Police say witnesses to Pepe's brawl are scared of reprisals: court

Police investigating a pre-Christmas brawl at the Novotel Northbeach which allegedly involved members and associates of the Lone Wolf bikie gang say they are struggling to get statements from patrons who fear possible “reprisals” if they speak to authorities.

The information was contained in documents presented to Wollongong Local Court this week as two of the five men allegedly involved in the fight inside the Pepe’s on the Beach bar – Elias Elchaar and Burak Esen – successfully sought a relaxation of their current bail conditions.

The other three men charged over the incident are Matthew Gilmore, Tony Jovanovski and Orce Niceski.

Police claim the men are members of, or associates of, the Lone Wolf outlaw motorcycle gang Wollongong chapter.

Police said they have managed to obtain statements from bar staff however were having less luck getting accounts from witnesses.

“Investigators have attempted to contact a number of patrons who were witnesses to the incident however many of the patrons spoken to by investigators were aware the men involved in the affray were members of an outlaw motorcycle gang and were too scared of reprisals to provide statements to police,” court documents allege.

However, a lawyer representing the pair in court said Esen had never been part of the gang and Elchaar had not been a member for “15 to 20 years”.

He said gang colours found at Elchaar’s house during a police search were historical patches “that had been misprinted”.

The Mercury can reveal police will allege dozens of patrons were forced to “dodge missiles” in the form of chairs and schooner glasses that were thrown between two rival groups of men after a fight broke out in the cabana area just after 10pm.

Security staff managed to break up the fight at one stage, ejecting two men from the venue, however they returned a short time later and the fight recommenced.

“Many patrons were forced to scramble over the balcony….[others] began to flee through the main doors,” police documents tendered in court said.

“The scale of the affray and the severity of the violence displayed by all the accused forced the manager of the venue to evacuate the premises and cease any further trading to prevent any injuries to innocent patrons.”

Police said it was estimated the bar lost $10,000 in trade by having to close three hours earlier than intended.

The court heard all the alleged brawlers had left the venue by the time police arrived.

All five were arrested and charged with affray on February 1.

They were released on strict conditional bail which banned them from having contact with each other or any member of the Lone Wolf gang, however their lawyer successfully argued for the deletion of the later condition in court this week.

The matters will next be heard on May 9.