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Quentin McDermott

Interview: Tim Atherton

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Reporter Quentin McDermott reports on the war between police and Gypsy Joker bikies that led authorities to cut a deal with a murderer and drug dealer. Police believed their informant would help solve three murders. Two of the cases collapsed and now Four Corners reveals another is on shaky ground.

Five months ago Australians were stunned by a public brawl between rival bikie gangs at Sydney's Kingsford-Smith Airport. Calls came thick and fast for new laws and greater police powers to combat the "bikie menace".

Nine years ago Western Australia faced the same problem. Bikie gangs had set themselves at the centre of the state's drug industry. They were at war with the police. In September 2001 a bomb exploded killing former detective Don Hancock and his travelling companion.

It was a crime that had to be solved. The police had three main suspects. One was Sid "Snot" Reid. They had just one problem though - the bikies' code of silence. To break that wall the police and state prosecutors offered Sid Reid a deal he couldn't refuse. They would ask for his sentence to be cut dramatically and in return he would give evidence to convict the suspects in two bombings and three murders.

It was a major gamble for the police and in the end it didn't quite pay off. In two trials the jury simply didn't believe Sid "Snot" Reid and the alleged killer walked free.

In a third case, Reid gave evidence that a friend of the Gypsy Jokers, Gary White, had chased and shot a man by the name of Anthony Tapley. Sid Reid's testimony was supported by forensic evidence and a significant body of circumstantial evidence. Now Four Corners can reveal new information that casts doubt on the conviction of Gary White.

A review of the case now underway shows that some key witnesses did not appear at the trial and there is evidence that the man Gary White was supposed to have killed on the 19th August was seen alive after that date. But they are not the only elements of the conviction in question.

The defence team in the Gary White case asked independent forensic scientists to re-evaluate the forensic evidence related to the case. They concluded this evidence is flawed. They have told Four Corners that this evidence does not support the crown case that Gary White killed Anthony Tapley.

If this is correct it casts a major question mark over the conviction of Gary White and it also leaves questions over the decision of police and authorities to cut a deal with a confessed murderer. Did the police, in their haste to put the bikies and their associates behind bars, get conned?

Right now, Sid "Snot " Reid is in custody ready to be given a new identity. At the same time the man he fingered is facing another fifteen years in jail. Meanwhile the bikie gangs have re-grouped with new leaders and new crimes to commit.

Cops, Bikies, and "The Hanging Law" goes to air on 10th August at 8.30pm on ABC1 and is repeated on 11th August at 11.35pm.

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Reports and Resources

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KEY DOCUMENTS

Letter to David Caporn | 5 August 2009

Read the questions sent by Four Corners to former senior Police Officer David Caporn, in relation to the alleged murder of Anthony Tapley. Neither David Caporn, nor the WA Police, chose to respond to these questions. [PDF 530Kb]

Correspondence with PathWest | 6 August 2009

PathWest Laboratory in WA responded to questions posed by Four Corners relating to the Anthony Tapley case.

Read Four Corners' Questions to PathWest. [PDF 1.88Kb]

Read PathWest's Response. [PDF 121Kb]

Letter to WA Police Commissioner | July 2009

Read the questions sent by Four Corners to WA Police Commissioner, in relation to the alleged murder of Anthony Tapley. The commissioner declined the offer to comment. [PDF 550Kb]

Statement WA Police | 31 July 2009

Read a statement made by the WA Police in response to the Four Corners report. [PDF 614Kb]

Boettcher Report | 11 April 2009

Professor Barry Boettcher, University of Newcastle, gives his analysis of the test results for blood on a small stain on the gate at No 12 Jade Street, Maddington, WA; the scene of the alleged murder. Boettcher concludes that the presence of human blood " has certainly not been established ." [PDF 1.64Mb]

Dr Brian McDonald's Report - Part I | 27 September 2007

Molecular Geneticist Dr Brian McDonald on the DNA reports relied on in Gary White's trial. [PDF 1.16Mb]

