Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Donald Mackay...Police search warrant coming

“There are new avenues of inquiry,” Griffith Det-Insp Paul Smith told the Herald Sun.
“This is certainly still very much a live investigation.”
He and Griffith Det-Supt Mick Rowan are working closely with Purana taskforce head Det-Insp Ken Ashworth on the new Victorian leads.
The murder of Liberal Party candidate and Griffith anti-drug crusader Mr Mackay was Australia’s first political assassination.
His body has never been found and the Calabrian mafia bosses who ordered his death have never been charged.
Insp Ashworth yesterday confirmed Purana was assisting Griffith detectives with information relating to underworld identities suspected of having knowledge of, or involvement in, what is one of Australia’s oldest murder mysteries.
He said he had also provided the Griffith detectives with access to documents and other material Victoria Police has on the high-profile killing of Mr Mackay.
“There are some identities still here in Victoria that we, from time to time, like to pursue and ask questions of,” Insp Ashworth told the Herald Sun.
While the new probe into the Mackay killing is primarily to find the body, the Griffith detectives are not ruling out one day laying murder charges even though Mr Mackay was shot dead almost 37 years ago.
Donald Mackay with wife Barbara and son James (3) pictured the week before he was murdere
Donald Mackay with wife Barbara and son James (3) pictured the week before he was murdered.
“If you found a body you may also find other things that could certainly be cause for further investigation,” Supt Rowan said.
“The investigative techniques and so forth have advanced so far over the intervening period that you would never say never.”
Failed dig
The new information Supt Rowan and Insp Smith this month came to Victoria to investigate was provided after last year’s failed dig to find Mr Mackay’s body.
Police spent two weeks excavating a property near Hay, New South Wales, in June last year after receiving information anonymously that Mr Mackay’s body was buried there.
While the dig failed to find any trace of the body, publicity about it led to new information being provided to police.
That new information included the Victorian angles Griffith detectives are chasing up with the Purana organised crime taskforce.
“Victoria Police is very much a partner in this investigation,” Insp Smith said.
Evidence strongly suggests Melbourne-based mafia figure Gianfranco Tizzoni was with Victorian hitman James Bazley when Mr Mackay, 43, was shot dead in Griffith, NSW.
1974: Former Minister for Immigration, Al Grassby, with prime minister Gough Whitlam, at
1974: Former Minister for Immigration, Al Grassby, with prime minister Gough Whitlam, at Kirribilli. Picture: News Corporation
The Griffith detectives believe Tizzoni and Bazley put a lot of work into planning to murder Mr Mackay near Jerilderie, NSW, on July 12, 1977.
Furniture shop owner Mr Mackay had been tricked into meeting Bazley, who was posing as a potential customer, at Jerilderie that day, but ended up not going due to having to unexpectedly attend a funeral.
It is likely Tizzoni, who died of natural causes in 1988, and Bazley had planned the Jerilderie hit in such a way they were unlikely to be seen or heard — and had probably prepared somewhere nearby to dispose of the body.
A number of high-profile Calabrian mafia identities — who each would have been prime suspects — had alibis for the day of the planned Jerilderie murder of Mr Mackay that took them away from Griffith.
The Griffith detectives believe the actual hit three days later was rushed and ill-planned because Tizzoni and Bazley were ordered by the Calabrian mafia bosses to do it quickly while their alibis were still strong and available to them.
That meant shooting Mr Mackay in a pub car park in Griffith about 6.30 on a Friday night, with shells left behind that were later linked to a gun owned by Bazley.
One of the three .22 spent cartridges found at the murder scene had blood, tissue and hair on it, later identified as coming from Mr Mackay.
Two killers most likely
Mr Mackay was a big man. Shooting him dead in a busy pub car park and then presumably lifting his body into a car boot without anyone seeing would be incredibly difficult for one man.
A TV crew films at the pub car park in Griffith thought to be the murder scene of anti-dr
A TV crew films at the pub car park in Griffith thought to be the murder scene of anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay, who disappeared in 1977.
Tizzoni is the most likely person to have helped Bazley at the murder scene.
“I have reviewed the full NSW brief of evidence, and also material held by Victoria Police, and it is my view that it was highly likely to have been two people involved,” Supt Rowan told the Herald Sun.
“I wouldn’t discount that Tizzoni was at Jerilderie and it may well be he was at Griffith.”
While Bazley and Tizzoni were charged years later by Victoria Police with conspiring to murder Mr Mackay, nobody has ever been charged with murdering him.
Those who ordered the death of Mr Mackay — including a Victorian-based Calabrian mafia figure — have so far got away with it.
Mr Mackay was a budding politician whose main platform was publicly and prominently opposing the growing marijuana trade in Griffith.
Evidence suggests a board meeting of the Calabrian mafia in Griffith coldly decided Mr Mackay had to go because his outspoken stance against illegal drugs was bad for their business.
