There are allegations of sexual abuse being brought up against the Arcade Circus School which operated out of a broken-down green-roofed brick warehouse pressed snugly against a hillside in an Australian town known as Katoomba.
An affiliated website with the school reveals that the space provided neophyte performers the "opportunity to learn and master circus skill in an environment balanced with circus fun and discipline." "My daughter joined the circus classes last year and we attended weekly for a few terms," one mother told the Daily Mail recently. "She loved it . . . we had absolutely no inkling of anything sinister."
The school sent an email to the parents last September saying classes were canceled, 9 News Sydney reported. Surprisingly, it provided no reason.
The circus school is now facing the wrath of the Australian law enforcement which alleges that the circus school is not a venue for big top entertainment but a horror show.
Seven individuals were arrested last Monday over affiliation with the school for allegedly sexually abusing three young boys between 2014 and 2016.
The accused face 127 criminal counts, including rape, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault of a child and making child abuse material.
The Australian cited police documents in its report which said the young victims were used in "blood rituals" on at least one occasion. Law enforcement has not detailed how the victims knew the defendants. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported the three boys were not students at the school.
The names of the four accused were released on Thursday by a magistrate with the Penrith Local Court: Therese Ann Cook, 58, the circus school's founder; Paul Christopher Cook, 52; Yyani Cook-Williams, 29; and Clarissa Meredith, 23. The names of three additional suspects - a 17-year-old girl; an 18-year-old man; and a 20-year-old man - have yet to be released because they were juveniles when the alleged crimes took place.
"Police will allege the group participated in ongoing sexual and physical abuse of three boys, who were known to them, between 2014 and 2016," police said in a statement. Authorities say all the alleged victims were under eight at the time of the abuse.
The attorney representing the four named suspects, Bryan Wrench, addressed the charges after the defendants were denied bail this week. "They are pleading not guilty … they deny these charges," the attorney said.
A spokesperson with the New South Wales Police Force declined to comment on the case. "In all honesty, I am shocked and it is hard to process," a former teacher from the circus school told the Australian. "They were both nothing but kind and focused on getting this circus up and running … I saw nothing and did not expect this."
Citing court documents, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported last week at least one of the assaults occurred on April 25, 2016 - Anzac Day, an Australian holiday honoring military veterans. According to the network, Therese Cook and Yyani Cook-Williams allegedly raped two boys that day. The victims were 4 and 7. Cook-Williams also allegedly forced the two boys to have sex together on the same occasion.
Meredith is accused of raping one of the victims seven times while Paul Cook is accused of filming the aggravated sexual assaults. Police say the victims were subjected to a "blood ritual" where they were forced to drink their own blood.