Aran Mylvaganam said Mr Marks was Sinhalese, rather than Tamil, and he had been unable to identify any mutual friends. “He has been isolated from the Sinhalese community as well so it’s very hard to find information on him,” he said. “It looks like he had a history of mental health issues but we haven’t had any dealings with him.” Eyewitness Patrick Honan, whose mother works for Star News Group, the publishers of the Journal, was flying to Kuala Lumpur to relocate for work and was among the first passengers to tackle Mr Marks. He said the plane had been in the air for only a few minutes when he heard a female flight attended yell for help. “I’m not a confrontational person and
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wouldn’t normally do anything like that, but her scream was blood-curdling,” he said. As Mr Honan approached, he thought the man was pulling out a knife. It turned out to be a cord from the speaker. He and other passengers wrestled with the man and used cable ties and belts and sat on top of him to restrain him. “We know now that it wasn’t a terrorist attack, but we didn’t know that at the time,” he said. Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said police initially treated the situation as a counter-terrorism incident but later said that Mr Marks was “not showing any signs of any terrorism link”. Mr Marks’ lawyer, Tess Dunsford, told Melbourne Magistrates’ Court the next day that “it’s his preference” not to be present at the
afternoon hearing. She made no application for bail but said it was Mr Marks’ first time in custody and he had concerns for his safety based on his age and appearance. Magistrate Suzanne Cameron questioned why his age would affect him, and whether he had any physical characteristics that would affect his time in custody. “Is there something peculiar?” she said. Ms Dunsford was unable to elaborate. “He does have concerns for his safety in custody,” she said. “He needs to see a mental health nurse urgently. “I believe he does suffer from psychiatric illness.” Magistrate Cameron remanded Mr Marks to appear at a mention hearing on 24 August.
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By Casey Neill