The Italian organised crime ring’s Mr Fix-it, Robert Trimbole, was told to organise the hit and he enlisted the help of Melbourne-based Tizzoni.
Barbara Mackay talks to the media about her husband.
Barbara Mackay talks to the media about her husband.
Tizzoni used his underworld contacts to hire notorious Aussie hitman Bazley — Bazley, a painter and docker, was chosen because the mafia didn’t want the Mackay killing to look like a mafia hit.
The Griffith detectives said they were not able to reveal the nature of the new information which brought them to Victoria as the investigation was at a sensitive stage.
“But fresh information has come in that we are looking at further,” Insp Smith said.
He said they had paid Bazley a visit at his Melbourne home.
“We approached Mr Bazley, who was not willing to discuss the matter further with NSW or Victoria Police,” Insp Smith said.
“He made it very clear he didn’t want to talk to police, both in person and through his lawyer.”
Bazley, 88, was released from Victoria’s Loddon Prison in 2001 after serving 21 years in jail — only nine of them relating to his conviction for conspiring to murder Mr Mackay.
Maintains his innocence
While the evidence led at Bazley’s trial in Melbourne was that he shot dead Mr Mackay he couldn’t be charged with murder in Victoria because the crime took place in NSW.
Gianfranco Tizzoni being escorted by police to the Supreme Court after pleading guilty to
Gianfranco Tizzoni being escorted by police to the Supreme Court after pleading guilty to having conspired to murder Donald Mackay and drug couriers Douglas and Isabel Wilson. Picture: Supplied
He was charged in Victoria as it was Victorian detectives who obtained the evidence against him in relation to the conspiracy to murder Mr Mackay and the 1979 murders of Mr Asia drug couriers Douglas and Isabel Wilson, whose bodies were discovered in a bush grave at Rye.
Bazley pleaded not guilty to the charges over the Wilsons and Mr Mackay and continues to maintain his innocence.
Supt Rowan said the continuing investigation into the Mackay murder by Griffith detectives was launched in late 2011 after they received information anonymously which eventually led to the failed search for Mr Mackay’s body in Hay last year.
“We got a letter that was written to us at Griffith Police that outlined to us that the remains of Donald Mackay could be found on a property in Hay,” he said.
“Effectively it was very broad information that was sent to us, but over a period of 18 months we tried everything we could to knock it out and in the end we couldn’t knock it out.
“We were able to corroborate, from the information that was in that letter, we were actually able to get it to a point where we were able to corroborate aspects of it.
“We put the available information before a coroner and the coroner granted us an order to go and dig up the property.
“It had to be done. The information was sound to a point that you couldn’t walk away from it and not dig it up.”
While there was no evidence the property searched ever had any connection to the Calabrian mafia figures suspected of ordering the Mackay murder, detectives were able to establish strong ties between some of them and Hay.
Mackays furniture store, still owned by the family in Griffith.
Mackays furniture store, still owned by the family in Griffith.
Letter writer should come forward
Supt Rowan yesterday appealed to the anonymous letter writer who sparked last year’s search to contact police again.
He said he believed that person knew more than was in the letter.
Supt Rowan said Griffith detectives were determined to find Mr Mackay’s body, both for the Mackay family and in the hope doing so might also provide more clues that could possibly lead to charges.
He said with the passage of time it was unlikely more charges would ever be laid over the Mackay murder, but doing so couldn’t be discounted.
“I think in terms of Griffith, it’s something that has put the city on the map for the wrong reasons,” Supt Rowan said.
“Finding the body is something that is very close to police in Griffith and they will continue to pursue any credible information that comes in.”
One of the most insidious roles in the murder of Mr Mackay was that of local Griffith politician Al Grassby, who later became Immigration Minister in Gough Whitlam’s 1972 Labor Government.
While there is no suggestion Grassby was involved in organising Mackay’s murder, there is no doubt he was at the beck and call of those who did — the Calabrian mafia.
Paul Donald Mackay the son of Donald Mackay leaving Mackays store in Griffith.
Paul Donald Mackay the son of Donald Mackay leaving Mackays store in Griffith.
The Calabrian mafia is what the Italian secret society variously known as N’Drangheta, La Famiglia or the Honoured Society is usually referred to as. It has its headquarters in Calabria in Italy and is referred to as the Calabrian mafia to differentiate it from the Sicilian mafia.
Mackay’s widow Barbara was a Christian woman who usually didn’t bear grudges, but she never forgave Grassby for obeying a Calabrian mafia order to take the heat off it by spreading rumours that Mrs Mackay was responsible for the death of her husband.
That despicable act ate away at Mrs Mackay right up to her death in 1981.
The lure of the mafia payroll
The Calabrian mafia has always been adept at recruiting and cultivating people it believes will be of some use either immediately or in the future.
