Category Archives: Uncategorized

After the Headlines – Michael McGann (Part Two)

Continued from Part One…



 For reasons that can easily be speculated when looking at some of the Police personalities involved, the Kareela Cat Burglar case became a matter of interest to the Wood Royal Commission and as a result summonses were issued in 1996 for various persons to attend the Commission hearing rooms at the St James Centre in Elizabeth Street, Sydney where allegations concerning corruption about the case were to be heard in June of that year.

I had moved to the Gold Coast some years before this and returned due to a famous murder trial that I was heavily involved in. My summons was issued on Thursday 20th June 1996 while I was giving evidence at the Supreme Court at Taylor Square in the middle of Sydney’s Oxford Street.

I well remember seeing these 2 well-dressed young people in the public seating area of the Court and only thought that, given the nature of the murder trial, they were interested parties. I remember finishing my evidence at the morning tea adjournment and the male partner of these 2 people came up to me and said “Mick McGann?” Before they said anymore I had the feeling as to where they were from. Call it a Detectives sixth sense!

They introduced themselves as coming from the Royal Commission and that they had a summons for me. Naturally it is easy to get flustered under these circumstances and I was damned if I was going to let them see that they had rattled me so I told them that I would be with them in a minute as I had witnesses from my trial to attend to.

This gave me about 30 seconds breathing space and time to collect my thoughts. I returned to where they were and said to them, “Right what’s this about?” They said nothing but handed me the summons. I noted that my appearance was set down for the following Monday, 24th June 1996.

I remember contacting the number on the summons and being told that the matter was about the Kareela Cat Burglar investigation some 12 years before hand. That same day I found out that my then 2 year old daughter, Rhiannon, who was staying with my mum and dad on the Gold Coast has a bout of pneumonia and bronchiolitis and was very sick.

As I had been served the summons I had to request permission from the Royal Commission staff to fly to Queensland to see my daughter. Although she was very sick, she was in good hands and I returned to Sydney on the Sunday ready for the battle that lay ahead.


The old adage of ‘never letting the facts get in the way of a good story’ applies here in a big way.

During this week set aside at the Royal Commission to hear these allegations we were forced to listen to the version of events put up by these witnesses but, in a denial of natural justice, and despite each of us having Court appointed lawyers, they were NOT permitted to cross-examine them on their evidence.

Why one would ask? My thinking is that the Royal Commission knew the paucity of the evidence of these witnesses and the lies they were telling. Cross examination by an astute lawyer would have exposed both them and the Royal Commission and that would hardly suit the agenda of the Wood Royal Commission. As I have said, they needed runs on the board.

Strangely at the end of YM 1’s evidence in chief he was deemed by Counsel assisting the Royal Commissioner to be in ‘some personal inconvenience’ and hence his evidence was not tested in any way by cross-examination by any counsel appearing for any of us.

Although the nature of this ‘personal inconvenience’ was never revealed, one can only assume certain things in light of what was to follow and that the Royal Commission did not want him cross examined as they knew the case would fall apart once that happened.

Anyway after a week of listening to this and realising that it really didn’t matter what evidence was actually put up by us in reply to this rubbish, the Commissioner informed us that the papers on the case would be forwarded to the D.P.P. That was it.

Nothing more was indicated to us then and we left the Court to try to resume our lives and left wondering what would happen next.

On the last day of the hearing, family members of John Garvey came to the hearing rooms and left with us after we had finished. The media eyes of the world were on us and cameras and journalists followed us down the escalators and into the David Jones store.

I was the rear-guard so John could get his family into a restaurant and away from these vultures. As they did so I stopped and turned around, which caused the lens of one of the Channel 7 cameraman to hit me in the face, drawing blood.

I was dazed and angry. He could see what he did, took one look at the expression on my face and bolted. All in all not the greatest day of our lives.

The week of the hearing was one of the hardest things I have ever done.   I kept waking up at 2-2.30am thinking I’m going to gaol! The people I was staying with sympathised but had no idea what it was all about and I didn’t want to overly concern them.

I remember being up early after one of my 2.30am wake ups and having some breakfast when I saw a group of suited men coming through the gate of the house I was staying with. I knew that they had to be Police and I was, literally, terrified.

I couldn’t go to the door, so I hid and my mate went to the door to speak to them. In an unbelievable stroke of bad luck they were in fact Police executing a search warrant but had the wrong address. I have never been able to answer unexpected door bells since that time.

As an example of the possibly unhinged state some of us were in due to this process, I vividly recall writing a letter to my daughter, which was sealed and not to be opened before she was 21.   It was a similar thing to those that RAF bomber crews in World War II who, fearful they wouldn’t be coming back from a sortie over enemy territory, wrote their last letters to their family and loved ones.

This may seem weird reading this in 2015 but believe me the atmosphere of the Wood Royal Commission was that toxic and tense that at the time it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Each of us dealt with the stress in our own ways.

I remember afterwards, if I heard the landline telephone ring and no one was there I would scream down the phone, calling into dispute the parentage of whoever was there. As I mentioned I became paranoid (and still am) about unexpected knocks or doorbell rings. I used to (and still do) hide somewhere and shrink myself down so no one can see me until I think they have gone.

It could be Jehovah’s Witnesses for all I care but there was no way I was answering that door!


To say that we Police were a more paranoid lot at this time than we usually are would be an understatement.

At Police send-offs during this time you were always worried about telling war stories with blokes you had worked with because you didn’t know if the person you were talking to was a spy for the Royal Commission. Guys I know, before they would start telling stories at functions, used to go into the toilets and strip off to show their mates they weren’t wired up.

I did exactly the same thing to a former workmate of ours who had left the Police Force but who worked with me at the Regional Crime Squad at Miranda at the time, although he was not involved in the Kareela Cat Burglar investigation.

He was now doing a job totally removed from the Police Force and one day during the lunch adjournment I paid him a visit in his City office just to keep him up to speed on what was happening because we couldn’t phone anyone (paranoia again).

He was pleased to see me but instead of saying ‘hello’ I put my finger up to my mouth so that nothing else would be said and proceeded to strip to my underpants and did a pirouette so he could see I wasn’t wired up.   Such was the atmosphere at the time.

Of course while you were driving the paranoia became greater with anti-surveillance tactics abounding (going through red lights, u turns at lights, changing lanes, sudden stopping etc) with every car near you being a potential Royal Commission surveillance vehicle.


The Royal Commission hearings were mainly held on the third floor of the St James Centre at 111 Elizabeth Street Sydney, just next store to and above David Jones.

The hearings rooms had about 68 seats at the back for members of the public, the media and potential witnesses.   There were also two 100 cm television monitors showing whoever was speaking at the time but mainly focussing on the person in the witness box at the time.

The media were also provided with a separate press room with phones and a television monitor.

The hearings brought with them the usual crowd of onlookers, mainly judgemental pensioners who had nothing better to do than see and hear the daily dose of juicy revelations. Some brought their knitting with them to pass the time, like modern day Madam Defarge’s sitting at the foot of the guillotine waiting for another head to drop.

Once the Wood Royal Commission was over you could guarantee they would then find yet another equally scandalous venue somewhere in Sydney to pass their time and make them feel that they were better than the people passing through such commissions of enquiry.   All very tragic.


It seems that intimidation and harassment were tools of trade and well-practised by some Royal Commission investigators. Indeed their reported methodology at the time was to “get their (victims) balls in a vice”.

It no secret at the time that officers of the Royal Commission would visit witnesses’ homes at Christmas time, wedding anniversaries, children’s birthdays etc to issue summonses for to them to appear at a commission hearing. This modus operandi could only have been done with only one thing in mind-intimidation.

The Police, in our own case of the Kareela Cat Burglar, were kept on a string to make sure they gave the evidence that was required of them. In the case of one of the whistleblowers, members of the Royal Commission who were questioning him supplied him with the answers. This can be heard on the tape of that interview and implies that the Royal Commission investigators, at least in this case, knew they were safe from any action that could be taken against them, as well as ensuring they obtained the evidence they wanted.

Later, in the case of this particular rollover, the Commission investigators returned to him accompanied by a Commission Lawyer. This witness was then told that he was going to gaol for 14 years, that he would not see his family and that one of the main Police witnesses had rolled over when that was not, in fact, the case. They then proceeded to outline to this witness a version of the Kareela Cat Burglar macing incident that suited their purpose, which was then adopted by that witness.

The bulk of the threats were made off tape and proceeded over several days. At a later stage, the witness was advised that he would not receive a Hurt on Duty pension unless he repeated the evidence that he had given before the Royal Commission.

During cross examination at our later committal it was discovered that his statement had been prepared for him by the Commission Investigators with the procedure being that material, suitable to the Commission, was extrapolated from the taped interview transcript into a narrative statement in the form of a statutory declaration.

In the course of his evidence this witness indicated that his statement contained material not said by him and he signed it after being threatened. He also conceded that he had “great fear” at the time and that he had been tricked.

One well-known story of Royal Commission intimidation tactics was that of a former police officer from the south western suburbs serving a custodial sentence at Berrima gaol who was visited by officers of the Wood Royal Commission. He was asked to provide information to the Commission regarding alleged Police corruption in his area but told the Commission investigators that he could not help them.

He was then transferred over night from Berrima to Goulburn Gaol where he was put among murderers, rapists and armed robbers, all of whom had their own reasons to hate any Police officer regardless of whether they were uniform of Detectives. I can safely say that this transfer to Goulburn was not for the good of his health.

It appears that he was told by other prisoners to stay in his cell and not come out. This common sense advice was taken by this officer. After a short time he was transferred away from Goulburn.

The question must be asked however, what if he had been killed or taken his own life while at Goulburn? Who would be responsible? The Royal Commission cannot be held accountable by law!


