Bashed but not beaten – brave country queen tells of harrowing attack

ONE of Tamworth’s most beloved performers has spoken of the terrifying moment she was struck down and robbed on Sunday night.

WON’T KEEP HER DOWN: Wanita recovers at home after being assaulted in Tamworth at the weekend. Photo: Barry Smith 230914BSF02

Wanita, Australia’s queen of honky tonk, was taken to hospital after being struck on the back of the head as she walked down Bligh St at 9.30pm.

She had accepted a lift from a stranger after a night out at the South Tamworth Bowling Club, but was alarmed to find she had been dropped off at the wrong place. Wanita, whose full name is Wanita Bahtiyar, rang her husband and a close friend as she made her way briskly towards well-lit Peel St.

“Within minutes I felt a ‘bang’ on the back of my head,” she said.

The perpetrator grabbed at her handbag, but she clasped her phone tightly and was stuck again.

“I hit the concrete with a thud and possibly lost consciousness,” she said.

Wanita was left with a nasty gash on her elbow, stitches, grazes, bruises and a mild concussion.

“Today I’m not made up like the queen of honky tonk – this is unplugged,” she said.

“They won’t keep me down. I’ll be back on my feet to give you something else to talk about before long.”

She said despite coming to the rescue of other victims in the past, she was unable to defend herself in the underhanded attack from behind.

“I didn’t see it coming,” she said.

“At no point during the attack did I feel scared. I thought: ‘They’ve hit me but they haven’t got a hold of me.’”

She urged locals to be careful on Tamworth’s streets and not to take lifts from strangers.

“Don’t put yourself in asituation where you could be attacked. I’ve always thought that no one is exempt fromillness or atrocity – anyone could be a victim,” she said.

Close friend CarolyneMorris waited with Wanita slumped across the back seat of her car until the ambulance arrived.

“Society has double standards. She was defenceless, she wasn’t doing anything to invite the attack,” Ms Morris said.

“There’s no excuse forviolence.”

In true Wanita style, she was soon up to her old tricks, coyly joking with the “spunky young doctor” who pricked her with a needle at thehospital.

Having amassed a number of friends at the hospital, one suggested Wanita should “call up a few more, bring a couple of bottles of champers and hold a party in outpatients”.

Wanita said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from the whole community.

So how long before Wanita starts singing and strumming her guitar for Tamworth audiences again?

“I reckon by tomorrow I’ll be right,” she said.

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Duo hits the road

IT started as a Facebook page to celebrate the personalities living in Sunraysia, but its creators are branching out.

Pam Fox and Jade Kemp have packed up their cameras and set off on a two-week road trip.

“Humans of Sunraysia” was set up in April as aforum to share the stories of people across the region.

The Facebook page has more than 2000 followers and was inspired by the “Humans of New York” project.

Ms Fox and Mrs Kemp ask strangers a question about their lives, posting theresponse and a photo online.

With the duo planning holidays this month, they decided to take their followers with them – electronically, of course.

“We knew we were both going to be away and, for the first week, we were going to be at the same destination so we thought, ‘How can we keep the stories coming?’” Ms Fox said.

“Also, we knew that on Humans of New York, he’s travelling around the world, so it’s like he gave us permission to do it.”

Humans of New York’s Brandon Stanton is travelling for 50 days with a United Nations delegation and has posted from the Middle East and Asia.

But Ms Fox said theydecided not to tell Sunraysia residents where they were going.

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Drayton’s, Perfab Engineering fined over deadly explosion

FINED: Judge James Curtis fined Drayton’s Family Wines a total of $210,000 and ordered them to pay the prosecutor’s costs.Drayton’s Family Wines was keeping a low profile yesterday in the wake of a $210,000 fine over the explosion that took the lives of winemaker Trevor Drayton and welder Eddie Orgo more than six years ago.

Judge James Curtis fined Drayton’s Family Wines a total of $210,000 and ordered them to pay the prosecutor’s costs after finding them guilty of failing to provide a safe workplace.

Workcover NSW prosecuted Drayton’s and Mr Orgo’s employer, Perfab Engineering at Tomago, in the District Court for two breaches each of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

A Drayton’s Family Wines spokeswoman said yesterday that managing director John Drayton preferred not to comment.

And a Perfab Engineering spokesman told the Mercury that the manager was away and so unable to comment.

Perfab will face a sentencing hearing in December.

The explosion on the morning of January 17, 2008, blew the roof off the Pokolbin winery and the force was felt around the Hunter Valley.

Mr Orgo, 59, a popular man from Kurri Kurri, had been helping to install an upgraded cooling system in the winery.

The court heard he was welding on a stainless steel tank without knowing it contained 9000 litres of ethanol.

Vapours in the tank ignited causing several explosions that killed Mr Orgo and Mr Drayton.

An assistant winemaker William Rikard-Bell suffered serious burns and fell into a dam from where he was later rescued.

Friends of Mr Orgo at the Kurri Kurri Workers Club declined to comment yesterday and said only that they were in contact with his wife Nadia and continued to offer her their support.

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Kantarovski surgery leaves Jets exposed

SITTING OUT: Ben Kantarovski at a Jets team photo shoot yesterday. Picture: Ryan OslandTHE Newcastle Jets are set to kick off their A-League campaign with a makeshift midfield as former wonder boy Ben Kantarovski faces another comeback from knee surgery.

Kantarovski had an arthroscopy on his troublesome right knee on Friday and is expected to be sidelined for at least three weeks.

It was the third time the 22-year-old has gone under the knife since reconstructive surgery in December 2010 after he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament.

Kantarovski’s latest setback follows groin surgery to midfielder Billy Celeski last week.