Grassby was on its payroll for 40 years.
Flash Al — he of the fancy ties and garish suits — was doing favours for the Calabrian mafia within months of being elected to the New South Wales Parliament as the Labor member for Murrumbidgee in May 1965. He maintained a close relationship with senior Calabrian mafia figures until his death, aged 79, in 2005.
Undated family photo of 1970s anti-drug campaigner Donald Mackay.
Undated family photo of 1970s anti-drug campaigner Donald Mackay.
James Bazley, convicted of conspiring to murder anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay in 19
James Bazley, convicted of conspiring to murder anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay in 1977, pictured in 1986.
Interviews done by the Herald Sun — including with police and Calabrian mafia member turned supergrass Gianfranco Tizzoni — plus a comprehensive search of state and federal government records, royal commission reports and newspaper archives enabled the production of this chronology of Grassby’s dealings with the Calabrian mafia in Australia and Italy:
An aerial of the police search.
An aerial of the police search.
SEPTEMBER 27, 1965: Peter Calipari pleaded guilty in Griffith to having an unlicensed pistol. He was arrested during police raids on members of a mafia-type organisation described as vicious and dangerous. Grassby gave character evidence for Calipari in court, saying he had known him for 10 years and that he was an outstanding member of the Italian community. Police intelligence files show Calipari went on to become one of the Calabrian mafia’s most senior members in NSW.
SEPTEMBER 28, 1965: Grassby told the NSW Parliament Calipari was a good neighbour, saying: “We now face the situation where the iniquitous and infamous name of the mafia is associated with people and towns in my electorate, incredible and silly though this may be. Anyone who falls into this error and believes that we have Mafioso in Murrumbidgee is deluding himself and has been watching too much late TV — probably Eliot Ness in The Untouchables.”
FEBRUARY 1974: Grassby visited Italy as minister for immigration, accompanied by Calipari. He was feted in Plati, world headquarters of the Calabrian mafia, and was given the keys to the town. Respected Melbourne Herald newspaper journalist Peter Game revealed that while Grassby was there he arranged for the issue of entry permits to Australia for three members of the Barbaro family who had previously been denied entry on the grounds of their bad character. One of them, Domenico Barbaro, had previously been deported from Australia. Italian police arrested Domenico Barbaro when he returned to Plati and charged him with kidnapping the teenage son of an industrialist four months before Grassby arranged his entry permit to Australia. The major part of the $550,000 ransom was thought to have been deposited in Australian banks while Barbaro was in the country on the visa organised by Grassby.
JUNE 1974: Grassby lost his federal seat after preferences from Liberal candidate Donald Mackay gave victory to the Country Party. Mr Mackay’s wife Barbara told the Woodward royal commission: “After Grassby was defeated in 1974 he (Donald Mackay) received phone threats from an anonymous foreign male to the effect that the shop would be bombed and in the second week of June, 1974, a letter from a person signed ‘A Furore’, an illiterate Italian, threatening to get back at Don, was published in the Area News. I was told that it was typed on Al Grassby’s typewriter by the editor of the paper.”
FEBRUARY 1975: Grassby made representations to the federal treasurer on behalf of Tony Sergi over his tax problems. Sergi was named four years later by the Woodward royal commission as a principal of the Calabrian mafia cell in Griffith and a major marijuana grower.
JULY 1975: Grassby officially opened Tony Sergi’s winery at Tharbogang.
MAY 1976: Grassby attended the wedding of Peter Calipari’s daughter. (NSW police surveillance cameras also showed Grassby attended Calipari’s funeral in the late 1980s. Also at the funeral was a dapper Italian gent not recognised by NSW police. Victoria Police later identified the mystery mourner as Melbourne mafia godfather Liborio Benvenuto).
JULY 17, 1976: Grassby attended the Griffith wedding of Anna Sergi, Tony Sergi’s cousin, and Angelo Licastro. Licastro was questioned by the Woodward royal commission in relation to his work on Farm 1774, Tharbogang. The farm had previously been used by Rocco Barbaro as a cannabis plantation and Licastro moved to it after his marriage. Licastro was later murdered in a mafia-style killing while visiting Plati.
JULY 22, 1976: Grassby opened Vignali Wines in Fyshwick, Canberra, owned by Tony Sergi and Luigi Pochi. Justice Woodward later reported Vignali Wines received investment funds from the Griffith marijuana trade.
Former MP Al Grassby in Canberra in 2002.
Former MP Al Grassby in Canberra in 2002.