As those of us who have had the experience of appearing before the Royal Commission would know that the media played a decisive, intrusive and one-sided role in the day to day hearings. In his book ‘The Electronic Whorehouse’ Paul Sheehan aptly described the news media’s ‘ingrained conditioning to rush towards the smell of blood’ and the media certainly smelled blood during the Royal Commission.

Who of us could forget the Daily Telegraph’s sports writer, Ray Chesterton’s almost daily sarcastic attempts at humour, trivialising other people’s misfortune? Besides, what was the thinking behind putting a sports writer to offer presumably incisive comment and insight into the daily tragedy of the Royal Commission?

Many of us would also remember the sexually explicit videos played on national television concerning the corrupt activities of certain witnesses that were designed for maximum intimidation with little or no consideration given to the effects on family and friends of the officers concerned, regardless of these alleged ‘illegalities’.

In commenting on this incident one respected newspaper journalist stated that “(T)he release of the video to the media in December 1995 guaranteed it would lead that night’s television news. It was great theatre but also the ugliest act of the Royal Commission”.

Promotion of the Wood Royal Commission was heavily dependent on leaking sensational material to certain ‘favoured media representatives’ to ensure wide coverage which in turn drew attention to the Commissions hearings and its work. It tended to be very much a ‘name and shame’ process, which was designed to maximise the potential discomfort of corrupt officers and seek to force them to come forward.

The stage managing of the Royal Commission was always clear when something spectacular was about to occur in the hearings because there would be many extra media representatives present, compared to an ‘ordinary’ day.

But at the end of it all, the main problem with the media ‘frenzy’ that prevailed during the Wood Royal Commission was that allegations that received blanket media coverage were often left in the air for a long time before those accused had the opportunity to rebut them. For many of those accusations there has been no rebuttal and never will.

The story of Detective Senior Constable Greg Clout comes to mind.   He was totally humiliated by the Royal Commission over an allegation that he had stolen some spanners from a criminal during a search warrant and taken them home with him. The Royal Commission executed a high profile search warrant at his house and he and his wife were lampooned across the newspaper by Ray Chesterton as ‘Mr and Mrs Spanners’.

At the end of it all the Royal Commission handed the spanners back. After a litany of illegal actions during the execution of the warrant, Detective Clout and his wife requested a copy of the video shot by the Commission which was filmed during the search warrant execution.

After much legal wrangling they were given an edited copy which was passed to them as the ‘real thing’. The problem was that the Royal Commission had edited the video, removing the parts that were not favourable to their cause.

The case of Joyce Newby also shows the unfair treatment of individuals by the Royal Commission. She was put on trial while 8 months pregnant, despite the fact that the main person involved in the allegations against her gave evidence that she was not involved.

It was simply a matter of yesterday’s headlines, tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper.


When I arrived home on the Gold Coast after my appearance at the Royal Commission, I tried to adjust back to normality but with little success. I told my then wife that whoever knocks on the door, no one is to come in without a warrant. I left a tape recorder on the kitchen bench of our home and gave her strict instructions that anyone who came to the door was to be taped, no excuses!

There were many time that I used to sit bolt upright in bed at 5.00am on many mornings, swearing that I heard someone pounding on the front door. I would race out of bed, check the back garden (figuring that if they were there to arrest me they would have personnel stationed in the backyard-that’s what I would do) and then I would peer under the front curtains.

Of course no one was ever there and it was all in my mind.

I used to live in a good street on the Gold Coast in the suburb of Robina. People used to cruise past on the weekends looking at houses, as you do. In my paranoid state I regarded them, without any evidence at all, as potential Royal Commission surveillance personnel.

I remember on several occasions doing some gardening and I was in a blue shearers singlet, shorts and old slouch hat and was using a flat bladed shovel. I saw these vehicles slowly passing by and I would always stop and glare at them with my shovel held like I used to hold a shotgun. Who knows what they thought about the good citizens of Robina when they saw me.

On another occasion I was reversing out of my driveway and saw a van similar to a HiAce up the road between me and the morning sun. It had darkened windows so the wind was up with me already. I watched so that the sun showed me in anyone was in the van but of course there was no one.

Bad days indeed and a field day for psychiatrists!

No wonder my marriage folded up in December 1996, some 6 months after the Wood Royal Commission.


I am, by nature, a big bloke. My dad was big, his father was big and my brother is big. I like to think that I was a good size to be a Detective-big enough to intimidate when I wanted to, fit enough to play volleyball, ride bikes and run.

When I left Sydney after our appearance at the Royal Commission had finished in June 1996 I was actually haggard and lost a heap of weight.

In 2004 I ended up with colon cancer and they took out a large amount of my large intestine.   The reason I relate that piece of information is that I didn’t lose any weight at all when I had cancer!!

It appears that the Royal Commission affected me more than cancer!


After our appearance in June 1996 and after 3 years of waiting and hearing nothing about the matter yet still wary of early morning knocks on the door or strange vehicles in the street, we thought that our hearing in 1996 was all there was to it and had relegated it to one of life’s ‘character building’ episodes.

After all we had done nothing wrong and the matter was so old, some 12 years in fact by the time it had reached the Royal Commission in 1996 and here it was 1999 and the matter was now 15 years old.

I should have known better!

All of this was to change in early July 1999 when I received an unexpected phone call from Brian Harding informing me that we were being criminally charged over the cat burglar case. Brian told me that he, Garvey and York were charged on 3 counts comprising   1) Assault OABH   2) Common Assault and   3) Perverting the course of Justice, while John Davidson and I were to face 5 charges, with the additional charges for us being 2 further counts of perverting the course of conduct over the record of interview that we had had with YM 1 in 1984.

The resulting charges naturally created another round of unwanted media articles, in some cases by the same journalists who had covered the original Royal Commission some 3 years previously.

In the lead up to my first appearance as a defendant at the Downing Centre in 1999 I remember having a talk with my then partner about renting my unit out and for her not to visit me in prison-there was no way I wanted anyone seeing me in prison greens. I was trying to be practical but she started to cry.

I made sure that I made light of what was in front of me to people like my mum and dad. They knew I had been charged but did not know what was involved or the possible resulting gaol sentence that I faced. I managed to reassure them that all was OK and there was nothing to worry about.

In reality I was only saying it for their benefit, not mine as I didn’t believe a word I said!!


By way of interest and giving us another free kicking, all 5 of us were fully paid members of the Police Association from the time we were sworn in (in my case in 1973) up until the time we left to Force. This period of paid Association fees certainly covered the time in 1984 when the incident with the Kareela Cat Burglar occurred.

Once we had been notified of the charges being levelled against us we all naturally immediately approached the Association for legal assistance but it was refused, despite the fact that we were fully paid up members..

The reasons given by the Association was that we were not financial members of the Association when we were charged in 1999 because we had already left the Police Force. Even if we joined as associate members we were still not entitled to any legal aid, other than for a Hurt On Duty claim.

We also unsuccessfully argued our case with the Association that the matter would be of general interest to the rank and file but this was also rejected.

The Associations lack of assistance is in itself another long story but it resulted in us having to pay for our own legal representation. I remember John Garvie, sitting with me in the Court in the last day of our Committal hearing, saying that if we get committed for trial he will have to sell his house to pay for the lawyers.

And people wonder why we are still so angry!!



That the prosecuting authorities were hell bent on obtaining convictions against us (and would answer the question as to why they felt the need to fabricate the evidence in the first place) became apparent when sworn evidence from many witnesses previously given in the 1985 District Court trial was examined.

This considerable amount of freely available and previously Court tested evidence in committal and trial hearings, but which was ignored in 1999 by the latest D.P.P. prosecuting authorities who had charged us, enabled corroboration of our version of the events that we had maintained since the incident had occurred in June 1984.

In addition, a quantity of jewellery was later located in a Sydney jewellers shop after YM 1’s arrest in 1984 and this was positively identified by owners as being stolen from various premises that YM 1 told us he had broken into. So much for us investing his confession as they alleged we did.

Screwdrivers found in his possession at the time of his arrest were scientifically matched to some other Kareela homes, again stemming from YM 1’s confession to Davidson and myself.

The evidence of the various independent civilian witnesses who saw YM 1 pointing towards the bushland, indicating where he may have dropped his balaclava, witnesses who identified that particular balaclava as being the one found by Davidson and produced during the trial as well as Police witnesses who later spoke to YM 1 in the Police cells after he had been subjected to the macing by Garvey, were all ignored by the prosecuting authorities in their pursuit of a conviction.

Finally if there were any doubts that those pursuing the 5 of us were ignoring any evidence in our favour, these would be dispelled when it was learned that crucial evidence from a former Breaking Squad Detective, now a respected Sydney barrister, was totally disregarded.

This person had accompanied John Davidson to Sutherland Police Station in early July 1984 for a further interview of YM 1 at Sutherland Police Station some days after the initial confession had been recorded between Davidson, YM 1 and me. I was on leave at that time and unavailable to assist John in this interview.

The interview concerned a quantity of jewellery that had been located in a jeweller’s shop and the interview was recorded by this former Detective in his own official notebook. Again the interview was unsigned by YM1. In that interview particular references were made by both Davidson and YM 1 to the original confessional interview that had taken place some days earlier on the 30th June which I had recorded.

This later interview was NOT the subject of any charges whatsoever by the DPP yet this interview could not have occurred without the first confessional interview between YM1 and John existing in the first place.

The reader will recall that this earlier interview was the one that was the subject of charges against John and me for perverting the course of justice, which the Royal Commission claimed didn’t happen and that YM1 had somehow been verballed by us!




 The committal into the charges laid against us was heard at the Downing Centre Local Court in 2000 and 2001 and lasted some 13 hearing days over that time.

Our first day at the Downing Centre was horrible. Here we were as defendants. I couldn’t get my mind around the fact that I used to arrest criminals, who were defendants, so what the hell was I doing here?

My vivid memory of that first day was the number of people, all lawyers who had given us hard times in the witness box over our years as detectives, coming up to us to shake our hands and wish us all the best. I had 2 of them tell me that if we went to trial to let them know and they would give evidence on our behalf.

