– Christian Ellis on run, hiding out “in forest” – Reported for alleged abuse of livestock – Animals “jumping fences” to find water – Moved to small town “flashing money” – Bought $2.2m farm “in cash”, stacked branch
One of three Liberal Party figures on the run from the law is hiding out in a remote forest on the NSW-Victorian border where he has been spotted “in a mask”, an inquiry has heard.
In explosive testimony, long-time Liberal Party member and local councillor Shirlee Burge said she believed Christian Ellis — who has been “missing” for three weeks — was hiding out in the 66,000ha Barmah-Millewa Forest near Deniliquin, about 700km south-west of Sydney.
“I believe he has been hiding out in the forest because as there have been sightings of him driving a vehicle known to be his but wearing a mask,” Burge told an NSW upper house inquiry today.
“There’s…been unusual activity in the forest behind his property.
“The property backs on to the Barmah-Millewa Forest, it’s a large area, people could disappear in there forever if they wanted to,” she said.
“It’s a large area, people could disappear in there forever if they wanted to” – Shirlee Burge
For the past three weeks the inquiry has been seeking to “serve” Ellis, forcing him to attend and give evidence under oath or be jailed.
Ellis is being sought in connection to allegations senior Liberal Party figures were paid “significant amounts of money” by property developer Jean Nassif to get councillors elected to Sydney’s Hills Shire Council to get developments approved.
It is alleged Ellis moved to Deniliquin and stacked the local branch of the Liberal Party, with the view to becoming the Federal Member, replacing Susan Ley.
Burge, who is a councillor on the local Edward River Council, but who appeared before the inquiry in a personal capacity, said Ellis had moved to the area in about 2020.
“Christian Ellis moved into our area flashing a bit of cash and purchasing properties,” Burge told the inquiry today.
The Barmah-Millewa Forest. Source: Supplied
Burge, who had lived in Deniliquin for “about 45 years” said she was “familiar with the terrain and with the local farming community there”.
“He (Ellis) has alienated farmers there with his inability to care for his stock, and by overstocking the small property,” Burge said.
“He leaves the farm unattended for weeks at at time, the stock break through fences into neighbouring farms because they’re starved and have lacked water.
“He has been reported to authorities because of the animal welfare issues,” Burge said.
“He (Ellis) has been reported to authorities because of the animal welfare issues” – Shirlee Burge
She said she believed Ellis was not far from his Deniliquin home property because he had a wife and “a young baby and a toddler” there and that, having met him, he seemed “like a proud father”.
“His neighbours are quite protective of him (but) they are quite disappointed,” Burge said.
“There have been sightings of vehicles going into the forest.
“It’s a dirt road and dust hovers…in a few instances vehicles have disappeared halfway through the forest,” she said.
Inquiry chair Sue Higginson MP is told of Ellis’ alleged whereabouts. Source: NSW Legislative Committee
When asked for further detail, Burge said a person was seen, while driving a vehcile known to be owned by Ellis, wearing a “black ski mask”.
For the past three weeks the inquiry has been seeking to serve Ellis, his mother Virginia Ellis, and Jean-Claude Perrottet, a brother of NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.
Virginia Ellis was appointed to the Hills Shire Council in the December 2021 stacking, allegedly financed by Nassif.
Nassif, who owns apartment construction group Toplace, has told the inquiry he cannot attend because he is in “remote Lebanon”.
On Tuesday Nassif’s business and Sydney Harbour-front mansion were raided and his lawyer daughter Ashlyn Nassif, 27, was arrested and charged over her alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar fraud.
It is alleged she defrauded Westpac out of $150m, with the funds going to fund Toplace projects.
The NSW upper house inquiry today heard Ellis had purchased several properties in the Deniliqiun region, and owned a property worth over $2m in Sydney.
It heard Ellis had allegedly bought the property backing on to the Barmah-Millewa Forest for $2.2m without any mortgage.
Burge, who has been advocating for better health care facilities in the area for about ten years, said Ellis met with her when he arrived in town.
She said Ellis told her he was close to a brother of then NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and that he could help get a new hospital for the region.
Shirlee Burge gives evidence to the inquiry today. Source: NSW Legislative Assembly
Burge said there had been a takeover by the “far right” of the Liberal Party’s Deniliquin branch, and that she believed many of those involved in the alleged stacking were connected to the same religious sect.
“The general feeling is he (Ellis) moved into the area to take control of the branch, promising those dissatisfied groups like irrigators, and health advocates he can make change,” Burge told the inquiry.
“However over the last few weeks I do believe his credibility may have waned a bit.”
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