Geez the evidence in the McCulkin trial is strong, that is if your idea of solid is a dwelling built out of perjury-threatened, reward-promised, and deal-delivered witnesses whose evidence is shakier than the earthquake house in New Zealand’s national Te Papa Museum, and then twice as wobbly again.
If you don’t believe me just have a Captain Cook at the blokes who got pinched with, well actually after, Vincent O’Dempsey, the old lag charged with the presumed McCulkin murders alongside his one time young wide-eyed devotee Gary Dubois, who’s about as good for this crime as I am for an adultery accusation involving Kate Moss, .
We;ll kick off my having a Tim Mander at 45 year old Warren ‘Wazza’ McDonald, the former proprietor of the Yangan Hotel, a Laundromat posing as a pub 18km west of Warwick that funnily enough is a favourite haunt of motorcycle riders wearing leather jackets with identical insignias sewn into their backs. It sure must get thirsty riding all the way out into the bush, hey Mary-Jane?
Why does Archie call a rural pub a Laundromat you ask?
Because he’s a raving lunatic is the answer, and holds this crazed delusion that rural pubs that turn over far more dollars than probability suggests they ever could are perhaps dens of iniquities where cash money soiled from being buried in the ground is mystically cleansed, not by the manganese ridden water filling the hamlet’s bores, but instead by the stained folding stuff passing in large denominations, and keep the change luv, through the hotel till as payments for somewhat overpriced pub beds that may or may not be slept in, and glasses of rum and coke that retail at a tad more than the usual going rate, and then a triple tad more again.
And I’m sure it’s because of the need for water for the Laundromat that in 2007 our publican Wazza put on a turn when the Mayor of Warwick refused to throw in half a million to match the State Government’s generous $750 000 sling to provide extra water to the 250 residents of the little pimple on Queensland’s map. It would have had nothing to do with Waz wanting a little extra water to help the plants growing on his various tracts of farming land shoot up a bit quicker, I’m sure.
Hey Mum! What was it Wazza was growing on his farms again?
No f*cking way!
$2.5 million dollars worth? And he was trafficking it? Holy sh*t, Wazza’s going to be sentenced to a long spell in the can isn’t he?
Nup said Mum. And as usual the old chook was right, for Wazza did in fact cop a nominal lag of 3 1/2 years, but the beak suspended it entirely, and now the fat b*stard’s as free as a bird. Is it any wonder he was throwing us the thumbs up?
But gee, WTF?
Well you see a story goes with it, as it usually does with such odd affairs, because Wazza wasn’t flying high solo, and was in fact doing the whole drug production, harvest and sale thing with a couple of other coves, one a scion of the local farming community, the other a dodger from way back since Jesus played fullback for jerusalem, or his co-accused’s old man and uncles formed the spine for the Allora Wattles, whichever came first.
The dodgy bugger is an accused murderer named Vincent O’Dempsey, while the scion of the long-time local farming family is a camel named Keith McVeigh, who hails from Allora, hometown of the beautiful and extremely talented Laura Geitz, captain of both the Queensland and Australian netball teams, and the sheila’s equivalent of JT or Locky when it comes to absolute bloody sporting brilliance.
I’ll get to Mr Vincent O’Dempsey in a minute, because to tell you the truth the real story is all about him, but first I want you to introduce you to his unlikely co-accused Keith Patrick McVeigh, who to avoid confusing him with our other mate Keithy (DeLacy) we’ll call Keith the Green Leaf, or Leafy for short.
Given that the commercial production and sale of cannabis appears to be how the black sheep of the local farming elite – if of course he really is a black sheep, rather than simply a chip off the old block – has made his millions from over the past couple of decades or three..
Old Leafy is not just your average mug punter dope grower.
Quite to the contrary in fact, for Leafy’s a member of one of the oldest farming families in the broader Warwick district, and his great-grandfather Patrick was one of the very first farmers on the Darling Downs, having landed a huge amount of excellent dope growing dirt he rocked through old Cunningham’s gap and stuck his primitive bong in the turf. Of course before he could start planting his primo ganja seeds Paddy was forced to chase away the bludging indigenous squatters at the point of his gun, and if he had to shoot a dozen or three in the process in order to ensure that they rack off sportsfans, well it was all in the name of progress wasn’t it?
