Race-hate group leader Jack van Tongeren was in police custody last night after a botched attempt to negotiate his surrender with the State’s leading counter-terrorist expert.
Instead the head of the Australian Nationalists Movement was arrested by two police outside the RSL headquarters in St Georges Terrace about 3.30pm yesterday.
The chance arrest came via a tip-off from a member of the public who flagged down the uniform officers.
Detectives from Operation Atlantic have been wanting to interview Mr van Tongeren for almost two weeks over race-hate crimes and a plot to attack Attorney-General Jim McGinty and other public figures.
On Wednesday, Mr van Tongeren telephoned Supt Dave Parkinson, the head of the State Protective Services. At the time Supt Parkinson was running a five-day national counter-terrorism exercise in Perth.
It is understood that Mr van Tongeren had arranged to phone Supt Parkinson again yesterday and agreed to hand himself over to Supt Parkinson.
Mr van Tongeren, who was released from jail last year after serving 12 years for race-hate crimes, was understood to be furious.
He told the ABC he wanted to explain to police why he was innoncent and “answer all questions”. “Now I come in here, I got jumped on and arrested by a couple of police who happened to be here and recognised me,” he said.
But as one officer said: “It was just the fickle finger of fate that led to him getting picked up.”
Although police have repeatedly denied that they had issued a Statewide alert for Mr van Tongeren, last week detectives raided properties in Gingin looking for him and another man, believed to be the leader of the ANM’s so-called paramilitary arm.
Investigators want to interview both men in connection with a series of racist graffiti attacks that on Thursday saw Daniel Tyrone Klavins and Frank James Lemin jailed and a third man, Benjamin Weerhym given a suspended sentence.
The police investigation into the ANM-inspired race hate crimes is also understood to have uncovered a plot to kill a former key member of the group, Russell Dean Willey.
Yesterday, Weerhym released a handwritten statement saying that he felt “regret, remorse, guilt and shame” over the matter. But he refused to answer any questions, including claims that until recently he was using the name Thor Hammered to post racist material on a racist website.