Dr Brian McDonald's Report - Part II | 1 April 2008

This report relates to further material received from the Forensic Science Service subsequent to Dr McDonald's report of September 2007. [PDF 1.51Mb]

RELATED NEWS ARTICLES

New evidence on bikie-linked murder probe | ABC News Online | 10 August 2009

Gypsy Joker Graeme Slater, one of Australia's most high-profile and controversial bikies, appears on ABC's Four Corners tonight in an exclusive interview with reporter Quentin McDermott. Video

DPP fails in bid for killer's cash | The West | 21 March 2009

In a major test of WA's criminal property confiscation laws - considered Australia's toughest -the Director of Public Prosecutions has failed in its attempt to seize $135,000 from killer Gary Ernest White... But in a Supreme Court judgment this week, Justice Lindy Jenkins said the Act was "potentially draconian" and White did not use the trucking yard in a way that brought the property within the definition of crimeused property.

Assistant commissioners Mal Shervill, David Caporn demoted | Perth Now | 23 November 2008

Two assistant police commissioners involved in the wrongful conviction of a Perth man have been demoted by WA police chief Karl O'Callaghan.

Mal Shervill and David Caporn, detective-sergeants at the time of the 1994 murder of Perth jeweller Pamela Lawrence, have lost their assistant commissioner roles and will be demoted to a lower rank if they don't retire.

New claim of wrongful conviction against Mallard cops | Perth Now | 22 November 2008

A new claim of wrongful conviction involving senior officers in the Mallard affair is expected to be lodged with the Attorney-General within weeks.

Riding low: the world of Bikie Inc | The Age | 23 June 2007

The bikies had every reason to hate Don Hancock. They knew the country publican and former senior Perth detective had shot dead Gypsy Joker member Billy Grierson after a minor dispute in October 2000. Investigating police were also convinced Hancock was the sniper who had shot Grierson that night in the West Australian goldfields town of Ora Banda. But they never charged him. By the time officers had reached him, Hancock, a former head of the CIB, was showered and changed; he refused to hand over his original clothing, defied instructions to stay at the scene and then ate an orange to remove gunshot residue. He went free...

Bikies break silence over mate's murder | The Age | 6 February 2006

Members of the bikie gang that had one of its members shot and killed at a remote West Australian hamlet five years ago have broken their silence about the murder, amid angry scenes at a Perth inquest on Monday.

Police disappointed by bikie verdict | The Age | 27 August 2004

The investigation into the murder of a retired Perth detective was a success, despite the acquittal of five men charged with waging a bombing campaign against him, West Australian Police Assistant Commissioner David Caporn said today.

Biker gang chief cleared in police murder case | The Independent UK | 30 October 2003

A leading member of a notorious Australian biker gang has been acquitted of murdering a former senior police officer in a verdict that deals a humiliating blow to prosecuting authorities.

Family's heartbroken plea after bikie verdict | The Age | 29 October 2003

The family of a man who was killed in a car-bomb attack has pleaded with the West Australian government to purge bikie gangs from the state after a jury yesterday acquitted a gang member accused of double murder.

Gypsy Joker sniper shooting mystery | SMH | 21 April 2006

The West Australian coroner has failed to identify the killer of Gypsy Joker Billy Grierson whose sniper-style slaying was later avenged by the car-bombing deaths of two men.

Police hopes go west, leaving jokers wild | The Age | 1 November 2003

Attempts to crack open Perth's bikie-gang subculture were thwarted in court this week by a failed murder case, writes Mark Russell.

Organised crime in WA under investigation | 7.30 Report | 29 October 2003

The audacious and brazen car bombing that claimed the life of a one-time prominent Western Australia police officer and his bookie mate thundered out of suburban Perth and shocked a nation.

RELATED LINKS

Gary White's Website

gary-white.com/

Holborn Lenhoff Massey Law Firm

www.lenlaw.com.au/

PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA

www.pathwest.com.au/

WA Police

www.police.wa.gov.au/

RELATED FOUR CORNERS PROGRAMS

Good Cop, Bad Cop | 27 October 2008

Sally Neighbour investigates what's wrong inside Australia's Federal Police. Video