Yep, our terrific tetrahyrdrocannibinol trafficker Leafy is a man with a proud history, and it’s not just ancient history, for a couple of generations after Paddy pulled his trigger Leafy’s old man and his uncles – Pat, Tom and Kev – became local footy legends when they formed the nucleus of the invincible 1951 Allora Wattles Rugby League team, who went through that ’51 season undefeated and swept all before them. They talk about it still in the Railway Hotel, where the McVeigh brtothers picture holds pride of place on the public bar wall.
In fact in 1972 the team’s halfback, McVeigh’s old uncle Tom, ended up parlaying his local fame into a place in Federal Parliament as the local MP, and sat on his ass and troughed at the publicly funded cash tank in the big white house in Canberra for 16 years, and even ended up doing 3 years from 1980-83 as Minister in Big Mal Fraser’s Cabinet, and served the full whack too. Blokes were tougher back in the good old days when little Johnny Howard was chasing away Asians, and suspended sentences were for art-loving blow-in schoolteachers from the smoke, not for boys brought up in the bush.
Interestingly Leafy’s old Tom McVeigh was a very close mate and confidant of old Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and by virtue of his slavish devotion to the bent Dutchman became a pivotal figure in the deeply corrupt Premier’s ill-fated and short lived campaign to become the sunburnt country’s PM.
Clearly old Joh didn’t blame Uncle Tom for his hit and miss at a kip with Flo in the double bunk at the Lodge, because smack bang in the middle of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, as one of his very last acts before being forced from office Joh appointed Uncle Tom to the under-worked, over-paid sinecure of pretending to be Queensland’s Agent-General in London.
Was it a reward for hanging tough, or just a get of jail free card for a loyal mate?
We’ll never know, but funnily enough one of Joh’s most notoriously corrupt caucus members, the former bent copper Don ‘Shady’ Lane, came from Warwick too. And would you believe that this same fella later went on to become the State Member for the Valley and served in as the region’s parliamentary representative during the time of the Torino’s and Whiskey Au Go Go fires?
It’s a bloody small world isn’t it? And rivers run deep.
And politics must have run in the McVeigh’s family’s blood nearly as thick as pot plantations did in Leafy’s, because his cousin John Boy became a pollie too, and is better known these days to the public as the LNP State Member for Toowoomba South John McVeigh MP, the bloke who after less than 5 minutes in the Qld House of Broken Dreams was appointed by Can-Do Shambles Newman to the role of Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestries.
Given his cuzzie bro’s green field of business you’ve gotta find that f*cking funny don’t you? Otherwise you clearly ain’t got any sense of humor at all.
But back to business though, ‘cos now it’s business time.
On 8 November 2014 three blokes appear in the Warwick Court on charges of cultivating and trafficking a sh*tload of marijuana worth about $2.5 million. The charges relate to a large quantity of uncultivated marijuana and unexplained cash found at properties in and around Warwick, on Queensland’s Southern Downs.
Two of the men – Leafy and Wazza – were arrested on their properties the day before . They are denied police bail, and remanded in custody.
Despite living in far-away Brisbane, McCulkin cold case Detective Mick Dowie is present at the remand hearing.
The third bloke charged, Vince O’Dempsey, had earlier on 17 October 2014 been arrested and charged with the 1974 murder and deprivation of liberty of Barbara, Vicki and Leanne McCulkin, and was banged up on remand in Brisbane after being denied bail on these most serious of charges.
Now as sure as night follows day, or bodies are buried and dug up from Southern Downs sandstone quarries, Vince certainly hasn’t told the cops about the green fields in Warwick, because he cut his teeth in and around Geebung as a kid and holds the Loose Lips dictum close to his heart, and therefore keeps his laughing gear closed at all times when coppers who haven’t got him on their payroll around, and the traps with the clean folding stuff are either long retired, turned into ashes, or presently resting six feet under the green, green grass of home.
So the obvious conclusion is that someone had turned dog and lagged Vince, fuguring that at the ripe old age of 77 the Alpaca enthusiast would no longer pose a threat to their continued good health.
