The Maria James Murder: Answers to Unasked Questions

The previous instalment in this series, The Cover-Up" can be read here
For those wishing to read the series from the beginning, you can go to The Maria James Murder: the curious case of the still unsolved murder that has been solved

  • The “who” of who murdered Maria James has been answered together with how and why. It is fairly straight forward once the nature of the priests involved has been faced squarely and some logic is brought to bear on the evidence that is now in the public sphere.

    The reason it has taken 37 years to solve this case, a police cover-up, is also straight forward once it is known that Maria was murdered by two Catholic priests and that a section of Victoria Police known as 'The Catholic Mafia' existed (and still exists) to cover-up, in collusion with the Church hierarchy, the many serious crimes of the Catholic clergy.

    The nonsense spouted by police spokesmen at recent press conferences in 2017, the leads not followed, the known lies accepted (such as Bongiorno's alibi), bogus police reports (Operation Plangere) and the many obvious questions not asked, all confirm the cover-up by Victoria Police.

  • The Great Unasked Questions
  • But there still remain some puzzling aspects to the case. One of the most puzzling is the failure of the media to ask some obvious questions regarding the friend of the James family who alerted Mark James to the possibility that Adam James had been 'touched' by Anthony Bongiorno.

    Two obvious questions are-
    “How did she know that this molestation of Adam James by Bongiorno might have happened?”

    "How did she know it was Adam James and not Mark James who had been molested?"

    She was talking to Mark yet failed to put the question to him. This failure to ask Mark if he had been molested, too, clearly indicates specific knowledge on the part of the 'Family Friend' regarding Adam's molestation. How else do you explain it?

    Was this family friend interviewed by the ABC?

    The ABC in a television report in 2014 did not ask these questions nor follow them up when the subject arose in an interview with Mark James.
    Nor was this question asked when this family friend went to the media years earlier in 2007.

  • The Invisible Witness
  • In view of the police cover-up, we can guess as to why the police apparently did not follow up on her testimony.

    In the few days between when Adam James informed his mother about Bongiorno molesting him and the day she died, Maria will have talked to someone about this. She obviously did not talk to her ex-husband about it so it is reasonable to speculate that Maria talked to this family friend who finally suggested to Mark James in 2013 that he ask Adam about being 'touched' by Bongiorno. No one else has come forward saying they spoke with Maria about Adam's molestation by Bongiorno. If this speculation is correct, then the family friend has quite a valuable story to tell. But no one wants to hear it, it seems.

  • The Overlooked Article
  • In 2007, Keith Moor, the crime writer for the Herald-Sun newspaper in Melbourne, wrote the following article which included information from the family friend mentioned above. There is a lot of information in this article that has not been mentioned elsewhere or followed up on. The information also prompts more questions.

