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Vigilantes attack 'God-fearing' man

Sue Hewitt, Sunday Herald Sun (Australia), November 5, 2006

SUBURBAN vigilantes have attacked a man they wrongly believed to be a pedophile and warned Broadmeadows residents of his presence by letter.

The man has been threatened, had his windows smashed, gates padlocked and letterbox sabotaged in a campaign of harassment spanning two months.

The trouble started after John Lee moved into public housing in Broadmeadows and a letter circulated warning residents about the person living at his address.

The letter was posted anonymously to households with children and implied the resident was a pedophile.

The situation worsened when some locals believed he was the West Australian John Arthur Lee, the first Australian charged with child sex tourism.

The WA child protection unit this week confirmed the Broadmeadows man was not the convicted criminal.

Mr. Lee said his life had been a nightmare and he pleaded for authorities to move him to safe housing.

"I am not a crook or a deviant, I am a God-fearing Christian," he said. "But the vigilantes have come after me and threatened me."

Mr. Lee claimed he was once so fearful he left his house and sought emergency accommodation.

"But I had to sleep in someone's car," he said.

He said he did not support convicted pedophiles being released into the community near schools and suggested they should live "at the back of factories".

But he criticised the actions of vigilantes.

Mr. Lee had a front fence erected and padlocked its gate, but thugs poured super glue in it, locking him behind his own fence.

Then someone added their own padlock to his gate. Mr. Lee cannot receive mail because someone blocked his letterbox with expanding foam used in the building industry.

"My lounge room windows have been smashed twice, I've had eggs thrown at my door, my shrubs have been trampled and I am watched all the time," he said.

He added that some residents took his photograph, while others threw rocks at his fence.

The letter that sparked the attacks said residents had the "right to know of a resident that could be a danger to you and your family". State Opposition police spokesman Kim Wells said although there was no excuse for vigilante activities, they were understandable in the "climate of fear".

He said the community mistrusted the Victorian Government and feared convicted pedophiles were being released into public housing.

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