Tony Sergi in the shop at his Griffith winery. Picture: News Corporation
Tony Sergi in the shop at his Griffith winery. Picture: News Corporation
July 1977: Griffith wine grower Tony Sergi points out bullet holes from the 20 plus shots
July 1977: Griffith wine grower Tony Sergi points out bullet holes from the 20 plus shots that have been fired at his winery in the past 12 months. Picture: News Corporation
JULY 1977: After the murder of Donald Mackay, Grassby appealed to the media and authorities to avoid racial provocation. “There is nothing more damaging to good community relations than talking about Irish bombers, Jewish usurers, Aboriginal rapists, English perverts and Italian racketeers,” he said.
OCTOBER 1977: Grassby appealed to the attorney-general’s department to explore all legal processes available to halt the continuing harassment and defamation of Australians of Italian origin in the wake of the Mackay murder.
NOVEMBER 1979: Grassby’s wife Ellnor said her friendship with Tony Sergi would continue.
MARCH 1980: Grassby met Rosa Pochi in relation to the proposed deportation of Calabrian mafia member Luigi Pochi.
MARCH 1980: Grassby criticised the Williams royal commission recommendation that information on specific ethnic groups suspected of drug trafficking be collected.
JULY 28, 1980: Grassby’s diary listed a lunch with South Australian attorney-general Chris Sumner. Grassby gave Mr Sumner a document claiming Barbara Mackay — rather than the Calabrian mafia — was responsible for the death of her husband. Grassby asked him to read it in Parliament, but Mr Sumner refused.
JULY 29, 1980: Grassby met NSW MP Michael Maher, with a member of the Sergi clan, and asked him to read the same false document he had given to Mr Sumner. Mr Maher also refused.
AUGUST 10, 1980: A Sydney newspaper published allegations from a document distributed by Grassby under the headline “Mackay killing: not the mafia”. It was published two days before Robert Trimbole was due to appear in Victoria at an inquest on murdered drug couriers Douglas and Isabel Wilson.

The murder of Donald Mackay
AUGUST 13, 1980: Grassby saw Rosa Pochi again in relation to Luigi Pochi’s deportation problem.
AUGUST 22, 1980: Grassby saw Rosa and Luigi Pochi about his deportation.
MARCH 1981: Grassby told Immigration Minister Ian Macphee that a plan to deport and strip citizenship from foreign-born drug offenders was a violation of the Racial Discrimination Act.
MAY 1, 1981: Grassby wrote to Michael Maher again seeking action on the Mackay document. At this time the NSW police were reopening the Mackay inquiry and the Stewart royal commission was preparing to interview Robert Trimbole.
MAY 7, 1981: Trimbole fled Australia.
DECEMBER 26, 1985: Grassby’s daughter gets married. Michael Maher gave evidence at the Nagle inquiry that one of the three Sergis who he met with Grassby in 1980 over the Mackay document was present at the wedding.
Police diver Mal Jeffs (right): “The Homicide squad had requested Police Divers to search
Police diver Mal Jeffs (right): “The Homicide squad had requested Police Divers to search a number of locations in the Tocumwal area. I was one of the five-man team on the operation. It was very cold both in and out of the water.”
Police divers search an area of water in the hope of finding the body of Donald Mackay.
Police divers search an area of water in the hope of finding the body of Donald Mackay.
The Griffith cell of the Calabrian mafia had a board meeting in 1977 and decided Donald Mackay had to be executed because his vocal anti-marijuana campaign was seriously affecting the Italian secret society’s business.
Grassby knew some of those present at that meeting and another man at the meeting, Gianfranco Tizzoni, knew of Grassby’s corrupt association with the Calabrian mafia.
Was Tizzoni there?
The Herald Sun tracked Tizzoni down to Italy in 1987, only months before the Mafioso died of natural causes.
Evidence gathered by police since then suggests Tizzoni was actually present when Mr Mackay was shot dead and helped dispose of the body, which has never been found.
Tizzoni was forced to flee Australia in fear of his life after turning supergrass and informing on his Calabrian mafia colleagues — which he did to lessen the impact of being caught with a car boot full of marijuana by Victoria Police.
He told the Herald Sun, over a bottle of Campari, that the Calabrian mafia cultivated Grassby from very early on in his political career.
“They recognised how useful he could be to them,” Tizzoni said back in 1987.
“The time and money they spent on Grassby was paid back in favours he did for them.”
The then leader of the NSW Country Party, Leon Punch, was a vocal critic of Grassby’s close connection to Calabrian mafia figures.
During a speech in the NSW Parliament in 1977 on the drug problem, Mr Punch said the good people of Griffith had recognised Grassby was supporting some of those accused of being marijuana growers and had loudly booed Grassby at a televised public meeting in the area.
“In my time in Parliament, I cannot remember any incident like that in which a politician was so loudly condemned by the people whom he was supposed to have represented,” Mr Punch told Parliament.
“Mr Grassby, while Minister for Immigration on a visit to Italy, signed entry permits for three persons who were previously refused entry to Australia on character grounds.
