An investigation into a suspected arson attack at a popular burger restaurant has “stalled”, with police saying there is no evidence it was racially motivated and the owner did not not yet provided a declaration.
Victoria’s Chief Commissioner Shane Patton revealed in an ABC radio interview that investigators are no closer to finding a motivation behind the attack which saw the Burgertory restaurant in Caulfield, Melbourne, burnt to the ground on November 10 .
Burgertory CEO Hash Tayeh, 32, previously speculated that the crime must have been politically motivated due to his strong pro-Palestinian stance.
Mr Tayeh, a Palestinian-Australian, has moved his family to a shelter since the attack which was allegedly followed by violent threats against him.
But the threats have yet to be substantiated, with police saying the contractor has not yet officially reported them.
Victoria Police Commissioner Shane Patton has revealed investigators are no closer to finding a reason for the November 10 arson attack that burned down a Burgertory restaurant in Caulfield, Melbourne.
Burgertory CEO Hash Tayeh, 32, speculated that the attack was racially motivated and likely due to its strong pro-Palestinian stance in recent weeks.
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Cmsr Patton said investigations into the fire were ongoing.
“The investigation is very active at the moment. We are being briefed by investigators so I am not going to go into details because there is nothing to suggest that this is a bias-motivated crime,” he said.
The commissioner also said his department was “very happy” to look into any threats of violence Mr Tayeh may have received if he wished to report them.
“We are happy to investigate all allegations of threats. But we don’t do that until we get a statement from someone. We invited Mr. Tayeh to come. That didn’t happen, for whatever reason,” Mr. Patton said.
So far, one person has been investigated over threats against Mr Tayeh that began when he was filmed leading a march at a pro-Palestinian rally in the CBD of Melbourne three weeks ago.
The local celebrity was quickly recognized as the man behind a megaphone chanting: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Some interpret this rallying cry as anti-Semitic, as it actually calls for the abolition of Israel by expanding the Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
In the weeks that followed, Mr Tayeh wrote an open letter to Melbourne’s Jewish community to clarify his position while continuing to participate in Palestinian rallies.
Last Friday, two hooded figures were filmed by video surveillance, appearing to set fire to his restaurant before fleeing in a car.
Mr. Tayeh had already claimed that his colleagues were threatened by selected clients and that they were working “for a terrorist”.
Police quickly cordoned off the area, but failed to ease community tensions when pro-Palestinian activists began appearing near the scene.
Double protests were organized by Israeli and Palestinian supporters and despite Mr Tayeh’s calls for activists to stay home, 400 people showed up, with some participants having to be separated by police after physical clashes.
A nearby synagogue was evacuated when the group got too close, with Jewish participants asked to leave for their own safety.
Two hooded figures were filmed on CCTV on the morning of Friday November 10 throwing objects through the window of the restaurant before it caught fire.
Police were unable to link the crime to any racial bias and a GoFundMe was set up in Mr Tayeh’s name to renovate the now destroyed building.
Since going into hiding, Mr Tayeh’s lawyer said his client had been “very concerned about the lack of communication and support from the police”.
“He has not yet been contacted by the police despite his continued contacts. The police in charge of the investigation have not yet requested the threats that were made to him despite the contacts of his lawyers,” declared Me Moustafa Kheir . told The Age.
Mr. Kheir said it was the police who blocked the investigation because they did not inquire about the threats Mr. Tayeh had received.
Although Mr. Patton confirmed that his team has not yet established a link between the arson and any racial motivation, Mr. Tayeh remains convinced that it was a hate crime.
“Mr Tayeh would be excused for believing there was a link between the threats he was receiving and the burning of his business,” his lawyer said.
Despite Mr Kheir’s statement insisting police had not contacted his client, Mr Patton said detectives from the Moorabbin Criminal Investigation Unit spoke to him on Wednesday.
Investigations into this matter continue.
A GoFundMe has also since been launched in Mr Tayeh’s name, in the hope of funding the rebuilding of the now-destroyed Caulfield restaurant.
More than $60,000 of the $300,000 it will cost to repair the building was raised in the six days since work began.
The fundraiser sparked a mix of positive and negative comments about Mr Tayeh from those who donated.
“From ‘River to Sea’ is a song of genocide aimed at destroying the Jewish State of Israel and a hateful jihadist ideology,” wrote one person who donated $5.
“Hash was the victim of a hate crime, plain and simple. You deserve to be able to speak out and protest the genocide in Palestine without having to worry about your source of income and that of your staff being threatened by psychopathic degenerates,” wrote another after donating $100.
Burgertory fire sparked verbal and physical clashes between Israeli and Palestinian supporters in Caulfield
The protests briefly turned violent and a nearby synagogue was evacuated, with Jewish participants told it was for their own safety.