Ha, ha, ha.
Due to lack of acceptances the field was narrowed down to two, either Wazza or Leafy, Vince’s business partners in Sky High Warwick productions. Perhaps it was even the pair of them, and they’re currently sharing a bunk in a motel in the ass end if nowhere as entrants in the Witness Protection Stakes, with Cessnock Peter Hall and Serapax Kerri Scully shooting up in the room next door while a couple of bored as batshit coppers copping OT and travel allowance are sneaking onto their Samsungs and checking out the local talent on Tinder.
Of course that’s just wild speculation, and for all I know the witness protection wardens may just be wanking while watching Red Tube, but it’s what happens next that’s instructive, and tells a bloke that grew up on the racetrack with codgers, dodgers and just plain odgers all that he needs to know.
You see, Wazza spends a fortnight in custody and then he’s granted bail, on the condition that – for reasons unexplained – he doesn’t enter the Warwick CBD, which is no great hardship, because if you’ve ever been to Warwick you wouldn’t want to enter the CBD either. But it’s London to a Brick that the bail condition’s just a smokescreen, because guess what?
Detective Mick Dowie from Brisbane is present at the bail hearing.
Leafy – a soft, fat, rich f*ck, but one with plenty of dough and therefore plenty to lose – spends another week in the can, presumably for the purpose of making him sweat just a little bit more. He is then released on bail, with a piss ant $100 000 surety, which is a drop in the ocean to a bloke whose family own half of the district.
Detective Mick Dowie is again present at the bail hearing.
I wonder by this stage whether his family in Brisbane is starting to miss him, and if his missus is beginning to wonder whether he’s got a sly sheila on tap on the Downs?
Where’s Kerri Scully right now anyway?
Seven months quickly pass by – well quickly for folk other than old Vince and young Gary Dubois, for whom every minute stuck in their remand cells staring at the ceiling seems like a lifetime, and they’re a tad too old to start passing the time by pumping iron aren’t they, unless they want to invite a heart attack – and then suddenly Wazza rocks up to the Toowoomba District Court and pleads guilty to two charges of trafficking a commercial quantity of dangerous drugs.
The maximum penalty for the charge that he has just nodded his head to is 20 years imprisonment, but Waz is unfazed, cos he’s cut a pain relieving deal and is telling his mates that his name’s Panadol isn’t he?
And what he’s nodded to is a police brief that paints him simply as the dumb ass, ignorant caretaker of the crop – despite the fact that he actually owns the land on which the drugs were being commercially produced – and submits that he should receive nothing more than a hard whack on the wrist with a wet bus ticket and a non-custodial lag with bugger all conditions attached.
And lo and behold the beak tucks the book he’d normally throw at drug traffickers under the judicial bench, and to the surprise of the aboriginal kid in the cells who has just been a given a twelve month holiday in Woodford for flogging a Mars Bar from Woolies, Wazza cops a suspended sentence.
You don’t me to tell you that Detective Mick Dowie – who’s turned off his phone so he can’t hear the missus ringing – is present in the courtroom during the sentencing.
Don’t ya just love the post-Fitzgerald method of principled policing?
Fast forward six and there’s Wazza bowling into the Brisbane Magistrates Court with a couple of well cut blokes who look for all the world like coppers, and next thing you know he’s in the witness box lying his head off by putting his hand on holy bible and swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to the evidence he is about to give at O’Dempsey and Dubois’s committal hearing on the McCulkin murder and deprivation of liberty charges.
Detective Mick Dowie is of course present in the courtroom, a fact that has been established beyond any semblance of a reasonable doubt because I’ve personally seen him just minutes before when I was having a chat to Dubois’ rock solid and ever loving wife Janice, while he (Dowie) was sitting in a heavily guarded side room of the court with our old mate Wazza the drug trafficker.
Seconds after falsely swearing the oath to speak the truth so help him God, Wazza purses his lips and does his best impersonation of a canary, warbling out loud for the Magistrate and all those present to hear that O’Dempsey – the man who lives and dies by the Loose Lips dictum his Grandma imprinted in his brain those years ago in Geebung – decided one day to discard the principles he’d held for a lifetime, and give his much loved granny a kick in the guts just for fun, simply because he could.