“It would appear that the matters to which I now refer are not unconnected with the marijuana growing scene in the Riverina. The persons allowed special entry visas into Australia by Mr Grassby were all named Barbaro and came from Plati, a mafia stronghold in Italy.
“They included Dominic Barbaro, who was deported from Australia on 30th August, 1958, because of his criminal record in Australia. With Mr Grassby’s official sanction, he was allowed back into Australia during April 1974.
“It seems he only came out to deposit money in Australia before returning to Italy, where he was arrested for the kidnapping of an Italian industrialist three months before being allowed back into Australia by Mr Grassby. The Italian press claimed that part of the ransom money of $550,000 was deposited in Australian banks.
“I understand that top Italian police have made a number of visits to Australia, and there is a suggestion that some of the ransom money was used to finance marijuana growing round Griffith.
“It is no wonder that the people of Griffith have lost faith in authority.”
Grassby links investigated
Organised crime expert Gary Sturgess was well aware of Grassby’s background and was sickened when the NSW Labor state government hired Grassby in 1986.
Mr Sturgess said he couldn’t believe the then Premier Neville Wran would take on a man with such obvious links to the Calabrian mafia.
Grassby had been dumped by Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser from his job as commissioner for community relations in 1982.
“Then Wran brought him back from the wilderness in 1986 as an ethnic affairs adviser,” Mr Sturgess told the Herald Sun in 2005.
“I was just disgusted that the government would hire this man.”
Mr Sturgess, who later helped establish the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, went to see his then boss, NSW Opposition Leader Nick Greiner, about Grassby.
Mr Greiner agreed they should commit the time and resources to thoroughly study Grassby’s links to Italian organised crime. What Mr Sturgess discovered was powerful enough to persuade Mr Greiner to get up in the NSW Parliament on September 25, 1986, and describe Grassby as having had many dealings with the Griffith cell of the mafia.
He urged the Government to allow the Nagle special commission — which was sitting at the time to examine the handling of the Donald Mackay murder investigation — to probe Grassby’s association with mafia figures involved in drug trafficking and murder.
Mr Greiner accused Grassby of circulating the false document that claimed Donald Mackay was
not murdered by the Griffith mafia — that the real killer was his wife Barbara Mackay.
Mr Greiner said it was a classic piece of mafia disinformation.
“It is no light matter to call for an inquiry into so public a public servant as Mr Grassby,” Mr Greiner told Parliament.
“No Australian who is offended by racism can deny the contribution that Mr Grassby has made to the cause of tolerance in this country.
“But, equally, no Australian offended by organised crime, no Australian concerned about the assault that criminals organisations such as the mafia are making upon the open society, can help but be disturbed by the role of Mr Grassby in propagating this particular document.
“In order to pre-empt the usual bunk trotted out by the Labor Party when Mr Grassby is criticised, let me make it abundantly clear that the Opposition is fully aware that the overwhelming bulk of Australians of Italian, and indeed Calabrian, origin are honourable and law-abiding citizens.
“However, everyone — including this Government, as evidenced by its recent and quite proper National Crime Authority reference — agrees that the mafia organisation, part of which was identified by Mr Justice Woodward as operating out of Griffith, is one of the most powerful and efficient criminal societies in this country today.
“Because of this, and, because of Mr Grassby’s present high office, any association between Mr Grassby and the mafia must be a matter of grave concern.
“What the Nagle inquiry has uncovered is that in late July, 1980, Mr Grassby used his position as commissioner for community relations to publicise what can only be described as a piece of mafia disinformation about the death of Donald Mackay.
“From no less a witness than a former member of this House, Mr Michael Maher, MHR, the inquiry has heard how Mr Grassby handed over this scandalous document and, in a blunt request, sought to have Mr Maher read it in this very House.
“It sought explicitly to excuse the mafia, which Mr Justice Woodward had quite correctly, as we now know, blamed for the murder, by accusing Donald Mackay’s wife, son and solicitor.
“The document rejects the theory that a secret Italian society involved in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana was responsible.
“Instead, it explores facts, which it says were ignored by the police and Woodward. ‘Was there a family argument involving Mackay, his wife and his son resulting in his demise?’, the document asks.
“There is no innocent interpretation of this document available. It was a blatant attempt by the mafia, or someone sympathetic to it, to get it off the hook for the Mackay murder.
“This interpretation is reinforced by the fact that in 1983 police found a version of this document on government paper in the home of Robert Trimbole.
“This is the document that Mr Grassby, the Premier’s special adviser, was adamant Mr Maher should read in this House.
“When NSW police sought to interview Mr Grassby on this matter in 1980, they were prevented from doing so by their superiors. They have admitted that.
“This is not the first occasion on which Mr Grassby has functioned as a propagandist and apologist for the mafia.
