Australia

EXCLUSIVE: Insiders Reveal the Bizarre Bush Life of the Circus Family Accused of ‘Sadistic’ Sex Abuse of Three Little Boys – and the ‘Gut Feeling’ a Parent had That Something was Wrong

Bizarre details have emerged of the home life of four adults at the centre of circus school child rape claims.

Performing arts teacher Therese Cook, 58; her home-schooled daughters Yyani, 29, and Clarissa, 23, and former youth worker Paul Cook have been charged.

Police allege a trio of little boys as young as three were repeatedly raped, assaulted and detained as part of the abuse.

The four accused have entered not guilty pleas to all charges. But the sheer depravity of the allegations has floored parents whose kids attended the college.

One mother said she had a bad ‘gut feeling’ about Therese Cook – but another parent believed ‘there were no red flags’.

Circus matriarch: Therese Cook, 58, seen following an accident several years ago

Accused: Yyani-Rose Cook Williams, 29

Accused: Clarissa Meredith, 23

This is alleged to be the home of four circus-linked adults at the centre of child abuse claims

A shocked parent said she had only ever thought Mrs Cook was a professional.

‘My daughter joined the circus classes last year and we attended weekly for a few terms.

‘She loved it, loved Therese and we had absolutely no inkling of anything sinister. None whatsoever.

The woman was left with the confronting task of speaking to her daughter about the charges.

‘I did speak to her – not in specific detail obviously – but she is very surprised about it all.

‘She really enjoyed going to the circus and as I said, she loved Therese, she actually became very confident while she was there.’

A more sceptical parent said: ‘I just have a general mistrust of the confected hippy circus, choirs, cabaret acts that all intersect.

‘It’s totally gut… always trust your gut (about people)’.

A young man who attended the circus between 2014 and 2015 occasionally visited the family’s isolated rural property.

The inside of the circus - which cannot be named for legal reasons - is seen above

Therese Cook, in costume

Yyani-Rose Cook-Williams

The four relatives are alleged to live at an isolated, rural property (pictured)

They lived on a huge property next to a dog pound in Katoomba, court documents alleged.

The man was stunned the run-down house had no curtains – despite the cold winter weather in the mountains.

He was also shocked that Mrs Cook had a freestanding bathtub in her bedroom.

‘Whenever I woke up there was lights on and movement,’ he said.

‘They had no curtains and two sheds where people (who the family knew) stayed.

‘The mum didn’t drive and just got her husband to do all her errands.

‘They held themselves high, (thought they were) the ‘best family’ in their heads.’

The circus school at the centre of the allegations against the four adults

A discarded clown tie on the ground near the front of the family's alleged property

In an online profile, Therese Cook said she had been ‘tragically lost from the back of a travelling circus truck shortly after birth’.

Cook ran the circus school and faces 43 charges including aggressive sexual assault in company and assault.

Paul Cook boasted of helping ‘at risk’ and ‘vulnerable’ children as a youth worker for Caretakers College and the Ted Noffs Foundation in the 1990s.

His LinkedIn profile also said he was a nurse at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in the 1980s.

He faces charges of alleged aggravated sexual assault in company and filming child abuse material.

Yyani Cook-Williams, 29, was an actress, singer and burlesque dancer. One of the charges she faces concerns allegedly ‘inciting’ a young boy to rape another.

Clarissa Meredith is Therese’s adopted daughter and faces assault and sex abuse charges.

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