Their injuries combined with the departure of Ruben Zadkovich (Perth), Josh Brillante (Fiorentina) and Zenon Caravella (retirement), and the failure to secure Erik Paartalu, has left the Jets’ midfield stocks threadbare.

Former Leicester City youth team captain Robert Paratore began a one-week trial yesterday.

If signed, the 19-year-old Australian is considered more a project player.

Taylor Regan and Jacob Pepper, who began their careers in the centre of the park but have played predominantly defensive roles in recent seasons, started in midfield in the scoreless draw against Central Coast Mariners in Mudgee on Saturday.

New teenage arrival Allan Welsh has also spent time in midfield.

‘‘They are the only three we have available. That is the reality of it,’’ Stubbins said.

The Jets take on the Young Socceroos behind closed doors in Gosford on Saturday in their final hit-out before opening the season with an F3 derby against the old foe at the same venue on October 11.

‘‘Against the Young Socceroos it will be as near as possible to the starting XI for the first game,’’ Stubbins said.

‘‘We will work very hard leading up to the Young Socceroos game and try and get a bit more fluency into how we want to play.’’

Kantarovski has been hindered by the knee for a large part of the pre-season.

He played limited time at the Townsville Cup, which included losses to Brisbane (4-0) and Sydney FC (4-2) and a 3-1 win over North Queensland All Stars, and was sent off after 55 minutes for a second bookable offence in a 2-1 win over Wellington 10 days ago.

SETBACK: Kantarovski surgery leaves midfield exposed.

Friday’s operation follows a similar procedure to remove scartissue in January which put him out for six weeks.

In November 2012, the former Young Socceroos captain had surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

He was expected to be out for six weeks but missed the entire season.

Stubbins is confident there will be no hiccups this time.

‘‘The surgery has been a success going by the medical reports,’’ Stubbins said.

‘‘He will be out for three or four weeks.

‘‘It has been a problematic situation with his knee.

CHANCE: Triallist Robert Paratore at Jets training yesterday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

‘‘He had a bit of floating tissue in there.

‘‘I’m a glass-half-full type of guy. He has had his little clearout and normally that is sufficient. Hopefully he comes back bigger and stronger.’’

Argentinian striker Jeronimo Neumann and former Socceroo David Carney were on light duties yesterday but are likely to start against the Young Socceroos.

Paratore will also get an opportunity, most likely from the bench, on Saturday.

‘‘It’s vital that we have a look at the kid and give him the shop window to show us what his capabilities are,’’ Stubbins said.

The teenage holding midfielder was recommended to the Jets by former Socceroo Vinnie Grella and trained with the squad for the first time yesterday.

‘‘He seems pretty comfortable in possession of the ball, his passing range is quite good, a little bit nervous at the start, which is to be expected, but he has come in and not looked out of place,’’ Stubbins said.

‘‘Vinnie played in that position and played at a very high level.

‘‘For him to recommend somebody; he has taken Josh Brillante to Fiorentina and he saw the traits in Josh.

‘‘Hopefully Rob portrays some traits Josh had but also some of his own.

‘‘Let’s see how he is at the end of the week and make a decision then.

‘‘Strategically we need to make the right decision.

‘‘Are we better off going for somebody who has experience there when we know we have Billy Celeski and Ben Kantarovski to come back?

‘‘Is it a younger guy we bring in who we think we can blood and move forward with in the future?’’

Turnbull junior hit with court injunction

THE son of an accused murderer has been ordered by a court to stop land clearing on his property near Moree amid claims of unlawful damage to native vegetation.

The temporary injunction against Croppa Creek farmer Grant Turnbull was granted by Justice Rachel Pepper in the Land and Environment on Friday, restraining him from clearing on his property, Colorado, for five days.

The extraordinary move was brought on by Ross Fox from the Office of Environment Heritage (OEH), who submitted an affidavit claiming “only a small proportion of native vegetation now remains on Colorado by reason of the continued unlawful clearing on that property”.

The OEH submitted the interlocutory relief was to restrain Mr Turnbull from any further land clearing on the property which would contravene the Native Vegetation Act 2003.

Mr Turnbull is the son of Ian Robert Turnbull – the man accused of the shooting murder of 51-year-old OEH compliance officer Glen Turner, in July. Ian Turnbull was last week fined more than $140,000 after being convicted of illegally clearing native vegetation on the same property between November 2011 and January 2012.

Grant Turnbull has been ordered to remediate an area as a result of his father’s actions, but he too is being prosecuted in the Land and Environment Court, amid allegations of unlawful clearing between June 2012 and January 2013.

On Friday, the OEH tried to have the temporary injunction heard on an ex-parte basis, without Mr Turnbull present, arguing further clearing would occur if Mr Turnbull was made aware of the order sought.

The OEH told the court, that in addition, investigators are examining further alleged illegal clearing on Colorado since January last year, based on satellite and aerial imagery.

Ecologists, along with officers from the Specialist Investigations Section and NSW Police have inspected the area in question on the property. Justice Pepper rejected the ex-parte application and stood the matter down briefly to allow Mr Turnbull’s solicitor to be notified and instructions sought.

According to the injunction judgment, Justice Pepper said in her opinion, “the affidavit evidence of Mr Fox plainly demonstrates that, if the allegations contained in it are demonstrated, Mr Turnbull is likely to have breached the Native Vegetation Act”.

“As the ecologists have indicated, only a small proportion of native vegetation is now left on the property by reason of the past and present unlawful clearing of the land.”

Justice Pepper added there was a “need to take immediate action to protect whatever native vegetation remains on Colorado”.

She ordered that Mr Turnbull be “restrained from clearing, or causing, or permitting the clearing, of native vegetation on the land” until 5pm today. The matter will return to court today.

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