    Police Reopen Murder Case That Stunned Melbourne
    By Keith Moor
    Herald Sun
    August 30, 2007,21985,22330913-2862,00.html
    An accused pedophile priest has emerged as a suspect in the 1980 killing of Thornbury bookshop owner Maria James.
    Homicide squad detective Ron Iddles yesterday confirmed dead Catholic priest the Rev Father Anthony Bongiorno was one of several "persons of interest" being examined during a review of the case.
    Mrs James, 38, died after being stabbed 68 times on June 17, 1980.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles recently received new information that suggests Father Bongiorno, who died in 2002, could be the murderer.
    DNA is expected to be used to either clear Father Bongiorno or confirm the theory that he killed Mrs James.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles said he was having a fresh look at the Maria James case in light of several new persons of interest being identified, including Father Bongiorno.
    He was recently told Mrs James may have confronted Father Bongiorno about his alleged pedophilia on the day she was stabbed to death.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles has also been told Father Bongiorno may have killed her in anger or to prevent being exposed as a child molester.
    The Herald Sun this week received the new information about Father Bongiorno from Mrs James's son Mark and a female family friend of Maria James.
    The information was passed on to Det Sen-Sgt Iddles, who has been involved in the Maria James case for 27 years.
    A Herald Sun Insight investigation has also discovered:
    FATHER Bongiorno is one of several persons of interest whose DNA is being sought by police for comparison with the killer's DNA.
    IF police can't get DNA from a sibling of Father Bongiorno, then if the material provided to the Herald Sun indicated he was a relevant suspect his body could possibly be exhumed and DNA obtained from it.
    DNA has already cleared convicted killer Peter Raymond Keogh, who for years was the prime suspect in the Maria James case.
    A MENTALLY handicapped teenager told police in 1986 that Father Bongiorno indecently assaulted him, but no charges were laid.
    VICTORIA Police's child exploitation squad charged Father Bongiorno in 1995 with seven counts of indecent assault against three boys aged 8 to 10 and one count of unlawful intercourse. He was acquitted on all charges.
    FORMER premier Jeff Kennett received written information in 1998 that nominated Father Bongiorno as a child molester. He gave the letter, which contained a photo of Father Bongiorno, to police.
    Mark James this week told the Herald Sun his mother had several heated arguments with Father Bongiorno in the months before her murder.
    He said Father Bongiorno humiliated his mother in Thornbury's St Mary's Church by berating her in front of the congregation for selling mild pornographic magazines in her nearby bookshop.
    Mr James, who was 13 at the time of the murder, said he told his mother that Father Bongiorno used Mars Bars to try to entice him into his home.
    He said he believed his mother confronted Father Bongiorno about what she considered was his inappropriate behaviour.
    Mr James said as a teenager at the time of the murder he had not thought to tell police of his suspicions.
    It was only after the Herald Sun this week alerted him to the theory of his mother's friend that Father Bongiorno was involved that he started thinking back to the actions of the priest.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles obtained the unknown killer's DNA in 2001 after deciding to send exhibits from the Maria James crime scene to be tested on the off chance advances in technology would enable scientists to identify and extract DNA.
    Mr James yesterday appealed to police to get Father Bongiorno's DNA so it could be compared with the killer's.
    "At least then we would know one way or the other whether he was responsible for killing my mother," he said.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles yesterday confirmed three suspects have been eliminated in the Maria James case since the killer's DNA was obtained in 2001.
    He said a recent review of the case had identified several other persons of interest.
    Homicide squad detectives are in the process of tracking down those people so their DNA can be taken and compared with the killer's DNA.
    Father Bongiorno died in 2002 at the age of 67.

    The article is no longer available at the above link though it can be found archived here -

    From this article above, we learn that the friend of the Maria James contacted the journalist, Keith Moor, about Bongiorno's paedophilia and the paedophilic connection to Maria's murder

    So how did Maria's friend know about Bongiorno's paedophilia involving Adam James?
    Did Keith Moor ask her? Did he relay this information to Ron Iddles?
    If yes, did Ron Iddles follow it up with Maria's friend?
    If no, then did Iddles think to ask the friend simply from his own reasoning?

  • More Unasked Questions
  • The article states that Maria had accused Bongiorno of 'grooming' her son Mark and this information was passed along to the police. Yet, as in 1998, Mark's brother, Adam James, was not asked by police if he had been molested by this known paedophile even though, it would seem, that this is exactly what Maria's friend was trying to alert the media and the police to.

    We obviously do not have all the information concerning this strange situation but the questions need to be asked and answered.

    Following on from the questions posed earlier -
    “How did she (Maria's friend) know that this molestation of Adam by Bongiorno might have happened?”
    "How did she know Adam had been molested and Mark had not been molested?"
    - we can now ask another question-
    "How did she know that Maria might have confronted Bongiorno that morning?"

  • The Allegation - lucky guess or first hand knowledge?
  • Let us look a little more closely at what Maria's friend is saying; that Anthony Bongiorno killed Maria James because Maria confronted him that morning about his sexual assault on her son. Is it a lucky guess or did she have first-hand knowledge?

    From Keith Moor's article-

  • FORMER premier Jeff Kennett received written information in 1998 that nominated Father Bongiorno as a child molester. He gave the letter, which contained a photo of Father Bongiorno, to police.
    He (RI) was recently told Mrs James may have confronted Father Bongiorno about his alleged pedophilia on the day she was stabbed to death.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles has also been told Father Bongiorno may have killed her in anger or to prevent being exposed as a child molester.

    If the allegation is a guess, Maria's friend would have to guess

    That, Bongiorno molested one of Maria's sons, Adam, and not the other, Mark.

    Next, she would have had to guess that this son, Adam, told Maria about the molestation.

    Next, she would have had to guess that Maria would confront Bongiorno about it.

    And that Maria would confront him that morning.

    Lining up all those guesses gives us a million to one chance of guessing correctly. Was Maria's friend right? Absolutely! When she finally gets to talk directly with Mark James, she doesn't ask Mark if he was molested, but she asks him to ask Adam if he was abused by Bongiorno – and he was!