“For 20 years, he has befriended and defended senior members of the Griffith mafia.
“Any inquiry into Mr Grassby’s relationship with the mafia must have power to investigate his friendship with Tony Sergi.
“Honourable members should know that this Tony Sergi, whom Mr Grassby has befriended all these years, was described by Mr Justice Woodward as a principal in the Griffith mafia.”
Mr Greiner told Parliament that Sergi was also named as a mafia boss during the trial of hitman James Bazley, who was convicted in 1986 of conspiring to murder Donald Mackay.
“The key Crown witness in the Bazley trial, Frank Tizzoni, described Tony Sergi as being in charge of the growing and supply of the mafia’s marijuana,” Mr Greiner told Parliament.
“More importantly, Tizzoni identified Tony Sergi as being present at a meeting to plan the death of Donald Mackay. Indeed, according to Tizzoni, the meeting was held at Tony Sergi’s house.”
Despite being named in Parliament, Mr Sergi has previously denied to the Herald Sun any involvement in the killing of Mr Mackay and no charges have ever been brought against him.
The Nagle royal commission identified Grassby as the person who unsuccessfully attempted to persuade politicians in Victoria, NSW, and South Australia to read an unsigned document in their respective parliaments.
That document falsely claimed Mrs Mackay, her son Paul and the Mackay family solicitor were responsible for the death of Donald Mackay.
A report based on the four-page document appeared in Sydney’s Sun-Herald on August 10, 1980 under the headline “Mackay killing: not the mafia”.
Grassby admitted to the Nagle commission he was a friend of the then editor of the Sun-Herald.
The Nagle commission found Grassby gave the document to NSW politician Michael Maher and to South Australia’s then shadow attorney-general, Chris Sumner, in July, 1980.
It also found — despite Grassby’s denials — that on the balance of probability he gave the document to the Sun-Herald newspaper.
“The most controversial of the questions to be determined is what was Grassby’s purpose in giving the document to Maher,” the Nagle commission’s final report said in 1986.
“Grassby claims it was so that the general question of racial defamation against Calabrians in Australia could be raised by Maher in the NSW Parliament, and strenuously denied that he wished any of the specific defamatory material in the document to be made public.
“The commission has two reasons for expressly rejecting Grassby’s evidence on this subject.
“The first is the nature of Grassby’s evidence and the manner in which he gave it. He was long winded, dissembling and unconvincing and was constantly driven to uneasy claims of defective memory.
“The second is the cogent and convincing evidence of Maher that Grassby was ‘blunt’ and ‘adamant’ that Maher should read in the NSW Parliament the document containing the attacks on Mrs Mackay, her son and their solicitor.
“No decent man could have regarded the general attacks on the Calabrians as justifying him in propagating the scurrilous lies contained in the anonymous document.”
Barbara Mackay never forgave Al Grassby for spreading the false document claiming that she murdered her husband Donald.
In a letter to her grandchildren before she died in 2001, Mrs Mackay described Grassby as evil.
Her letter was prompted by an incident in 1996 when one of her grandchildren, who were aged between three and 11 at the time, asked a question on the way home from soccer.
“Grandma, how did Grandpa Don die?” he asked.
Mrs Mackay replied instantly that her husband had suffered a bad accident and quickly changed the subject.
It was the weekend after Martin Bryant had killed 35 people in Port Arthur, a traumatic time for all Australians.
“I realised then that I needed to tell my grandchildren what happened to Don, as far as I know,” Mrs Mackay told the Herald Sun.
So she wrote them a letter, to be delivered at a later stage when they were old enough to comprehend the contents. She continued to write them letters up until shortly before her death.
Those writings eventually formed the basis of a book Mrs Mackay intended calling Before I Forget.
It never got published and the threat of Grassby suing was the main reason it never came out.
Mrs Mackay also hoped her letters would help her four children understand more about their father.
Her eldest son, Paul, was 19 at the time of the 1977 execution. Their two daughters, Ruth and Mary, were 16 and 13, and their youngest child, James, was only three.
Mrs Mackay said in one of her letters that her husband was killed by “greedy, evil men who prospered by producing and distributing drugs, ruining the lives of thousands of young people”.
“I grieve for all of you, my dear grandchildren, who were denied the chance to meet your grandpa, who never heard his voice, felt his touch, sat on his knee, or talked about things,” one of the letters said.
“I am sad too for my children, who lost their father, not by accident, but by the cold, calculated decision of men without conscience or compassion.
“And I grieve for myself, who, with all of you, was given a life sentence, lost my husband, the companionship of marriage, the opportunity to share with him in your successes and failures, graduations, marriages, births of grandchildren, and in fulfilling the dreams and goals he had for his life.”
Mrs Mackay’s letters
In the first letter to her grandchildren, who were not born when Donald Mackay was killed, she said:
“My dear grandchildren, your question hit me very hard yesterday.
