A MAN acquitted in Australia’s biggest terror trial has been interviewed by police investigating the murder of a woman whose battered body was found dumped in Melbourne’s north.
Bassam Raad, 34, was arrested after emergency services were called to a Cohuna St house in Broadmeadows late on Monday following reports of an assault on three children.
The Herald Sun understands a deceased woman, who police had been unable to identify since her body was discovered in Dallas on June 17, is Raad’s wife — a Lebanese national called Zaynab.
Raad is understood to have recently talked with his wife about taking their family to Syria; however, she had concerns.
A family friend told the Herald Sun the children had recently been asking Raad about the whereabouts of the missing woman — who arrived in Australia seven years ago.
The woman’s body was found in a carpark opposite the Dallas home of the jailed terror mastermind and Raad’s co-accused, Abdul Nacer Benbrika, last month.
Sources close to the investigation said the body had been mutilated and the fingers chopped off.
Those close to Zaynab said they had not heard from her in five months. They said Raad was overbearing and would not even allow the children to go to school or let his wife’s family speak to her.
“We haven’t heard from her,” they said. “He does not want us to see her. He wanted to take them to Syria. The last time we saw her was five months ago.”
Raad was taken into custody on Monday night following the alleged assault on the children before homicide squad detectives descended on the rented house today.
The Cohuna St house is just over 2km away from where the woman’s body was found wrapped in cloth last month.
The body was found by a jogger in the Dallas tennis club carpark in Hepburn St at 1.30pm on June 17. A distinctive headscarf was nearby.
Last week homicide squad chief Mick Hughes said he believed she’d been killed by somebody in her family and the killer could have had help in disposing of the body. Raad was acquitted in a high-profile terror trial in 2008. He was among 12 men accused of planning terrorist attacks in Melbourne, including discussing a plan to blow up the MCG.
Following Monday night’s incident one of the children was reportedly unconscious, while another suffered broken bones. Paramedics treated the young children at the house before taking them to the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Police said their injuries were non-life-threatening.
Raad was accused and acquitted of being part of, and financing, a terror organisation that was led by Benbrika. Raad is the cousin of brothers Ezzit and Ahmad who were convicted and jailed for their role in the 2005 terror plot. Other cousins Majed and Mounir Raad are both believed to be in Syria.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said tonight: “Homicide squad detectives have attended the property (in Cohuna St) … to determine if there are any possible links to an existing active investigation.”
WIFE NOT SEEN FOR MONTHS
BASSAM Raad had isolated his family so much that his wife, Zaynab, had not been seen by her family for months.
She arrived in Australia seven years ago from Lebanon and married Raad soon after he was acquitted on terrorism charges in 2008.
Under his roof, Zaynab and their three children would come to live a solitary lifestyle.
It had been five months since Zaynab made contact with her family because, it has been claimed, Raad would not allow it. Her family had not even noticed that she had been missing for at least 19 days.
Even after a computer generated facial image was given to the media by Victoria Police’s homicide squad in June, the resemblance did not resonate with family.
He had also banned the children from school. Zaynab was rarely allowed outside the home and when she did venture out she was covered head to toe.
Going to Syria had also been raised, it was claimed.
Those who knew of Raad’s living arrangements said he had lived in the Broadmeadows house for the past three years.
Eviction proceedings had begun in recent weeks as Raad had not been paying his rent.
“There were some problems in the last couple of months and they were getting evicted,” a source said.
“Before he wasn’t so bad but there have been some drug issues recently and they have not helped.
“It is all very sad. I hope the kids are OK.”
Another friend said Raad had found it difficult to trust people after being found not guilty of being part of and financing a terror organisation.
But it is believed that Raad’s problems ran deeper.
In 2006 a court heard that he suffered from psychotic episodes. The friend said Raad had difficulty trusting people after the Pendennis trial and felt he was poorly treated by authorities while in jail.
Raad worked odd jobs labouring in his neighbourhood after his release but it is not clear if he held down a full time job.
The friend said his wife was rarely seen outside the home
Raad’s Facebook page will also be investigated.
“No one can kill you only Allah can (when, how and where) only Allah knows,’’ Raad had posted on his page.
But others differed.
A friend of Raad’s said the man he knew cared deeply for his wife and children.
“He loved his wife and kids,” he said.
On Monday, hours before the Broadmeadows incident in which three children were admitted to hospital with injuries, the Herald Sun spoke to figures at the MyCenter mosque close to the Raad family home.
They said police had attended the mosque and spoke to people there about the woman in a bid identify the murder victim.
The men at the mosque said they did not know who the woman was or what had led to her death.
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