Cops probe poison pen letter to James Ashby

Exclusive: A poison pen letter writer posing as a well-known New South Wales solicitor has threatened high-profile Canberra political staffer James Ashby in an extraordinary tale of attempted blackmail.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have been called in to investigate and are understood to be testing the letter and envelope for evidence of fingerprints and DNA.

It is a strange and particularly old-fashioned-style case with plenty of clues flowing from the malicious missive which arrived on July 4, at Parliament House in Canberra addressed to Mr Ashby, Pauline Hansons' chief of staff.

Tucked into an innocuous envelope with a handwritten address, the official stamp on the back of the vitriolic letter announced the sender was supposed to be former politician and long-time NSW solicitor Peter Breen - someone Mr Ashby had known for a long time.

Pauline Hanson’s chief of staff James Ashby has been the target of a poison pen letter. Picture by Peter Lorimer.
Pauline Hanson’s chief of staff James Ashby has been the target of a poison pen letter. Picture by Peter Lorimer.

But all was not as it seemed. Mr Ashby called Mr Breen who was as surprised as he was. Mr Breen denied all knowledge of the letter, and said someone else must have used his letter stamp without his knowledge or authority and cut and pasted his business letterhead.

Mr Ashby said he was shocked and outraged. "Only a coward would do something like this, hiding behind someone else's identity," he said.

The contents of the letter are so "defamatory, disgusting and vile," according to Mr Ashby, they cannot be published.

But News Corp can divulge a snippet which reveals its tone.

The letter begins with:

"Dear Arsewipe,

Re: F*** you."

And finishes with a threat:

"If (sic) continue on your destructive path against others then I will have no option but to release all the sh*t I have on you. Don't ignore this warning from the real author of this letter or ……"

 

The envelope used to send the poison pen letter is addressed by hand. Do you recognise this hand writing? Contact natalie.obrien@news.com.au
The envelope used to send the poison pen letter is addressed by hand. Do you recognise this hand writing? Contact natalie.obrien@news.com.au

Mr Breen has already been interviewed by the AFP. He told News Corp Australia this week the last time he saw his letter stamp - it was in his desk in then One Nation office of the now deposed Senator Brian Burston. News Corp is not suggesting that Mr Burston or other staff in the office are responsible for the letter.

NSW solicitor Peter Breen had his identity stolen and used for a poison letter. Picture: AAP
NSW solicitor Peter Breen had his identity stolen and used for a poison letter. Picture: AAP

At the time, Senator Hanson had removed Senator Burston as the deputy registered officer of the NSW party in a bitter dispute. Then Senator Burston in turn sacked Mr Breen as his chief of staff, in an escalating feud inside One Nation. Then Senator Burston quit and joined Clive Palmer's United Australia Party. Mr Burston lost his seat at the last election.

Mr Breen said he was sacked by email and as such was unable to clear out his desk and collect his belongings. He doesn't know what happened to them.

Among the clues to who the real author might be include the distinctive hand printed address on the envelope. But even more interesting, the sender used an address within Parliament House which is known only to those who work in the building. That address is not available to the public nor is it published on the internet.

The letter was processed by Australia Post's Sydney West Letter Facility the morning of July 2, 2019 at 06h03 meaning it must have been posted in the southwest Sydney area sometime in the afternoon or evening of Monday July 1.

The date and location stamp could allow police to cross check the mobile phone movements of any suspects to see if they were in the area at the time.

Mr Ashby has called for anyone with information to come forward.

If the poison pen writer can be identified, then it is likely they could be charged with a string of offences.

Do you know more?

Email Natalie.obrien@news.com.au



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