“There I was just driving you home from soccer when you asked me, ‘Grandma, how did grandpa Don die?’ My reply was immediate. ‘He had a bad accident,’ and I changed the subject.
“Your Mum and Dad want me to leave it at that. Your little cousins think grandpa had a car accident. How could little minds cope with the truth when adults find it so abhorrent?
“Could I really be able to begin to tell you what I don’t understand myself — that a good, kind young father who cared passionately about his community was gunned down, not by accident but through careful scheming by a group of greedy, evil men, who prospered by producing and distributing drugs, ruining the lives of thousands of young people.
“These men are now very wealthy, successful and arrogant, living on the much laundered money they acquired.
“They are apparently unrepentant, and now ‘respectable’ ... unworried by any fear of detection and prosecution.
“There are people who know what was done to Don Mackay and choose not to tell. My prayer continues to be that one day they will be unable to live with their guilt any longer, and that the truth will be revealed, and we can finally close the door on all the years of suspense and deep pain.
“It seems so pointless now. Don was concerned about what was happening here in Griffith. A small group of families, from southern Italy, was involved in drug production and distribution, and Don saw clearly in the lives of some of the best young people in town, the destructive effects that marijuana use was having.
“He knew that unless a great effort was made then, it would grow and spread, and the lives of hundreds of Australian youths would be affected. As it continued, many young people would lose their initiative and potential, and become increasingly unemployable.
“Don also feared the economic undermining which vast amounts of untaxed, laundered money would cause, not only in Griffith, but throughout Australia. He was right.
“Many millions, possibly billions of dollars of criminal profits are now spread widely. After a few untaxed millions are invested, they become legitimised. With plenty of cash for advertising, undercutting prices, and generous gifts, these enterprises can undermine honest places very effectively, and as time goes by, few people remember or even care where it all came from.
“He worried too about corruption of people in high places, people with power and positions of influence, politicians, judges, lawyers, police, accountants, and all those advisers and protectors needed to smooth their way.
“Recent disclosures in the NSW police royal commission merely demonstrate that Don was right.
“He tried to raise community concern, and all sorts of people came to him for help, unwilling to take their information to the police, or to others who should have been able to be trusted. Don dared to try to do something, but, looking back, I suppose it was like trying to hold back the rising tide of the ocean.
“What really happened? I can’t answer that fully because I simply don’t know. I know that an attempt was made to lure him to Jerilderie on Tuesday, July 12, 1977.
“He was unable to go at the last minute, because he was helping a family connected with Kalinda, the special school which he had steered for 20 years. The father had died suddenly, and Don was helping with funeral arrangements, pension applications and so on. He asked one of his employees, Bruce Pursehouse, to go in his place. A lot has been written about that event, and sometime you can read about it.
“It seems that when the Jerilderie plan failed, a hasty new plan had to be set up. A number of people who could have become under suspicion had organised alibis, so things had to be done quickly.
“It appears that your grandpa went to meet one of his staff, Bob Farrell, at the Griffith Hotel after work on Friday, and that is where he was last seen.
“Probably he was shot in the head as he was putting his keys in the door of his mini-van, and was taken away from there.
“Nothing has ever been done to bring the Griffith criminals to justice, and no one has ever been charged with murdering Don.
“What happened to his body? We have no idea. I don’t know if he died in the car park, or was taken away alive. I do know he died awfully, without human comfort. I pray he died quickly.
“In June, 1983, the police told me they had information that was leading them to drag the Murray River at Tocumwal on the Victorian border.
“They even arranged for the Uniting Church Minister, then Graham Beattie, to come to see me to prepare for a funeral service.
“At school the children taunted James, ‘Your Dad’s only a skeleton in the river’. I suppose they were only repeating what they had overheard someone say.
“In any case, nothing was found, and the furore died down again.
“There have been many letters, phone calls, and other forms of communication telling me what happened to Don, that he was buried in concrete, processed at an animal feedlot for chicken feed, flown north in a small plane and dumped in water in Queensland, and that he was taken out of Australia.
“Finding out the truth, however painful, could hardly be worse than what we have been told already.
“My only comfort comes from knowing that as he died, Jesus would have been with him, he has been accepted in heaven, and his earthly body would not be needed any more.
“Still, it hurts having no resting place, no place to say goodbye, no funeral, no finality, no certainty, and even more, knowing our ongoing and present pain comes from someone’s choice.
“That person has gone to bed each night since, choosing to remain silent, and leaving us unable to close the door on that part of our life.
“Now, after nearly 20 years, my greatest frustration is seeing that the worst fears Don had have come to pass, just as he anticipated.
“He tried so hard to do something, and failed. His efforts and death did not change anything in Griffith, and that has been the hardest thing of all.
“With love, grandma.”