Only one of my former colleagues from the NSW Police came in to see us and wish us luck.   He had caught the train in from Bringelly in western Sydney with the sole purpose of wishing me the best. Once he did that he turned around and went home. As far as I’m concerned he’ll never be forgotten by me.

The reason that this action by my former colleague was so special was because so many of my former colleagues, who were still serving members of the NSW Police did not come to the Court and did not want to know any of us, despite having worked with us for well over 20 years.

I measure the worth of people by how they act when it all hits the fan. Who is in the trenches with you and who has retreated. These former NSW Police colleagues, who I loved more than brothers, have been largely forgotten by me because they were found wanting when we needed them. They did this because they were rapidly getting promoted to senior ranks and did not want to be seen to be associating with us.

At the end of the committal hearing in 2001 the Magistrate, Mr Ian Barnett made a comment on the discovery of the fabricated statements that formed the prosecution brief, saying “The defence have also raised related issues concerning…how the original statements of persons made to royal commission investigators were adapted into formal statements, again all these materials detract from the prosecution case.

During our committal we were able to show to the Court that the prosecution witnesses were lying on oath and were unreliable, as well the fact that at least 70% of one of the four prosecution statements tendered in the prosecutions brief of evidence had been fabricated.

When the whole of the prosecution’s case against us was examined it was found that there was such a volume of evidence showing witnesses lying on oath, lying in 1996 to the Royal Commission to obtain their indemnities, poor memories, major inconsistencies in their evidence etc.

In fact so much so that it would not be possible in this story to attempt to outline all aspects of the disgraceful prosecution brief that was brought against us.

To show how the Royal Commission fabricated the evidence against us I have simply chosen one part of the Royal Commission brief of evidence that best illustrates that fact.

In the beginning it did not occur to any of us that the Wood Royal Commission would fabricate evidence to ensure convictions against us. After all ‘perverting the course of justice’ was what we had been charged with.

However prior to the commencement of our committal hearing in June 2000 we had subpoenaed various documentary materials from the archives of the NSW Government and the Wood Royal Commission to assist in our defence. These subpoenaed documents were only available to us after the committal had actually proceeded.

Among the large amount of material we received were the original first person transcripts of prosecution witness interviews conducted by the Wood Royal Commission investigators in 1996.

These transcripts were drawn up, verbatim from tape-recorded interviews between those witnesses and Royal Commission investigators which were all “kept at the Commission”. The statements that were contained in the brief of evidence tendered to the Magistrate who eventually issued the summonses against us were typed up from these verbatim transcripts into a narrative summary form, with the necessary legal jurat at the commencement of the statement.

Those statements (as opposed to the actual ‘I said/He said’ transcript) then formed part of the brief of evidence to the issuing Magistrate. The original transcript was filed away.

In the case of one rollover witness he was interviewed on tape at his home on the 30th May 1996 by investigators Stevens and McGinlay of the Royal Commission. In the first half of the transcript this witness relates the story of what happened at Sutherland Police Station in accordance with our version of events.   The tape is suspended while a break occurs and when the interview is resumed the witness recants his previous evidence and rolls over.

When I compared the original verbatim transcript of this interview with the actual narrative statement from the Royal Commission brief of evidence, it was found that about 70% of that statement had been fabricated and did not appear in the original interview transcript in any way or description.

The amount of extra material substituted into the prosecution statement made us wonder if another interview had in fact occurred with this witness at some later time that we weren’t aware of.


wood page 6wood page 8

wood page 5

This was clarified when the witness appeared at our committal in 2001 and stated, under cross examination, that he had in fact only the one interview with the Royal Commission investigators in 1996, no other.

The prosecution’s own witness agreed under cross-examination that whoever prepared his statement put something in his statement that was wrong.

This was all happening in a climate where the Royal Commissioner had warned in 1995 “As far as this Royal Commission is concerned, let there be no doubt about it, corruption extends to noble cause corruption’


An obvious question to ask by the dispassionate reader would be:-If the statements were so blatantly wrong, why would anyone sign them?

The answer to this can be found among the cross examination of the various witnesses who invariably stated that the statements were signed out of fear of being charged with an offence such as perverting the course of justice (there is a touch of irony in this when it is considered that the statements themselves were fabricated and therefore a perversion of the course of justice in their own right) or being told to sign it before he got into more trouble or being told by the investigators and, in some cases Royal Commission solicitors, that they would receive 14 years gaol and never see their children again!

To further induce them into signing their statements, the Royal Commission investigators told various witnesses blatant untruths that other officers, who were more actively involved in the incident at Sutherland Police Station than they were, had already ‘co-operated’ with the Royal Commission, when that was clearly not the case.

This lie caused the already shocked and vulnerable witness to become more fearful of the consequences if he refused to help the Royal Commission.


 Each of the four Royal Commission witnesses in the prosecution brief against us was issued with indemnities in 1997 against being prosecuted themselves, with these indemnities being subject to certain conditions.

During our committal in 2000 it was discovered that one of the roll over witnesses that the Prosecution relied upon to prove their case against us, had, in order to gain his indemnity actually told lies to the Royal Commission in his appearance in 1996.

When asked by the Royal Commission in 1996 whether the incident at Sutherland Police Station in 1984 involving the Kareela Cat Burglar was the ONLY corrupt act this person had been involved in in his 28 year Police career he agreed with Justice Wood that it was indeed the only incident he was involved in Unfortunately Justice Wood did not realise at the time that he was being lied to by this individual.

This caused great headlines, causing the likes of Ray Chesterton to salivate, with the headlines screaming ‘Veteran quits over one act of corruption’.

His lies to the Royal Commission, however, became exposed when he was later cross-examined about his own evidence at our committal. He admitted, after receiving a Section 128 Certificate from the Magistrate, that he had not been truthful to the Royal Commission in 1996 and in his career had deliberately falsified evidence in about 10 Local Court cases prior to the incident at Sutherland Police Station in 1984. He agreed that as a result of his own fabrications, people had been convicted.


The Crown Prosecutor for most of our committal was a Mr Ingram.   In accordance with his role he did us no favours but played a straight bat all the way through.

After our committal had finished and the charges thrown out he was obliged to report on the issue of an ex-officio indictment against us.

In his report to the DPP he made the following comments as to the veracity of the evidence and witnesses put forward by the prosecution:

“….the prosecution case was completely decimated by the end of the committal hearing.   Such prosecution evidence……………was rendered so unreliable by the consequential effects of such material on the truthfulness and accuracy of the prosecution witnesses that it could reasonably be said that such prosecution evidence retained little or no real residual weight.’

 “…one seldom sees a more comprehensive destruction of a prosecution case than occurred in these matters.   The prosecution witnesses that I saw give their evidence presented exceptionally poorly, their evidence was often imprecise on important matters, their evidence was often inconsistent, their credibility was open to legitimate criticism on numerous fronts and the conduct of the investigators at times material to the preparation of the witnesses’ statements was open to serious criticism on the evidence given by each such witness.”(My emphasis)

So much for ‘level of skill and integrity’ as referred to by Justice Wood in 1999 regarding his own investigators.


 The guns of the Wood Royal Commission fell silent nearly 20 years ago and it has now been virtually relegated to the legal history books. Life as they like to say now has ‘moved forward’ and those affected by this episode are left to pick up the pieces of their life and go on as if nothing has happened.

However the hypocrisy of having the Wood Royal Commission fabricating evidence against Police that were themselves accused of fabricating evidence means that it cannot ‘move forward’ until there is some resolution.

In addition to the double digit suicides, the Commissions fatal drug dealing at Kings Cross and their total lack of accountability makes any outcome politically difficult and way too hard, considering how the Royal Commission came into being and the many political, legal, Police and media reputations that rode on its back.


 After our committal in 2001 had exposed the corrupt activities of some of the investigators with the Wood Royal Commission, we made a number of written complaints. I, for one, was not prepared to let this go.

The problem we encountered was that most Government Departments were in the beginnings of ‘election mode’ for the March 2003 NSW State Election and did their best to avoid dealing with the subject. The flick passing of this whole episode by various authorities would have made Wally Lewis look like an amateur!

Apart from the NSW Government Departments, I personally made approaches to various Police Complaints Authorities, Anti-Corruption Units such as ICAC (which deemed “Not appropriate for ICAC to investigate matters”), Federal Politicians (both Government and Opposition), you name it, anyone I could think of.   No one wanted to know.

The media were supportive and there has been a plethora of stories over the years about the corrupt actions of the Royal Commission in regards to the Kareela Cat Burglar case but that’s where it lies.

I personally appeared at an enquiry conducted by Bronwyn Bishop at the NSW State Parliament building in 2003 where myself and other colleagues gave information about the Royal Commission corruption.

The fact that our evidence to that enquiry did not even make the final report of Bishop’s enquiry says a lot.


 Because no one will ever say so, the answer to this question can only be speculated but based on solid speculation!

Consider this: many of the lawyers who appeared at the Royal Commission went on to become judges in the NSW District Court (such as James Black QC) or the NSW Supreme and District Courts (such as Michael Finnane QC) and indeed the High Court of Australia (notably Virginia Bell). Investigators working for the Wood Royal Commission returned to their respective State Police Forces and were fast tracked for promotion due to their role at the Commission (due to their supposed ‘integrity’), not to mention the large amount of money received from overtime, travel allowances etc during the time of their work, as well as a certain number of journalists who benefitted from their reporting of the Wood Royal Commission.

My point being that, up against such a stellar cast of characters in such high level and high profile positions, the ‘system’ would hardly take any notice of what happened to 5 Detectives who were victims of the Royal Commission. What organisation or political party would dare pull on such people over being part of such a corrupt organisation? What better way to deal with this than to sweep it under the carpet as if it never existed.