And so Wazza tells us that on a motoring jaunt from who knows where – because nobody asked – to Warwick, the career crim Vince, without any prompting at all, just upped and confessed to him that 30 years ago he had killed the McCulkins, presumably simply because he felt like it at the time, but again we’ll never know because no one asks why.
Suddenly there’s an enormous BOOM! that fills the courtroom, which is suddenly lit up like Sybill’s disco in the 80’s when the DJ’s flicked the strobe light switch, and the clued on punters realise immediately that it’s Zeus attempting to strike Wazza down with lightning, but the flash new roof of the Brisbane Magistrates Court has been heavily fortified in anticipation of just such an attack on perjured evidence, and it deflects the ancient Keeper of Oaths blow.
The stench from the witness box suddenly becomes overwhelming, and the dozen or so of us in the gallery begin to retch, but through the rancid, vapid courtroom air, and despite his lucky escape, no-one believes what Wazza has just said other than the presiding Magistrate and the naive young babes in the press gallery, who although hotter than Delilah and twice as sexy still, were not even a speck in their then 6 year old mother’s eye at the time the McCulkins disappeared, and in their youthful ignorance sincerely believe that the Fitzgerald Inquiry was nothing more than a boring university dissertation on the last chapter of the novel the Great Gatsby.
The next day Wazza’s craven testimony is reported in the mainstream media as the gospel truth.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Even Matt Condon, one of the few journalists who is old enough to have swilled a six-pack of West Coast Cooler in the old Valley crypt, and is thus entitled to claim at least a smidgen of first-hand knowledge of the murky netherworld that is Brisbane’s deep hidden past, reported McDonald’s testimony without criticism.
In his defence – and I’m the type of bloke who always tries to defend his mates – Condon’s retelling of the evidence was but a mere paragraph in a far ranging, stylistically brilliant and atmospheric article of the type that conveys to the wide-eyed reader the impression that the writer of the trilogy of highly entertaining books about Brisbane’s criminal history – well the first two were entertaining anyway, the third was more like Die Hard 3 – is the fount of all knowledge of our city’s hidden secrets, and the gatekeeper of all that is real and true about the way the mean streets of Vegas once used to be.
It’s a great narrative, and Condon is a wonderful wordsmith, but the problem is that his history is based on the testimony of indubitable liars and fantasists of the ilk of John Wayne Ryan, a bloke who imagines himself as a cross between Chuck Norris and Sherlock Holmes, but is in fact little more than a poor man’s Walter Mitty; and bit players like Nigel Powell, who for a brief millisecond was a mover and shaker in kicking off the Moonlight State expose, but was never close enough to the action to become a player with an inside story to tell.
I was never a copper, nor a crim, but rather a young lost soul whose sense of self had been battered and bruised by selfish, evil, pleasure seeking pedophiles; and as a result at the tender age of 15 I was sleeping on the mean streets of Vegas during those dark days of Jacks and Jokers and Three Crooked Kings, hiding out in flood prone tunnel pipes and ant ridden trees to catch a few zees while Joh and Flo average, with their asses intact and untouched by evil, trod the streets earning the honest living that I yearned for in my dreams.
Each evening during those sad, mad, bad years, as the sun came down and the ordinary folk boarded the late afternoon train that carried them back to the safety of their soft down bed, and the warmth of their centrally heated home, the living dead youths like me emerged from our hiding places, and we creatures of the night began hunting for scraps with which to break our fast, our day beginning as folk like Condon and his child journalist colleagues drew to an end.
Thus during the nights that those who now write the dark history of our fair city were cramming for their end of year university exams, I was wandering Brisbane’s cold, dark streets, young and lost and alone, looking neither forward nor back, bereft of hope and scared to dream.
And all the while I was sharing the streets with people just like those that now spend their nights in a barren cell, and their days sitting handcuffed in plastic boxes in the august surrounds of the courts staring up at a robed private school educated man who is as alien to people like us as a desperate snatch and grab in the hope of scoring enough for a packet of cigarettes is to them.
