A member of a Melbourne school council arranged plane tickets to whisk its principal, wanted on child sex abuse charges, out of the country, a court has heard.
The Supreme Court heard on Tuesday that Mair Ernst arranged tickets for Malka Leifer to fly out of the country in March 2008, just days after she was sacked from Adass Israel Girls’ School, in Elsternwick, over allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
A former student, who is one of Mrs Leifer’s alleged victims, is suing the school for negligence.
Mrs Leifer was arrested in West Bank settlement town of Emanuel in August last year and is facing extradition to Victoria to face child sex abuse charges.
Mrs Leifer – an Israeli citizen who was hand-picked to move to Australia to head the school – is now uder house-arrest in Jerusalem.
Mr Ernst, who also goes by Mark or Marcus, and his wife Hadassa failed to appear when called at court during pre-trial arguments on Tuesday.
Outlining the case for the former student, Dyson Hore-Lacy SC, told the court evidence had been subpoenaed from a Melbourne travel agency which showed how Mrs Leifer’s flight to Israel had been arranged.
He said that Mr Ernst, 57, was authorised to buy the tickets by the school’s council, which documents from 2007 showed he was a member of at the time, Mr Hore-Lacy alleged.
“We have details of credit card payments, which are part of the subpoenaed documents and there is evidence of direct deposits [to the travel agency],” Mr Hore-Lacy said.
“She [Leifer] left within two days of her being asked to leave, which might say something in itself.”
A community source with intimate knowledge of how Mrs Leifer, her husband Yaakov and their eight children left Australia has told Fairfax Media that Mrs Ernst, who also goes by Dassi Ernst, worked at the eastern suburbs travel agency where the tickets were purchased.
The same source, who refused to be named for fear of reprisals within their community, said Mr Ernst had appeared on the Leifers’ doorstep at midnight the night she was sacked and demanded the family leave.
Mr Ernst owns and runs Port Melbourne signage business Adherettes and is a prominent member of Melbourne’s Jewish community.
He sits on the board of Chevra Kadisha, (Jewish Funeral Society), which is responsible for Melbourne’s Jewish cemeteries, according to documents filed with the corporate regulator ASIC.
According to a social media profile, he was a founding member of Chevra Hatzolah, a volunteer medical service which services the Jewish communities in Melbourne’s south and southeast.
The Adass community is a small, ultra-orthodox group of about 150 families based in Elsternwick and Ripponlea.
The trial is expected to start on Wednesday.