It is now a matter for the history books but that doesn’t mean that any us who were victims of this corruption have forgotten what happened or remain unaffected. The hypocrisy of ‘the system’ is astounding. People should be made aware of what actually happened.


 After 451 public hearing days and 902 public witnesses, receiving 4310 exhibits, producing 37,452 pages of transcript and employing at its height 180 staff the Royal Commission had its last sitting day on the 13th March 1997. The final report was handed to the Government on the 26th August 1997. Peter Ryan had been appointed the new Commissioner of Police in New South Wales the year before.

Life went on and no doubt the good people of New South Wales believed that a new era in public safety and criminal investigation had arrived.

One would be forgiven for asking, in today’s climate, what did the $64 million Royal Commission actually achieve? During the Wood Royal Commission many people died and the lives of witnesses, families and friends were affected forever. One should also ask: “Is New South Wales a better place than before the Royal Commission?”

Each person reading this will have their own answer based on their own life experiences. Lloyd Taylor, the NSW Police association secretary predicted in 1994 the outcome in of the Royal Commission when he said, “At the end of the day the Royal commission will probably only convict a few officers but in the process damage many reputations by examining baseless allegations.”

It was reported in 2001 that ‘(N)early 85% of police officers charged with offences arising out of the Wood Royal Commission have walked free, with prosecutors blaming legal bungles and tainted witnesses.’

The dismal ‘score card’ of the Royal Commission was that, up until 2001 only 12 officers had been dealt with in the Courts for matters arising from the Commission-3 being found guilty at trial and 9 pleading guilty to corruption charges. Seven have received gaol terms

Further, more than 90 officers were named adversely during Justice Wood’s enquiry with 46 briefs of evidence being sent to the DPP involving 93 suspects, with 73 of them police officers.

In addition to our Court case, fourteen other Police officers accused of corruption had the charges thrown out of court because search warrants obtained by the Royal Commission were found to be defective and so poorly worded as to be illegal because they placed no limitations on what the 55 Royal Commission investigators could seize.

Further the Government then had to admit that many more of the Commissions search warrants-believed to be about 150-were also illegal

There is a certain touch of irony in the fact that the Judge who deemed the Royal Commission warrants defective in 1997 was Justice Ian Temby of the Supreme Court, the same man who, 3 years before had been criticised by the architect of the Royal Commission, John Hatton for his appointment as Senior Counsel representing the NSW Police Commission and who was replaced in that role by Michael Finnane QC.

In addition to the problems with the search warrants, the notorious ‘Loss of Commissioners confidence’ provisions that saw so many Police dismissed, Sections 181 B & D, have suffered ignominious blows with Industrial Relations Commission Judges later overturning several decisions to sack officers amid criticism of the processes used at the time by Commissioner Ryan and Police Internal Affairs.

As for the Kareela Cat Burglar case, the end of the Wood Royal Commission only meant unfinished business to a few persons as far as bringing the unaccountable actions of its investigators and their corrupt practices to public awareness.

As was put in one of the many news articles about our case “The issue here is whether or not the (Royal Commission) investigators took it upon themselves to behave in precisely the same fashion as they were tasked to investigate or was their behaviour part and parcel of commission policy. If it was then it can only be viewed as breathtaking hypocrisy

A newspaper editorial in 2001 put it succinctly:-“The Wood Royal Commission did shed valuable light on the culture of corruption in the NSW Police Service. It is deeply disturbing to hear credible claims that the commission itself was less than scrupulous in its methods.   The commission was supposed to restore integrity to the Police Service and its vital organs, such as Internal Affairs, not compromise it further.”

The Royal Commission was a causal factor in the deaths of nearly the same number of people as it was successful in prosecuting. One of the people that died as a direct result of the stress associated with the events of the Royal Commission was John Garvey’s wife. They have a lot to answer to.

The Royal Commission and subsequent Court case has scarred, not only me, but all of us who were unlucky enough to be involved.

It continues to haunt me.

Michael McGann.

After the Headlines – Michael McGann (Part One)

 ‘After the Headlines’ tells the story of former NSW Detective Michael McGann’s battle for justice after being falsely accused during the Wood Royal Commission, 1996.

This article makes a lie of judicial integrity and credibility and shows the rank hypocrisy of ‘the system’. The old adage that the legal system has nothing to do with the truth, merely who plays the game the best is well illustrated in this story.

This is a story involving a paedophile cat burglar who was arrested, charged and convicted by a group of dedicated NSW Police officers whose reward for  putting this scum behind bars was to be placed before the court themselves on fabricated charges laid as a result of the Wood Royal Commission into the NSW Police Force

The tragedy is that no organisation, politician, Ombudsman, you name it, is prepared to do anything about it because of the inherent ‘brotherhood’ that the ‘system’ itself promulgates.

Michael McGann


They say that parents shouldn’t bury their children. Although my child, fortunately, didn’t die, what I had to say to her had the same gut-wrenching, soul destroying numb feeling that accompanies such tragedies.

I’d been involved in a 5 year old kid’s murder at Narooma in 1984 and seen my share of cot deaths and I saw the effect that this has on parents. You just can’t describe it or make things better.

She was proud, in her own little 5 year old way, that daddy had not just been a Policeman but was a Detective. She didn’t quite understand the difference, but knew there was something special about it.

I had always tried to be a role model for her, telling her about right and wrong, good and bad, using drugs etc and relating it to some of my own experiences and war stories, not having read it in any book but actually lived it but at the same time making sure it wasn’t too graphic for a 5 year old.

So back in 1999 I tried to explain to her that I might be going to gaol for at least 10 years as a result of what later turned out to be fabricated charges brought against me and some of my former colleagues by the Wood Royal Commission relating to an incident in my Police career that happened in 1984.

I couldn’t use the word ‘gaol’ to her because she wouldn’t know what it meant. All I could say to her was how would she be if daddy couldn’t see her for a long, long time. Her reply was burned into my memory banks-‘I’d be very sad daddy!’

The words of the famous George Carlin sprang to mind at this time: “If your kid needs a role model and you ain’t it, you’re both fucked.” What sort of role model would I be to her if I was doing time in one of Her Majesty’s prisons on trumped up charges?

As I was ruminating on this situation my mind went to the things that I knew well from my time as a Detective when I had to visit gaols as part of an enquiry, the endless walking back and forwards of the prisoners, the standard all green uniforms, prisoners pumping weights and the general menace that hung in the air.

To tell my kid that I might be going to gaol, to share a cell with a 6foot 9 tattooed bikie called ”Doris”, having once been a member of the illustrious Sydney C.I.B. was terrible.

I knew what was in store for me and my colleagues, as former Detectives, if this thing went ahead and we were in fact convicted. It involved something to do with a piece of conduit, a piece of barbed wire, a vice and a vital part of the anatomy!  Police, particularly Detectives, don’t do it easy in gaol.

Not only did I have to contend with my 5 year old daughter, but I was also in a long term relationship with a lady named Therese and my parents, who were both alive at that time, were also in my mind. What do I tell them?

They were decent hard working people and I was the eldest son. They were incredibly proud of me and the career path I had chosen and the investigations I was involved in, particularly when I received the NSW Police Force’s highest award for bravery, the Valour Award at the Police Academy in 1989.

 Local newspaper article regarding the Valour Award

 mick mcgann award

With my family, and Therese, I decided to take the path of least resistance and put a gloss on what the possible outcome may be and the stress that I will endure over the coming years. After all I had always put myself up as 10 foot tall and bullet proof, so now was the time to show it.

I couldn’t hide the fact that this was happening as we were all over the media, I just told my loved ones that it will be OK.   I wasn’t sure of that but no point in having everyone worry.

None of my colleagues took the situation lightly as we knew we were marked men as far as the Royal Commission was concerned. Brian Harding represented the old C.I.B. and was a decorated member of the Armed Hold Up Squad. The Royal Commission needed runs on the board to justify their $64 million enterprise and we were the runs.

John Davidson, my partner in the Special Breaking Squad, treated such things as Royal Commissions, ICAC and other such lawyer driven bodies with the contempt that they rightly deserved. He once famously wore a red suit to an ICAC hearing in Sydney and when asked by journos why he had the suit on he replied that if he was going to a circus he might as well look like a clown.   Those who knew him loved him for it but the legal profession hated him with a passion.


What most of us thought of such organisations as ICAC, PIC etc

When the Royal Commission lawyers were developing their targets they would have salivated over the Kareela Cat burglar investigation given the cast of characters and allegations involved. It was a perfect storm brewing.

My belief if that John and Brian were the main targets and that my other colleagues, John Garvey, Steve York and myself were merely collateral damage by having been involved in this incident with them.

We knew how the ‘system,’ worked and the battle that was in front of us.

My philosophy in life when things go to shit is that you have 2 choices:-1) you can curl up in a corner, suck your thumb, adopt the foetal position and let them do it to you OR 2) you come out fighting. Up until I spoke to my daughter I was well and truly in the foetal position.

Once I realised that this affected my daughter as well, that was the time to say “Bugger this, who the fuck do they think they are, they can’t do this to me and get away with it.’

But I digress, so I’ll start at the beginning.


By way of background I joined the NSW Police when I was 17 in 1973.

mick mcgann 1974
NSW Police Academy, Redfern 1974. Before murders, shootings… and the Royal Commission!

I performed uniform duty at various Sydney suburban stations before becoming a Detective and having the good fortune of being selected to go the one of the Squads of the then Sydney Criminal Investigation Branch, the C.I.B. or the Branch as it was known.

This was the ultimate destination for any Detective as the Squads only dealt with major crimes and hardened criminals.

I went to a Squad called the Special Breaking Squad which dealt with safe breakings, major thefts and acts of terrorism (yes we had these back then!!)

For various reasons the centralised C.I.B. commenced its dismantlement in 1983, being broken down to ‘regional’ crime squads before its final curtain call in 1987.