    She was right and it is reasonable to speculate that the reason why is because Maria talked to her friend about Adam telling her that Bongiorno had molested Adam and that she was going to confront Bongiorno that morning.
    Quite apart from the astronomical odds, a lucky guess would not account for Maria's friend persisting in coming forward.

    Why hasn't Maria's friend been asked how she knew that Bongiorno had molested Adam James (and not Mark)? Keith Moor knows who she is and the ABC have only to ask Mark James if they don't know who she is already.

    While they are at it, the media could ask her why Maria was afraid for her life in confronting Bongiorno. It will be remembered that Maria said to Mark James twice in the days before she was killed including that very morning to look after Adam if anything happened to her. Maria may very well have talked to her friend about what she was afraid of. Perhaps Maria's friend is afraid of the same thing.

    The answer to that question could very well open yet another can of worms. It would certainly be in keeping with the rest of this case. The 'rabbit holes' are seemingly endless.

    Why The Humiliation?

    A more minor question perhaps concerns Maria's fractious relationship with Bongiorno. The Trace program brought attention to the fact that Bongiorno humiliated Maria in public at Mass by accusing her of selling (mildly) pornographic magazines in her shop. But we are left in the dark as to why he needed to do that in public. The answer is in Keith Moor's article included above. It is a little unclear because of the way that Moor has organised the information. So here are the relevant paragraphs put into an order that makes the situation clearer-

  • The Herald Sun this week received the new information about Father Bongiorno from Mrs James's son Mark and a female family friend of Maria James.
    Mr James, who was 13 at the time of the murder, said he told his mother that Father Bongiorno used Mars Bars to try to entice him into his home.
    He said he believed his mother confronted Father Bongiorno about what she considered was his inappropriate behaviour.
    He said Father Bongiorno humiliated his mother in Thornbury's St Mary's Church by berating her in front of the congregation for selling mild pornographic magazines in her nearby bookshop.
    Mark James this week told the Herald Sun his mother had several heated arguments with Father Bongiorno in the months before her murder.

    So Maria confronts Bongiorno about 'grooming' Mark in anticipation of molesting him and Bongiorno calculates that he has to ruin Maria's reputation in the parish so that no one will believe her if she talks about this grooming of her son Mark to others. Maria is alert to what Bongiorno is doing and confronts him about that, too. Hence the heated arguments. We saw this behaviour of Bongiorno's repeated when he tried to destroy her reputation and therefore her credibility when he was questioned as a suspect in 1998. He accused Maria of being a prostitute.

    There are many clues in that 2007 article that have not been followed up on.

  • The Woman Angered by The Sight of Blood
  • Returning to the Trace program, there is also still the more central question of who the woman was that Alan Hircoe (the electrician who saw Bongiorno covered in blood) heard yelling at Bongiorno within the presbytery directly after the murder. The answer to that is rather obvious to anyone raised a Catholic and of reasonable intelligence.

    What sort of relationship would you, particularly as a woman, have to have with a Catholic priest in the 1970's/80's to yell at him AND get away with it? I will leave that question unanswered because of what follows, but the astute reader who has been following this series should be able to identify her. And if you, the astute reader, can identify her, why haven't the police or the media?

    A second question is why would someone yell at a priest whom they suddenly saw covered in blood? If the woman in the presbytery did not know where Bongiorno had been, who he was meeting with and the purpose of that meeting, she would hardly react with anger. But this person did react with anger, so did she know exactly what had happened? Did she know that was Maria's blood on Bongiorno's hands? How did she know? Did she know that Bongiorno had been to see Maria to bully her into silence over his paedophilia and this murder was not what was supposed to have been the outcome.

    In other words, we can speculate that that morning she had been party to the plan (along with O'Keeffe, Bongiorno and Fr Sean O'Connell) to confront and bully Maria into silence and she was now berating Bongiorno for his stupidity. It was not horror that Alan Hircoe heard; it was anger. Alan Hircoe remarked to Rachael Brown regarding the reception Bongiorno received from the woman inside the presbytery, "Fancy getting into that much trouble for getting a bit of blood on your shirt". So she knew.

    Though no one has said so publicly, I think it is reasonable to assume that Bongiorno, like O'Keeffe, the other murderer and fellow priest in residence at the presbytery, was a member of a murderous satanic cult. And so was the woman. She was not horrified, but angry.