Mrs Mackay included that letter, and the others she wrote in the months leading up to her death, in a manuscript that included chapters on the murder of her husband. Much to her disgust, it was never published. She said the prospective publisher told her it could only be printed if she took out all references to Grassby.
“The publisher said the references to Grassby were defamatory of him, which annoyed me no end after what Grassby had accused me of doing,” Mrs Mackay told the author in 1997.
She refused to delete the references to Grassby, saying doing so would be censuring the truth and would weaken the impact of what she wanted to say.
Mrs Mackay gave the Herald Sun extracts from her unpublished manuscript.
She said she didn’t want to die without her grandchildren knowing the true story about the death of their grandfather.
Nor could she bear the thought of them thinking her husband had run off with another woman — a false rumour spread by one of Grassby’s relatives.
Mrs Mackay’s Christian belief that there is some good in all of us even extended to James Bazley, the hitman paid to execute her husband.
She thought he might have enough compassion in him to reveal where her husband’s body was if there was a way of him doing so without it looking like the information came from him.
Finding the body was vitally important to her, so she could give her husband a proper burial.
She asked the Herald Sun in 1997 to help her get a letter to Bazley in prison.
Mrs Mackay hoped Bazley would have enough decency to agree to tell her in confidence where her husband’s body was.
2001: James Bazley pictured after his release from prison. Picture: Pic by Rick Bastida
2001: James Bazley pictured after his release from prison. Picture: Pic by Rick Bastida
She promised Bazley she would never reveal where the information came from — and made the author promise the same thing.
Bazley received that letter, in which Mrs Mackay wrote that she had forgiven him for killing her husband, but he ignored her secret plea for help.
Mrs Mackay used her letter to ask Bazley to allow her to visit him in jail in the hope he would tell her the location of her husband’s body.
Her pleading letter was given to Bazley while he was in Loddon Prison, near Castlemaine, in Victoria.
Bazley refused to see her and didn’t pass on any information as to the whereabouts of Mr Mackay’s body.
He stuck to his story that he didn’t do it so how could he know where the body was.
Mrs Mackay made the unusual move of contacting her husband’s killer because she was haunted by the fact the body had never turned up.
It meant this deeply religious woman was never able to complete the grieving process.
“It hurts having no resting place, no place to say goodbye, no funeral, no finality, no certainty,” Mrs Mackay said in one of the letters to her grandchildren.
“And, even more, knowing our ongoing and present pain comes from someone’s choice.
“That person has gone to bed each night since, choosing to remain silent and leaving us unable to close the door on that part of our life.”
Mrs Mackay told the author she planned to continue contacting Bazley as each anniversary of her husband’s death came round.
James Bazley pictured at his front door in 2013.
James Bazley pictured at his front door in 2013.
But, unfortunately, she died in February, 2001, after a long illness, aged 65, without him ever revealing how the body was disposed of.
Her death came only a month after the Herald Sun broke the news to her that Bazley was about to be free after 21 years in jail.
A Victorian Supreme Court jury found Bazley guilty of conspiring to murder Mackay, murdering Mr Asia drug couriers Douglas and Isabel Wilson and stealing $269,431 in an armed robbery. He was sentenced in 1986 to two life terms for the Wilson murders, nine years for the Mackay charge and four years for armed robbery.
Bazley was granted an 11-year minimum term in 1992, but that was changed to 15 years on appeal. He had been in jail for six years for other offences when he was sentenced over the Mackay and Wilson killings.
The man named in a royal commission as the boss of Griffith’s lucrative marijuana trade told the Herald Sun in 1997 that he had nothing to do with the execution of Mr Mackay.
Tony Sergi said he was “just a businessman trying to do the best for my family”.
The Herald Sun spoke to Mr Sergi at his still-flourishing Griffith winery in 1997 and he denied having been at any meeting that discussed executing Mr Mackay.
“I’m innocent. Why does my name keep coming up?” he said.
“I didn’t even know Mackay. I never met Tizzoni either.
“This is awful for my family, to have all this brought up again.”
Drugs royal commissioner Justice Woodward’s 1979 report described Griffith’s marijuana growing operation in detail.
Justice Woodward said the illegal drug trade was run by the Italian secret organisation known as “Societe Onorata” or the Honoured Society, usually referred to as the Calabrian mafia.
The report said the secret society was responsible for the Mackay murder.
That secret society continues to flourish in Australia.
Police have launched a new inquiry to try to find Mr Mackay’s body and get evidence against the individuals within the secret society who ordered his murder in the hope of solving the mystery once and for all.
A $200,000 reward is available for information which leads to the finding of Mr Mackay’s body.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the body, or the Mackay murder, is asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
GRIFFITH detectives have made a secretive visit to Victoria to chase up new leads in the 1977 Calabrian mafia murder of Donald Mackay.

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