CIB tie
The tie of the Special Breaking Squad, C.I.B. showing a safe breaker in action.

This was early into the so called ‘enlightened’ age of Policing, where the Police ‘Force’ became ‘Service’, where ‘Squads’ became ‘Units’ and where there was a push to remove the word ‘Weapons’ from the title of the Special Weapons and Operations Squad because it was considered intimidating.


The first of the Regional Crime Squads was based in western Sydney at Penrith earlier that same year with the second of the Regional Crime Squads being based at Miranda in the Sutherland Shire, south of Sydney, in November 1983.

The Regional Crime Squads were microcosms of the larger, centralised C.I.B. and were initially composed of smaller specialist Squads, such as the Armed Hold Up Squad, the Motor Squad, Drug Squad etc with the exception of the Homicide Squad which, at that time, remained centralised in town.

As I was a member of the Special Breaking Squad at the C.I.B., but living in the southern suburbs I found myself as one of 6 Detectives transferred from town to serve as a member of the newly formed Regional Crime Squad, South, Breaking Unit.

In charge of the unit was the then Detective Sergeant Rick Grady and as I mentioned my partner was Detective John Davidson (see below).

John Davidson
Detective John Davidson

As members of the ‘Breakers’, our role was exactly the same as our role in our parent Squad.

To go back to the beginning I need to go to 1984-it was the year that Ronald Reagan was re-elected President of the United States despite the on-going Iran/Contra hearings, Bob Hawke was into his second year as Prime Minister and the Coalition Opposition Leader, Andrew Peacock, together with his deputy, John Howard were looking at another 12 years in Opposition.

It also saw the deaths of Indira Gandhi, Richard Burton, Marvin Gaye, Count Basie and Ethel Merman but at least Robert Trimbole was still alive for another 12 months!

Our prime time television in Sydney for that year was the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ and ‘A Country Practice’, the book ‘Hunt for Red October’ was published, Doug Mulray was still the breakfast legend with 2MMM and Rex Jackson, the New South Wales Minister for Justice denied being paid to arrange the early release of some of the State’s prisoners.   This didn’t wash and he later found himself facing conspiracy charges to accept bribes and sentenced to 7½ years gaol.

Earlier in that year, through the usually effective Police grapevine, we became aware of the activities of a so-called ‘cat burglar’ operating in the Sutherland area, mainly in a suburb known as Kareela and involving over $251,000 worth of property.

kareela cat burglar
The ‘Kareela Cat Burglar’

Kareela, which means either ‘fast’ or ‘place of trees and water’ was (and still is) a very attractive suburb in the Shire, being bordered by Jannali, Kirrawee, Gymea and Sylvania Heights. There is a large amount of bushland with well built, maintained and (even by 1984 standards) expensive homes. It also has one of the Sutherland Shires finest golf courses which is bounded by 2 main arterial roads, Bates Drive and the Princes Highway and largely figured in the activities of the Kareela Cat Burglar.

Although as a unit we were generally kept aware of the activities of this particular criminal by copies of completed Crime Reports sent to us by the local Sutherland Detectives, we were not then largely involved in any operation to assist the local Police to affect his arrest. Our role was mostly confined to maintaining a ‘running list’ of the robberies for analysis purposes.

Our lack of hands on involvement was considered as ‘odd’ but there was little that could be done as, in those days, we had to be invited to assist the investigation by the locals.

It later became apparent that our sidelining in the Kareela Cat Burglar enquiry came about from the later 1996 Royal Commission admissions of the Sutherland based Detective Sergeant in charge of the case that he was actually jealous of our involvement and did not want to share any of the perceived ‘glory’. This jealously later manifested itself at the Royal Commission when he saw this as an opportunity to exact revenge and he became one of the star Commission ‘rollover’ witnesses.

However all that was in the future. By plotting and analysing the numerous robberies committed by this offender in the Kareela area, it indicated to us in the Breakers that he was a cunning and experienced criminal and in all likelihood had had previous experience in these types of offences.

As an example of his experience at the game, while inside a victim’s bedroom on several occasions, he sometimes spoke to them if they woke up while he was in the room. He would pretend to be their son coming home late, reassuring his parents that he was OK.

The victims would invariably go back to sleep only to discover when they woke up that their house had been violated and their possessions stolen.

The act of talking to the victims under these circumstances alone required considerable nerve on the offender’s part and indicated that we were dealing with a very professional offender who knew the rules of engagement.

I recall one theft by this offender where a victim had placed his wallet on the bedside table with some loose change on top.   The thief was able to steal the wallet from under the loose change with the victim sleeping inches away.

After being robbed by this individual some victims in the Kareela area had to sell their homes or move their children into their bedrooms to sleep due to the strain placed on them by this person being at large in the community.

Little girls sleeping in their beds sometimes woke up to see a man sitting on the edge of their bed, with his face covered. As was said at the time, the horror that these little girls experienced because of experiencing this in the dead of the night can only be imagined.

The offender also removed car keys from inside people’s homes and stole their motor vehicles to affect his escape.

To give an indication of the seriousness that the burglaries at Kareela were regarded Judge Harvey Cooper later commented during the later District Court trial that “….(T)he whole criminal enterprise, is not only of a considerable magnitude, not only of an extreme gravity, but also of professional skill, planning and organisation.”

Despite increased Police activity in the area, consisting of uniformed and Plain Clothes saturation patrols and stakeouts of the Kareela area, particularly the Golf Course, the offender remained at large.


We now move to the night of Thursday 28th June 1984. By this stage the offender had committed something like 115 ‘cat burglar’ offences in the Sutherland – Kareela area, valued in excess of $400,000.

On this particular night, an operation involving neighbouring Divisional Detectives, uniform Police and the Dog Squad was mounted.

It was planned that a number of Police vehicles were to be placed in strategic positions to carry out surveillance of the Kareela Golf Course area, with other police detailed to perform foot patrols of a selected area.

The area around The Esplanade, Christina Place, Freya and Solo Streets was also cordoned off.

About 3.10am on the morning of Friday 29th June, 1984 a flashlight was seen between houses in Freya Street, Kareela. Police were immediately alerted and surrounded the area. In a clever piece of work the Police vehicles were instructed to activate their lights and sirens to flush the offender from his hiding place.

Thus the people in the neighbourhood, in turning their lights on to see what all the noise was about, helped flush the offender out. With the assistance of the Police Dog Squad, the offender was finally arrested in the area of Solo Street.

When this individual was searched he was found to be in possession of $67 in cash, pieces of a local street directory and in a shoulder bag located in the near vicinity were found housebreaking implements including screwdrivers, a torch, surgical gloves, green garbage bag etc. This individual gave his name to the arresting Police only as ‘Joe Pace’, with his address as being ‘Mars’!

He was taken to Sutherland Police Station where he was charged (at that time) with one count of Break Enter and Steal resulting from the cash found in his possession when he was arrested, together with 1 count of break and enter with intent and 1 count of possession of housebreaking implements.

He refused to be fingerprinted by Police and was taken to the Sutherland Local Court later that same day where he was remanded by the Magistrate into Police custody at Sutherland Police Station cells until such time as his fingerprints were taken.

On the day of the arrest word filtered back to us at the Crime Squad at Miranda that an offender had been arrested by the Sutherland Police for the ‘cat burglar’ thefts but was being unco-operative by refusing to tell Police his name or allowing himself to be fingerprinted.

Later that day both John Davidson and I went to a favourite watering hole for Police, the United Services Club at Sutherland, to meet with the Detective Sergeant in charge of the enquiry.

In accordance with recognised Police protocols as well as courtesy, coupled with the fact that he didn’t seem to be making much progress into the bulk of the crimes, we requested his permission to interview this person the following day regarding the numerous other ‘cat burglar’ offences that had been committed in the Kareela area over a period of time.

This permission was given to us without any enthusiasm at all on his part.

After receiving this permission John and I visited the offender in the cells of the Sutherland Police Station and told him that we would be speaking to him the following day.


On the morning of Saturday 30th June, 1984 John and I travelled from the Crime Squad at Miranda to the Sutherland Police Station where the offender was removed from the cells, handcuffed in front and walked across the road to the Detectives office.   In accordance with recognised practices for handling prisoners I took hold of this person by his trouser belt from behind.

sutherland police station
Driveway of the former Sutherland Police Station showing direction in which YM1 was taken to Detectives Office across

As he was being ushered through the front door and into the Detectives office for our interview and immediately after having the handcuffs removed from him, he swung a punch at me that narrowly missed.

He then ran into a nearby inside interview room and barricaded himself in that room with the aid of an office desk. The outer door could only be opened fractionally as the offender had levered the desk in such a position to prevent the door from being opened fully from the outside.

About this same time, other members of the Regional Crime Squad had arrived at Sutherland Police Station to obtain petrol for their Police vehicle while en route to execute a Search Warrant on an address at nearby Sylvania.

These Police were from the Armed Hold Up Unit and consisted of the then Detective Sergeant Brian Harding in company with Detectives John Garvey, Steve Allen and Steve York.

One other purpose for their visit to the Sutherland Detectives office was to use their collective experience in an attempt to identify the then unknown individual who had taken to calling himself ‘Joe Pace’.

When the offender barricaded himself in the room, the assistance of these additional Regional Crime Squad Detectives, who were in the main office area at the time, was sought by those of us in the main Detectives office. A decision was made by Brian Harding, who was also a Field Commander with the Special Weapons and Operations Squad, to use the chemical irritant ‘Mace’ to effect the safe removal of the individual from the room.

This decision was based on several issues, not the least of which was the safety of the offender and the officers attempting to remove him from the room. Anyone with experience of Police interview rooms over the years would know that objects and articles accidentally left in there (such as bolt cutters, even typewriters) have the potential to be used as weapons.

Some of the members of the Regional Crime Squad were also part time members of the Special Weapons and Operations Squad, who, in addition to their day to day Crime Squad activities, were required to attend to siege or hostage situations.

