Trained by a baron and backed by Bambi, now West Papua 'freedom fighter' faces jail
The group at a military training camp in the Ukraine.
COMBINE a wannabe freedom fighter, a Ukrainian paramilitary training camp, a tumbledown weatherboard house near Melbourne, an Irish ''baron'' and a man in a Bambi suit - and you end up with something that would not look out of place on the storyboard of a Hollywood comedy.
But it is no laughing matter for ''Colonel'' Gerard Michael Little, who finds himself in a Queensland cell facing up to 10 years in prison for allegedly planning armed resistance to the Indonesian authorities in West Papua.
Is he a total fantasist? Well-meaning? Naive? Just unlucky?
Little was arrested by police at Brisbane airport as he tried to board a flight to Port Moresby and charged with ''planning an incursion into a foreign state'' and ''allowing himself'' to be trained in preparation.
Anton Pahoff (Bambi): The mystery man. Young Melburnian who travelled to the Ukraine with Little for military-style training.
''The worst thing is the only time the cause gets publicity, it's for something like this,'' one West Papuan independence activist told Fairfax wryly.
Earlier this year Little, a 45-year-old grandfather who lives in the West Gippsland hamlet of Tynong North, launched a Facebook page espousing the cause of West Papuan independence. Month after month of links to news articles on the cause followed.
On September 9, however, in an eerie echo of the famous photo of David Hicks, Little posted a photograph of a young, dark-haired man holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. One click on the photo section of the page then revealed the magnitude of Little's preparations for whatever it was he was planning.
Gerard Michael Little: 45-year-old grandfather charged with plotting armed resistance to the Indonesian Government.
There are dozens of pictures of Little, dressed in military fatigues, handling weapons, training in hand-to-hand combat, sitting on an armoured personnel carrier and posing with an assortment of burly men in camouflage.
With him is the young man captured in the first photograph - Anton Pahoff, from Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs. Inexplicably, Mr Pahoff appears in a number of the photos wearing a yellow Bambi suit, sometimes paired with a thigh holster.
Fairfax tried unsuccessfully to contact ''Gunnery Sergeant'' Pahoff but his Facebook page suggests he studied at RMIT and enjoys nightclubbing. The photographs were apparently taken in the Crimea region of Ukraine in September, at a training camp run by a group called the International Law Enforcement Training Agency, which Little's lawyer this week claimed is supported by the United Nations.
James Shortt: Director-General of the International Law Enforcement Training Agency, which conducted the Ukrainian course.
Also captured on camera, presenting certificates to Little and Pahoff, is a man with a kilt, numerous medals and a luxuriant moustache. This is James Shortt, the self-styled Irish Baron of Castleshort and director-general of the ILETA.
Britain's Sun newspaper ran a story in 2009 labelling Mr Shortt a ''bogus SAS veteran'' and revealed he had been hired to advise on Cabinet Office security, resulting in the suspension of the man who hired him.
When contacted on Thursday, Mr Shortt angrily denied the claims, which he said had been spread by disgruntled former members of his group.
He confirmed he met Little in September in the Ukraine and said the Australian told him he was planning to offer training to military and law enforcement agencies in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. He described Mr Pahoff as Little's ''bag boy'' and dismissed the Bambi suit as an ''in-joke''. He also dismissed Little's lawyer's claim that the agency is backed by the UN.
Mr Shortt is also head of the International Bodyguard Association, which has a branch in Melbourne headed by David Rossborough, who said he knew Little but had not spoken to him for a long time.
Mr Rossborough said Little was a big-noter who was forced out of the association ''a few years ago'' after threatening to seize control of it.
So how serious was Little about travelling to West Papua? Is he a total fantasist? Well-meaning? Naive? Just unlucky?
He did make contact with West Papuan independence activists, claiming he wanted to train West Papuans in armed resistance to ''arbitrary'' aggression by the Indonesian government. And he was, apparently, given the honorary rank of colonel by the OPM separatist movement.
The West Papua Media service's Nick Chesterfield said Little was ''counselled'' that armed action was ''illegal, ill-advised and counterproductive'' but that he understood why Little would want to ''assist with armed struggle''.
One of the final posts on the Facebook page before Little was arrested was made by a friend called Heather, who took over administration of the page three weeks ago. ''I will post his reports from West Papua as I receive them,'' she wrote. ''Michael - stay safe and good luck in West Papua.''