A family accused child sex crimes at a circus school including bizarre blood rituals have more than 100 charges against them dropped.
Seven people were charged in 2018 over 115 allegations of sexual abuse at the Katoomba school located in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
Paul Cook, 54, his sister Theresa Cook, 60, her daughters Yyani Cook-Williams, 35, and Clarissa Meredith, 25, two other women, aged 22 and 19, and a man, 20.
The alleged offences involved three boys under the age of ten between 2014 and 2016 and include allegations of rape, assault and kidnapping.
Therese’s daughter Yyani-Rose Cook-Williams (left), 35, was accused of ‘inciting’ a boy to rape another little boy on Anzac Day in 2016, while adopted daughter Clarissa Meredith (right), 25, was charged with rape, assaulting two of the boys and depriving a boy of his liberty
Therese Cook (pictured left after an accident) 60, ran the circus school in Katoomba since 2009, had been accused of being the leader of the alleged sex ring, while Paul Cook (right) was accused of filming at least one of the alleged encounters on his mobile phone
It was also alleged the family took part in ‘blood rituals’, sticking needles in a person’s eye, and tongue biting, and that some boys were allegedly filmed to create pornographic material.
All charges against them were dropped on Friday at Penrith Local Court.
Outside court, the family’s defence lawyer Bryan Wrench said the prosecution’s case was weak.
‘Crucial evidence had been overlooked and the police had ‘no leg to stand on’, he told AAP.
Mr Wrench said his clients were innocent and the family would finally be reunited after their bail conditions during the two-year long court case prohibited them from communicating.
He said four of the accused have spent 206 days behind bars and three children spent four months in jail.
‘It was ‘probably one of the greatest miscarriages of justice this state has seen,’ he told 9News .
‘It was totally concocted, we are totally innocent, and it’s been total vindication today.
‘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.’
NSW Police said it will review the court’s decision.
‘The NSW Police Force notes the withdrawal of all charges against seven people, including four women, two men, and a teenage girl at Penrith Local Court today,’ it said.
‘It remains the strong recommendation of the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad that the matters proceed before the court and a review has been requested.’
The family is alleged to have lived together in two homesteads on a dilapidated rural property on the outer reaches of Sydney.
Police alleged Therese Cook had been the ringleader and organised the ‘systemic rape and detention of the boys’ which included getting her daughters to participate in the alleged assaults.
She was charged with 43 offences – the most of any of those accused – including aggravated assault of a child, sexual intercourse with a child under 10 and holding children against their will.
The alleged sexual offences were said to have taken place in Parramatta, Leura, Lawson, Mount Victoria and at the family-run Katoomba circus school (pictured)
Her brother was accused of filming at least one encounter on his mobile phone and three counts of aggravated sexual assault in company.
Cook-Williams was accused of ‘inciting’ a boy to rape another little boy on Anzac Day in 2016 and raping both of the little boys in company with her mother.
Meredith, Cook’s adopted daughter, was charged with rape, assaulting two of the boys and depriving a boy of his liberty.
They all plead not guilty.
In March last year, Mr Wrench told the court one of the alleged victims had penned a letter to his mother admitting the allegations were fabricated but the mother had hidden it from investigators.
The family is alleged to have lived together in two homesteads on a dilapidated rural property (pictured) next to a dog pound on the outer reaches of Sydney