To that end some of the Crime Squad vehicles were equipped with equipment such as the chemical irritant ‘Mace’ (or CS as it was known) for use in dangerous hostage or crowd control situations. The vehicle used by these additional members of the Crime Squad who came to our assistance was equipped with such equipment.

Detective Garvey sprayed the person Pace through the small opening of the door. This caused Pace to release his grip on the table and enable those of us outside the room to enter it and secure him.   Once the person ‘Pace’ was outside the room a senior independent NCO, in accordance with Police Rules and instructions at the time, was then summoned to the Detectives office to speak to ‘Pace’ and remove any perceived inducement he may have had concerning the macing incident and in participating in interviews with us.

It was during this conversation with this senior NCO that his real identity as YM 1 was revealed. He was then interviewed by John and I for some hours during which he confessed to many so called ‘cat burglar’ crimes that he had committed in the Kareela area between July, 1983 and June 1984.

The fact that he refused to sign our interview did not perturb us greatly. This was a well-known ploy that experienced and hardened criminals used before the advent of taped interviews that were introduced to the NSW Police Force in early 1991. This tactic enabled them to ‘leave the gate open’ to make unfounded allegations against the interviewing Detectives when they later appear at Court in an attempt to beat the charges.

It was a game that many of them played. Some won at Court, most didn’t. It also did not concern us because YM 1 told us of many pertinent facts in that interview that only he could have known and which were later independently corroborated.

After the interview was completed YM 1 agreed to accompany John Davidson and me to the Kareela area. Standing at the side of a suburban Sydney street and wearing handcuffs he indicated the approximate area where he was arrested the night before in order to try and locate a balaclava he was wearing and had dropped in the early hours.

joe pace
Taking YM1 to Sutherland Local Court

While I remained with YM 1 at the Police vehicle John entered the bushland and some time later returned with a fawn-coloured balaclava. This item was the subject of later allegations at Court that it had somehow been planted by us however the balaclava was later identified at the subsequent trial by several civilian witnesses as the one worn by YM 1 prior to his arrest.

After being interviewed by us YM 1 was returned to Sutherland Police Station where, after attending to necessary paperwork, he was returned to the cells and fingerprinted by uniform staff.   He was later charged at his next Court appearance with a large number of breaking offences relating to the incidents in Kareela.


 The person YM 1 was an obnoxious bastard to deal with. He was egotistical, arrogant, but highly intelligent and cunning.   In my dealings with him, I would also add ruthless to these descriptions.

Although claiming to be an English public schoolboy, later professing to have attended Geelong Grammar School, he told Police in Victoria that he associated with the rich, influential and famous and had cultivated pseudo snobbery. In fact he stated at one time that he used to drink with Police who had arrested him previously, likening the experience to former members of the Afrika Corps drinking with former members of the British Eighth Army.

This analogy, apart from being an insult to any returned soldier, is typical of his arrogance.

But YM 1 had another side to him as ‘The Cat’ or the ‘Toorak Cat’ with a lengthy criminal career both in New South Wales and in Victoria commencing there in 1958.

His main criminal convictions involved burglary and housebreaking, with 2 counts of possessing an unlicensed pistol. His second recorded criminal offence on his Victorian Police Docket Sheet involves housebreaking, larceny and indecent assault on a female less than 16 years.

During these burglaries, YM 1 literally terrorised the affluent Melbourne suburb of Toorak in the early 1970’s by undertaking ‘cat burglary’ offences.   He claimed to Police at the time to have committed between 800 and 1,000 burglaries on members of the Jewish community with the total amount of property stolen by him amounting to some $1 million. He later claimed to a journalist that he was “…Australia’s greatest cat burglar while…active”.

In these activities YM 1 equipped himself with an elaborate kit in the form of a bandolier consisting of a pencil torch, spare batteries, clothes pegs for pegging back curtains and blinds, a reel of cotton and a hook and cutting implements.

On some occasions he would strip completely naked and hose himself down to slide through toilet windows and after gaining entry would dress inside the house.   Once inside he would plan his exit by leaving open a rear door, propped open with a cushion.

One interesting side issue which shows the thought he put into his work was that if YM 1 drove his car to any of these burglaries he would park it outside a 2 mile radius from the scene.   He considered (probably correctly) that any roadblock put up by Police would be within a mile radius and he stood a better chance of escaping to his car on foot.

He also bragged that once inside a house, especially the bedroom he learned to tell by the breathing of the sleepers how long they had been asleep and how deep was their slumber!

At the time YM 1 told members of the Victorian C.I.B. that he gained a great deal of satisfaction out of causing the Victorian Police embarrassment over these ‘cat burglar’ robberies due to an incident where he allegedly received some summary justice from the Police themselves for what he had done.   His reasoning for this personal satisfaction gives an insight into the type of individual he was.

In this incident in 1959, he broke into a hospital in St Kilda and in the course of this offence, he placed his penis into a sleeping baby’s mouth. The child’s natural instinct was to suck and as a result of this action YM 1 ejaculated into the baby’s mouth with this action nearly causing the child to choke.   YM 1 was then disturbed by a night sister and ran from the scene. He was later identified by virtue of his fingerprints and arrested by Police at St.Kilda.

After his arrest, he claimed to have received such a ‘hard time’ by the Police from St.Kilda that he swore vengeance against the Police, which supposedly commenced his career as a ‘cat burglar’.   Naturally, the Police are yet again to blame for YM 1’s criminal career, not him!

Regarding this incident he was charged with housebreaking with intent, larceny in dwelling and indecent assault of female under 16. At Melbourne General Sessions Court he was placed on probation for 3 years and during this period he was to attend for psychiatric treatment.

At one stage a film of YM 1’s life called ‘Hot Property” was being considered by a Melbourne based production company. I can safely bet that the incident in the hospital at St.Kilda in 1959 would not even rate a mention and he would no doubt join the Ned Kelly’s, Ben Hall and Jockey Smith’s in life and be portrayed as another victim of so called ‘Police persecution’. Such is life!

Finally the Wood Royal Commission would have done themselves and everyone else a favour if they had bothered to read YM1’s criminal antecedent report prepared by Detective Sergeant Bert Gaudion in August 1973 where he stated that YM1 ‘……………is an extreme egotist and a cunning liar who is not beyond supplying false antecedent particulars for the express purpose of using them later at Court proceedings should it suit his purpose”

This information would not have suited the Royal Commission, given that they were hell bent on prosecuting us.


YM 1 was indicted, after his committal at Sutherland Local Court in late 1984, to the Liverpool District Court on the following charges: 61 charges of breaking, entering and stealing, 2 of larceny in a dwelling, 1 of being in a dwelling house at night with intent to steal, 7 of attempting to break and enter with intent to steal, 9 charges of larceny of a motor vehicle, 1 charge of possessing housebreaking implements and 1 charge of assaulting a Police Officer.

This last charge referred to the attempted punch that he threw at me while being escorted to the Detectives Office at Sutherland on the morning of the 30th June, 1984.

Included among these charges were the several original charges preferred against YM 1 by the Sutherland Detectives on the day of his arrest.

The trial commenced on the 17th April, 1985 before His Honour Judge Harvey Cooper and the jury retired to consider its verdict on the 12th June, 1985.   After a 2 day deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of ‘Guilty’ in respect to all charges except for 3.

The trial was hard fought with numerous malicious allegations flying against us. The main allegation levelled was that YM 1 had been improperly maced by Detective Garvey in the interview room and that YM 1 had his fingerprints illegally taken in the Detectives Office immediately afterwards by a Sutherland uniform Police officer.   It was also alleged that Detective Davidson and I had fabricated the record of interview and that the finding of the balaclava at Kareela on that same day was another fabrication by us.

These allegations were raised at the trial on both the voire dire and later cross-examination by YM 1’s defence counsel.   Regardless of these allegations, the jury found YM 1 ‘guilty’ of the majority of the offences for which he had been initially charged, including the assault upon me.


Upon his conviction for these offences, YM 1 was sentenced to 17 years penal servitude, with a non-parole period of 11 years.

YM 1 was not impressed with his conviction and sentence for these crimes. He expressed this in no uncertain terms to a newspaper reporter after he was sentenced, saying “If I can’t clear myself through the appeal courts I’ll make Attila the Hun look like the tooth fairy-blood will flow. I’ll use violence for the first time in my life to get square.”

As it turned out YM 1 did not have to resort to violence to extract revenge. The Justice system later provided him with a perfect means to exact revenge in the form of the future Wood Royal Commission.


 After YM 1, life at the Regional Crime Squad continued as normal, or as ‘normal’ as any Crime Squad could be, considering the type of work we did.

McCann at the Milperra Massacre 2 September 1984 – armed with a Police Remington pump action shot gun and flak vest.

From a personal point of view I was soon engaged in the investigation of other, more serious crime such as the arrest and prosecution of members of the Comanchero and Bandido bikie gangs for their involvement in the Milperra Massacre where 7 people were killed and 21 wounded and the issue of the Kareela Cat Burglar was soon relegated to the ‘war story’ area of my mind.

After the District Court trial an Internal Affairs enquiry was launched in 1985 following a complaint by YM 1 that he had been illegally maced by us and that the record of interview that he had participated in had been fabricated, that is, he had been verballed.

The allegations against us were fully investigated by Internal Affairs with almost all officers involved in the YM 1 investigation being interviewed and negating the allegations put forward by YM 1. The result of the Internal Affairs investigation was forwarded to the State Ombudsman and nothing more was heard.

In 1988, the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal reviewed YM1’s 1985 trial and the resultant conviction and the Court dismissed this appeal.

Both John Davidson and I were honourably discharged from the Police Force in the early 1990’s with the Detective Sergeant from Sutherland who had been in charge of the Police operation that resulted in YM 1’s arrest being invalided out of the Police with a stress complaint in 1988.