I’ve never met Gary Dubois or Vince O’Dempsey, for we are separated by age and by time, but still I know them, just as I know the immoral, cowardly liars who stand before them while they are chained in a box and tell all manner of lies because they mistakenly believe that the green light that has been flashed at them by those who would happily tear out their hearts may in fact somehow save their souls.
They lie these men and women, who for reasons of their own, tell us that want is a mere stranger, and misery unknown. For where the deep, dark Fortitud Valley and the CBD proper meet, my millieu has forever been the sordid Brisbane streets.
The World by Night, where as a 14 year old steet kid the kindly Tony Bellino slipped me scotch and coke all night as long as I stayed hidden in the shadows away fom prying eyes; the Top of the Valley, where the girls for fun used to rub my whiskerless chin against their fulsome breats, and laugh as my little rid stiffened into iron; the Hacienda Hotel, where gay me who knew I was not delighted still in playfully flirting and plying me with drinks, but keeping me safe always from the monsters that lurk in the dark.
The 502 Club, where once in the days that it was known as the National Hotel the bent cops swilled beer late at night, and f*cked whores, and took bribes as their Commissioner had his dick sucked by young boys in a room to the side; Bonapartes, where many nights during my fifteenth year I drank til I either spewed or dropped, but was alwats looked after because the Bellino’s told the staff that it must be so.
Bubbles Bath House and Casino above, where I first encountered Russ Hinze, as fat as a house and brutally pawing the young ladies of the night because he knew that he owned them and the men who owned them to; the Roxy Nightclub, where Phil Dickie famously lay in the rafters watching the money change hands as he researched the stories that both made and broke his career, while all the while I was either banging my head to live bands on the bottom floor or vogueing to Madonna upstairs, depending on where the free drinks and the night’s warm bed could be found.
This is my Brisbane, this and the other bars and nightclubs, and the racetracks and floating card games and casinos and drug houses and all day parties at which the bass thumps out loud to the beat of the ordinary people tapping their employers keyboards, and banking their boss’s money, and answering their customer’s calls.
It’s not the world I ever yearned for, and it’s not the world I ever wanted. But for reasons well beyond my control, reasons that I used to curse and wail and rage about, it’s the world I know. And its’s way too late too try to change it now, because life doesn’t give you a sexond shot, and if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt over the years it’s that rivers always flow forward and there’s no use pushing against the tide.
So if I meet you at the Supreme Court this morning and tell you about how I used to sleep in the hollows of the car park that once lay right where we stand, and was know to one and all as the hole in the ground; and how in the pre-automated boom gate days my mates used to work the entrance and exit and we skimmed a couple of hundred a weekend which we promptlty lost on the punt the very next day, if we hadn’t in fact liquified it before the first race jumped,. don’t for a minute thing that I’m telling a tale or pulling your leg, for this is my town and I know how the hidden things work.or
And when I tell you that the cynical view of this clinically diagnosed weirdo wordsmith is that if you hold either Condon’s source-suspect dissertations or McDonald’s deal-driven evidence about what went on all those years ago to be true, then you must also believe in goblins and ghosts, and that Terry Lewis’s protestations that he is simply an innocent pawn in a fetid piranha filled pond of perjuring police and politicians therefore must be true, then it may well be wise to believe me, because history has an awful habit of repeating itself, ad infinitum.
Thus when I tell you that the evidence that forms the basis of the prosecution case in the McCulkin murder trial is the greatest brick since the unsigned confessions that in 1973 convicted John Andrew Stuart and James Richard Finch of killing 15 innocent drinkers and dancers in St Paul’s Terrace, and that the cops were up to their necks in the McCulkin murders, and it was beyond any shred of doubt a police ordered hit rather than a cheap chance for a couple of blokes from the mean streets who are now being criminally maligned as whacko child fanciers to sway their hips to a murderous sick dance, then you’d be wise to believe me and take any price on offer that I’m correct.
For those who truly believe that the bloke who this morning will be appearing in the dock in the Supreme Court pleading for the bail that he rightfully deserves is actually guilty of the web of lies spun into a tinkers tale by the prosecutors opposing his right to hug and kiss his daughter tomorrow morning are the same types that truly believe that Joh was innocent too.
Don’t you worry about that.