Hikers ‘terrified’ by neo-Nazis who allegedly smashed car windows as they fled, Melbourne court hears

A man has described his fear after coming face to face with a group of alleged neo-Nazis on a Victorian mountain.

Thomas Sewell and Jacob Hersant were allegedly among a group who confronted several hikers in the Cathedral Ranges state park, north-east of Melbourne, in May this year.

Prosecutors say both men are leaders of neo-Nazi organisations with Sewell tied to the European Australian Movement and Hersant to the National Socialist Movement.

Sewell, 28, and Hersant, 22, are facing a committal hearing in Melbourne magistrates court over allegations they robbed and assaulted the hikers. They’re charged with offences including unlawful assault with a weapon and robbery with a weapon.

It’s alleged Sewell and Hersant were among a group of about 20 neo-Nazi group members in the Sugarloaf Peak area on 8 May this year.

The hikers, who cannot be identified due to concerns for their safety, speculated that the group was “probably the Nazis” who had featured in news reports about groups camping in the Grampians over Australia Day.

During their hike, they came across stickers with the words “Australia for the white man”. Both groups ended up in the car park at the same time when one of the hikers took out his phone and began recording them, la corte ha sentito.

It’s alleged one member of the group shouted “antifa” – a reference to a leftwing organisation – and ran towards the hikers who had got into two separate cars.

The driver of one car said his friends were “hysterical” and were yelling in terror, while he was in a panic trying to get away.

The hikers said they saw two of the group – who were wearing all-black outfits with white Celtic cross emblems on the chest – armed with knives.

The man quickly locked the doors but said two car windows were smashed by group members.

“It all happened very quickly, the window smashed and people surrounded the car,” he told the court on Wednesday. “As soon as they smashed the window I just wanted to get out of there.”

The man crashed into a boulder in his effort to flee. “I heard many people saying ‘Get out of the car’ throughout the whole thing," Egli ha detto.

They were able to drive away after handing over their phones.

Prosecutors say DNA matching Sewell and Hersant was found on the car while two fingerprints matching Sewell were also discovered.

Hersant’s car was searched by police shortly after the incident and officers found a balaclava and camera inside. The camera included photos of the group allegedly taken that day.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on Thursday.

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