Other members of the Regional Crime Squad including Brian Harding, John Garvey, Steve Allen and Steve York continued in the Police Force with Harding and Garvey deservedly attaining senior Commissioned officer rank rising to Detective Chief Superintendent and Detective Superintendent respectively.

Sadly for Brian and John, two of the NSW Police most illustrious and brilliant Detectives, they lost this rank in 1996 after their own Royal Commission appearance in June of that year, being dismissed from the Police Force as a result of the fabricated evidence put forward by the Wood Royal Commission over the investigation into the Kareela Cat Burglar incident, by the then ‘Loss of Commissioners Confidence’ provisions.

The Royal Commission considered these draconian provisions ‘essential’ for the Police Commissioner to have the power to dismiss an officer in whom confidence had been lost.

In the words of Justice Wood the loss of Commissioners Confidence “was intended (to) occur only after appropriate investigation in which an officer had a fair chance to be heard”. It was designed to circumvent the usual Industrial Relations unfair dismissal laws.

Unfortunately when they were dismissed in 1996 the only persons who knew that the evidence used as a basis to dismiss these officers was fabricated were the officers of the Wood Royal Commission and that discovery did not come about until our committal proceedings in 2000.


Simpson and his donkey.

“Despite the fear the men mostly took everything that was thrown at them. I saw some brave things at Gallipoli. One thing that made a big impression on us was the actions of a man we called ‘The Man with a Donkey’. He was a stretcher-bearer and he used to carry the wounded men down to the clearing station on the beach… This man, Simpson his name was, was exposed to enemy fire constantly all the days I was there, and when I left Shrapnel Gully he was still going strong. I considered, and so did my mates, that he should be given the Victoria Cross.” – A. B. (Albert) FACEY, A Fortunate Life

Simpson_and_the_donkeySimpson landed at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915, and with a donkey he found soon became known to the men fighting at Gallipoli.  Together they are famous for transporting over 300 wounded soldiers from the frontline at Gallipoli.  He continued his work until May 19 when he was killed in action by Turkish machine gun fire.

In spite of ongoing efforts, John Simpson has never been awarded the Victoria Cross.  See ABC news article here.

“G’day Troops”

G’day troops, it’s us again,

You’re probably lying in some bloody drain.

With the wind-n-the sun, the flies-n-the rain,

And we all hope that soon, you’ll be back home again.

The footy is over, and some teams have won,

We saw you on telly, you were all having fun.

In our country’s hearts, you’re still number one,

While you’re over there, we all say “well done”.

When you arrive home, you’ll be in for a shock,

The wharf will be crowded as you come in to dock.

There’ll be loved ones-n-children-n-old uncle Joes,

Some Aussies down there that you don’t even know!

So keep up the good work, the world’s watching you,

We’re all Aussies together, and that’s called “true blue”!!

by Waldo Bayley, Bush Poet from Humpty Doo



The Ben Harrison Story


(29/09/82 to 18/05/93) ben harrison

from his best mate,

Graham Harrison (Father)

Life-support machines winked and beeped in the cardiac intensive care unit at the Children’s Hospital in Camperdown, Sydney, as I hunched over a bed, gazing numbly at the unconscious figure of my ten-year-old son, Ben. Naked except for a sheet covering his lower half, his body lay connected to a maze of tubes. A ten-centimetre-wide strip of plaster ran down his chest.

As I had already done countless times that night in early autumn, 1993, I vigorously massaged his hands and feet, trying to transfer some of my strength to him, willing him to keep going. Come Ben, you have to pull through, I thought. Yesterday my precious son had been healthy.

Now I struggled to comprehend he was battling for his life – and seemed to be losing. How could things have gone so wrong so quickly? I wondered.

Ben Stuart came into my life on September 29, 1982, in Sydney Adventist Hospital. As my wife, Elayne, and I joyously inspected our new baby, I counted my blessings. We owned a spacious house in a leafy Sydney suburb. I enjoyed a challenging job. We already had a beautiful, 18-month-old daughter, Kyla. Our three-kilo son, lustily bellowing at the bedside, was the perfect addition to our family.

An inkling of trouble came when a nurse placed Ben on a trolley and inserted a tube into his mouth to suck fluid from his throat, it did a U-turn and came back out. She frowned, and called the doctor.

An examination revealed that Ben was a TOF baby. “Your boy has a tracheo-oesophageal fistula,” the doctor explained. His oesophagus is joined to his windpipe.” Hour later, after Ben had been transferred to the Children’s Hospital, we waited while the upper portion of his oesophagus was surgically detached from his trachea, then stitched to the intact bottom half of the oesophagus. By 2 a.m., he was recovering.

Hugely relieved, we thanked God that our son had pulled through. Other families were not so blessed. In the next bed a couple lost their five-day-old daughter. Witnessing their anguish, Elayne and I vowed that if we ever were in a position to help, we would do what we could to alleviate others’ suffering – including donating each other’s organs.

Tests later revealed that a number of things in Ben’s development had misfired. He had an extra rib, his kidneys were joined by a common wall and his fifth vertebra was misshapen. The abnormalities were nothing to worry about, the doctors assured us, though Ben might eventually need surgery to prevent a sideways curvature of the spine. He should not play contact sport, or do anything that might hurt his back.

One evening three months later, I heard Elayne scream from Ben’s bedroom: “Graham! He’s not breathing!” I rushed in. Ben’s face was blue. I restarted his breathing with mouth-to-mouth and by the time we arrived at hospital, he was sleeping peacefully on Elayne’s shoulder.

A bronchoscopy showed that Ben had softer-than-normal cartilage round his trachea, causing it to narrow when he inhaled. Doctors decided to open his chest and suture his aorta, the main artery from the heart, to his breastbone. “This will take the pressure off the trachea, allowing the cartilage to strengthen as he grows,” the surgeon explained.

From then Ben was blissfully normal. As he grew, he became known to our neighbours as a free spirit for ever on the move. He routinely abandoned his homework to collect frogs’ spawn from our fishpond, swing from trees or play in bushland behind our home. Never once did his delicate back slow him down. One weekend, while helping out at a function at his school, I heard “Look Dad!” from behind me. Ben was balancing on the crossbar of the football posts three metres above the ground, wearing a gap-toothed grin.

Ben showed similar independence in most things. I once brought him a model-plane kit, hoping we could build it together. He refused to let me help, labouring over the model every night for two weeks. The completed jet was lopsided and encrusted with glue, but it was hard to tell who was proudest when we installed it on his bookshelf.

Noisy at home, Ben was often tongue-tied and shy around strangers. His most enduring mate, Calum Martin, lived round the corner. Calum’s dad found Ben sitting outside their house one Sunday morning. Ben had told him he had been waiting for his friend to emerge for more than an hour. “I didn’t like to wake anyone,” he explained.

As Ben approached his adolescent growth spurt, our orthopaedic specialist warned that he could experience problems with his back. Sure enough, in March 1993, x-rays revealed a noticeable curvature. If we don’t arrest it,” said the specialist, “he will have a server, progressive deformity.”

The operation would involve inserting a bone graft from one of Ben’s ribs into the vertebral column to stop his back from bending markedly to one side as he grew. Surgeons would gain access through his chest, opening the breast bone.

Elayne and I realised surgery was necessary but worried nevertheless. At night, when the kids were asleep, we discussed it, comforting ourselves with the thought that Ben had already survived two major operations without problems.

Ben seemed to accept the planned surgery as a challenge. Even when the orthopaedic surgeon explained that he would need to wear a plastic head-to-waist cast to keep his spine rigid for three months after the operation, Ben did not complain. Instead, he cheerfully donned the cast for a couple of hours each day to get used to it, then tried sleeping in it. He even wore it proudly to school, like a suit of armour.

Only later did I discover that Ben was secretly frightened. In a school exercise book, he had drawn an operating theatre and masked doctors with oversized syringes. He wrote: I wish I didn’t have to go to hospital.

On the day before the operation, I stood in our driveway as Elayne left for the Children’s Hospital with Ben in our station wagon. He was wearing a yellow cap and a new jumper, big enough to fit over his cast. He waved and yelled “Bye Dad.” The neighbourhood kids waved back as the car pulled away. (That was the last time I saw him awake).

The surgery was scheduled for 8 a.m. and Ben was not expected in the recovery ward until at least 11 a.m. After spending three apprehensive hours at work, I drove to the hospital to keep Elayne company. As I entered the waiting room, I sensed something was wrong. “There’s been a complication” Elayne said.

When the surgical team had attempted to move aside Ben’s aorta – sutured to his breastbone ten years before – a small hole opened up, spurting blood. A surgeon plugged it with his finger, but with no room to apply stitches, he tried to detach a fraction more. The hole began to tear, now requiring two fingers to stem the flow.

Technicians started a heart-lung machine to pump blood through Ben’s arteries and veins and “breathe” for him. But before it was fully operational, Ben’s blood pressure plunged, depriving his brain of oxygen for between eight to twelve minutes.

As Ben lay in intensive care, I forced back the despair and tried to think positively. Everything will be all right, I told myself. After all, Ben was an old hand at medical emergencies.

But the brain is the most fragile of organs. Starved of blood, the capillaries feeding it begin to break down. When blood flow is re-established, the weakened capillary walls begin to leak.

Now, as blood and fluid leaked into Ben’s brain, pressure in his skull built up. At 11 p.m., I urged Elayne to go home to get some rest for the next day. Kyla, safe with relatives, would also need her. Meanwhile, I tried to sleep in the parents’ hostel. At 1.30 a.m. the phone rang. The registrar, Dr Scott Ferguson, asked me to return to the ward. Ben must be coming round!

I hurried there, but the news was not good. The pressure in Ben’s head was increasing. Ferguson gave him drugs to contain it, and for a while his signs returned to near normal. Then the pressure crept up inevitably. At 3 a.m. Ferguson administered more drugs. By 5.30 a.m., I was still desperately rubbing Ben’s hands and massaging his feet. All I wanted was to hug him, to make him better. Why did I send Elayne home? I need her with me! At that moment, a social worker materialised. Like a guardian angel, she provided the support I needed. She said nothing, just put her arms round me as we cried together.

I was losing my son. I saw it in his eyes whenever the nurse cleaned them. There was nothing there – no sparkle, no life. It is not fair! My mind raged. I haven’t taken him bush-walking, or camping in the mountains, or all the other things a father plans with his son as he grows older.

At 6 a.m., Ferguson took me aside. He had done everything possible, he gently explained, but the gauges indicated that Ben’s brain was dying, although further tests would be needed to confirm this. I called Elayne. “Hurry, they say we’ve lost him.” We cried, then hung up.

Back in the ward, Medical technicians arrive at 9 a.m. to carry out an EEG. They placed a cap on his head, connected by a tangle of wires to a machine beside the bed. Of the ten gauges, only one moved to indicate brain activity and this very slightly. Despite my horror at the thought of losing him, I prayed for Ben to go in peace.

When another test later in the morning showed no blood circulating to Ben’s brain, the doctors took us into a small room. The medical technicians returned again to carryout a second EEG.

This time there was no movement recorded from any of the gauges. At 12.30 p.m., the doctor confirmed our greatest fear; “Mr and Mrs Harrison, I have to tell you officially your son is brain dead.”

Elayne and I were silent, drained. As we looked at each other, I thought back to the time when Ben was first in hospital. Even in my grief, I knew what I wanted to do, and Elayne seemed to read my mind. At the same moment, we said; “We want to donate Ben’s organs.” The doctors looked surprised. “We’re in such pain,” I explained. “If Ben’s organs can help alleviate someone else’s suffering, its the right thing to do.”

At 4.30 p.m., after an independent medical team performed further reflex tests to confirm Ben’s death, I signed papers allowing my son’s organs to be donated. Later, the Australian Red Cross transplant co-coordinator described the operation to remove Ben’s heart, lungs and kidneys, stating the transplant team would treat his body with the utmost of respect.

After spending the night in the hostel, waiting for the transplant team to assemble, Elayne and I accompanied Ben to surgery for the last time. Keeping pace with the trolley, I held his hand as a doctor pumped air into his lungs with a hand-held respirator, the only device keeping the rest of his organs alive. As he was pushed through the swinging doors, Elayne and I turned away.

For four hours, we walked in silence round the hospital grounds. Finally, a nurse escorted us to a “quiet room.” Ben lay on a bed, dressed in his green flannel pyjamas, his hair neatly combed.

I picked him up and sat with him on a sofa, where Elayne and I cradled our son in our arms. For an hour-and-half, we stroked his hair and talked to him for the last time.

On May 21, 200 people attended Ben’s funeral – family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, teachers, school mates. I am not a very religious person, but as I listened to a neighbour reading Ben’s eulogy, I was overcome by a strange sensation. Starting from my feet, a tingling slowly rose through my body, leaving me with a feeling of peace.

In August, I received a letter through the Australian Red Cross from a middle-aged man who suffered from severe kidney disease; “The wonderful gift your family has given me has opened the way to a new life that I value and hold precious every day…. There seems so little to offer for such a fantastic opportunity, but when all other words are swept away, only two remain forever – thank you.”

By the time I had finished reading, tears were running down my face. Here was living proof that Elayne and I had made the right decision.

Later that year, I received another letter, telling me that a young Melbourne girl’s life had been saved by Ben’s heart and lungs.

Post Script following the year’s after this story was published

In the year’s that have followed the publication of Ben’s Story, Elayne and I became heavily involved with; ACCORD, Donate Australia, Transplant Australia, and went on to meet David Ridoutt (Ben’s kidney Recipient), and finally Sharelife Australia – in an effort to motivate the public and change the medical approach to organ donation and transplantation management.


Eighteen years after Ben’s passing we have since had to farewell David who died in 2009.

We also continue to assist Sharelife Australia in overcoming bureaucratic hurdles that continue to impede the significant change required, to enable Australia to achieve world’s best practice so that we can achieve transplantation rates of 90 per million of population. As of 2012, Australia is slowly improving with a current rate of 44 transplants per million. If the community has the will, this target is achievable.

I have also become involved with a new dynamic donor family group called Donor Families Australia headed by Bruce McDowell. I would recommend all donor family members interested in communicating with other donor members and/or wishing to become more pro-active within the donor family area of organ donation and transplantation to register with us.

ben at 5 yrsBen, Dec 1987  Ben at 6 yrs  Ben, March 1989  Ben at 8 yrs

Ben,  Ben, March 1991   Ben, Sept 1990  ben harrison

The Elsey (poem)

The Elsey stood for all these years, her spirit lives forever,
Through family generations, hard toil and nasty weather.


Floods and droughts these bushmen worked, with scrubbers, horses, cattle,
They took the good times with the bad, and ne’er gave up the battle.

Now Aeneas Gunn’s the boss man at the old Elsey Station,
And with his new wife, Jeanie, they caused some consternation.

The homestead staff were a funny mob,
The Scott-n-the Dandy dished out the jobs.

The drovers name was Dan, a quiet sort of man,
Out bush for weeks-a-mustering, he really loved this land.


A traveller passing by took ill, then taken to the homestead,
He was comforted all through the night, by morning he lay dead.

His grave is in the cemetery, down yonder by the road,
Although his spirit e’re lives on, the Lord has shed his load.

With the campfire burning, fish-n-steaks,
Then Cheon arrives with some Johnnycakes.

Jack-n-the Fizzer always clowning around,
And Bett Bett-n-dingo nowhere to be found.

In a world of its own stood the Banyan tree,
You can ponder your thoughts, in this place you are free.

In bed with the fever, his wife by his side,
On that very sad day, Aeneas Gunn he did die.

Now the lady in charge of this huge cattle station,
With her poise and her grace really charmed our nation.

Respected by all, through the great cattle runs,
Stands an elegant lady, her name Jeanie Gunn.


The Elsey stands amongst the best of all our cattle stations,
Proud families born and worked on her are the salt of the nation.

Now those people’s lives have been changed forever,
In this spiritual land called the ‘Never-Never’.

by Waldo Bayley, Bush Poet from Humpty Doo

elsey station

Reconciliation Day (poem)

 On Reconciliation Day they walked across the bridge,
Indigenous people from around the globe, some even played the didge.
There were Aussies, Asians, Europeans, Clergymen as well,
Waving flags together, oh what stories they can tell!

Ind-wallacebridgewalk_webThey marched as one great unit, and had a point to prove,
There were dads-n-mums-n-children, Australia on the move.
This day goes down in history now, and we can all embrace,
From this day on we’re equal, when we meet face to face.


The world was there a-watching, and we felt oh so proud,
For Reconciliation Day had moved that big dark cloud.
The sun shone down on them that day, shimmering on the sea,
With people all around us, who were just like you and me.


So in our dreams we can all pray, across this beautiful land,
Us Aussies bound together, hoping now to understand!

by Waldo Bayley, bush poet from Humpty Doo

Unlikely Mates

When I was only 6 months old, my parents moved to a hippy commune near Elands in northern NSW.  Elands is an inland town south of Port Macquarie and is perhaps best known for the nearby Ellenborough Falls. At 200 metres, Ellenborough Falls is one of the longest single drop waterfalls in the Southern Hemisphere and a popular tourist attraction.

xvjftWe lived at the commune together until I was around 16 years old, and it was an interesting place to grow up, with many interesting people but there is one man who I remember best.

He was a local farmer named Preston. His farm was near the commune so he was fairly well known to everyone at the commune.

Preston was not a very good farmer. He lived there with his elderly parents and was incredibly lazy.

He was the crustiest old bachelor you could imagine. He didn’t spend any time tending to farm maintenance and over time, grass grew long and fences rot and fell down. When the cows escaped he would send his Mother out to collect them.

The house too began falling apart and Preston did nothing to maintain or repair. It was literally falling down around them. Preston was a confirmed bachelor, never having a girlfriend and very few friends.  Eventually both his parents passed away and Preston was left to run the farm on his own.

Preston didn’t drive a car. He had a tractor. Once a week he would ride his tractor along the highway into town. The tractor was loud and slow, and at the commune we could hear him coming along the road for hours. One day, he drove his tractor into town, it took him 2 hours to get there. He bought his beer in town and began drinking it as he drove back home. Not far from home, he realized he had drunk all his beer so turned the tractor around and drove back to town to buy more beer! Needless to say, we heard his tractor chugging at a snails pace along the highway all day long.

One day a Frenchman named Jacques arrived at the commune. He was a long way from home, looking for a new home. He told everyone he was a builder and had fought in the French Resistance during WW2 and I don’t think anyone doubted this was true. He told how his job was to lay ambush mines for Germans soldiers. This was towards the end of the war when the German army were recruiting the Hitler Youth. On this one day, he saw that the German soldiers he was targeting were all 13 or 14 years old and he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger.

Jacques found a piece of land he liked and camped there. He soon decided it was a good place to build a small house and began building around his tent. He did not know that he was living on Preston’s property.

Now, because Preston was such a lazy farmer, it took him six months to realize Jacques was squatting on his property. By this time, Jacques house was half built!

Preston’s reaction on discovering Jacques was not as you might expect. Preston could see that Jacques was a decent builder and had an idea. He invited Jacques up to his house and made him a proposition.

He would allow Jacques to live on his land, and to finish building his own house if Jacques repaired and maintained Preston’s house. A deal was struck. No solicitors, no contracts, just a verbal agreement.

And so it was. For many years the two men shared the land and became unlikely friends and constant companions. In fact they lived together for decades until Jacques was put into a retirement home by his daughter Veronique.

Preston and Jacques, unlikely and lifelong mates.

by Brad Lucas.