  • "Father" McCarthy
  • Before we leave the answers to questions part, we have come across the answer posed to a question in an earlier instalment of this series and that is - who decided that the investigating police team would work out of the murder scene? From Justine Ford's book, The Good Cop (p102), a biography of ex Snr-Sgt Ron Iddles, we find the answer. It was Snr-Sgt Brian McCarthy, who was the head of the four man investigating team assigned to Maria's murder.

    There are two odd things about this. McCarthy's name has not surfaced previously in all the reading I have done regarding this murder investigation. Why is that? Another invisible character. Another odd thing about Brian McCarthy is that apparently Ron Iddles used to call him "Father McCarthy"! (The Good Cop p85)

    Also from Ford's book we learn that the head of the Homicide Squad, Paul Delianis, spent as much time as he could at the murder scene - a 'hands-on' bloke, it seems. Delianis was promoted a few months later to Detective Superintendent and again a few months after that to Assistant Commissioner. This curious pattern of promotions for officers following failure to solve cases or uncover wrong-doing in internal investigations (such as Operation Achilles) has been noted before.

  • The Course Ahead
  • We can expect continued stonewalling from the government, the police and the legal fraternity. In July last year (2017), we were told by the police that all the exhibits from the Maria James murder case would be retested for DNA that might belong to the killer. Results would be available by October. It is now, at time of writing, May 2018 and we haven't heard a peep about it. Quelle surprise!

    The Victorian Coroner has ruled that she cannot re-open the Maria James Coronial Inquiry because the rewritten law in 2008 covering coronial inquiries does not allow her to. It seems the legislation is ambiguous on that point. If it is ambiguous and it has become a point of disputation, then this disputation can only arise if someone raises it. No? So someone in power does not want the inquiry re-opened. It is rather simple. Stonewalling.

    The matter has now gone before the Supreme Court to rule on and we can expect more of the same stonewalling. But something will have to be seen to be done for the public (who do not understand how our society really works and must be kept that way).

    Predicting the future is a dodgy pastime but we do know the goals and the patterns of thinking of the psychopaths in charge behind the scenes from past behaviour. So here goes-

    I think the public will be offered a special inquiry to deal with “these special issues”. The point being that this new style of inquiry will have new rules which will preclude much information and evidence being available to the public i.e. it will be done largely behind closed doors as opposed to the normal practice with coronial inquiries. 'The Powers That Be' and their 'damage control operation' will not be subject to the existing rules of coronial inquiries which are well known and allow for public scrutiny.

    We saw this exact scenario with the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Though it was still called a “Royal Commission” it operated under new and very different rules to previous Royal Commissions. For a start, and most importantly, it was not conducted in public but behind closed doors and what was presented to the public was highly choreographed. It was a piece of theatre.

    We can expect something similar will happen with the Maria James inquiry.

    Then again, the government could simply appoint Coroner Peter White who conducted the coronial inquiry into the death of Phoebe Handsjuk.

  • In Two Murderers Part 1, I wrote the following under the sub-heading “Epilogue and Author's Note”. It bears repeating as we wind up this series. It still applies, more than ever-

    This investigation into the murder of Maria James is far more than a “whodunnit”. Her murder provides the starting point for a whole network of connections between what would, at first, appear very unlikely people. We found a cast of priests, satanists, criminals, judges, politicians and police connected in ways you would not expect.

    Let us start from the outer edges with the innocent but remarkable picture seen above of former detective Ron Iddles with Mark “Chopper” Read. Read was a colourful figure, to say the least. He was sentenced to 14 yrs in prison for mounting a judicial bench while court was in session and holding a shotgun to the head of the presiding judge in an effort to have his friend Jimmy Loughnan released. The judge, Bill Martin, was heard to utter, "Won't someone get this bastard off me?" Loughnan repaid the gesture later by stabbing Read. Nice.

    Loughnan leapt over the wall of Pentridge Prison in 1977 and into the yard of Catholic priest, Sean O'Connell, who helped him to escape. This is the same priest who gave Anthony Bongiorno a false alibi and had personal connections to current church leaders.

    Loughnan moved in the same milieu as Peter Keogh, another local criminal. Keogh was found guilty of stabbing to death another woman in 1987. He was also a suspect in the murder of Maria James at one point and was being questioned again about his alibi when he died apparently of suicide (unusual for a psychopath) in 2001 on Mansfield St; the street between where Maria lived and where Bongiorno and O'Keeffe lived.

    The link goes from Keogh to judges and their criminal offspring, to a coroner and then on to another policeman uttering strange platitudes that circles back to Maria's murder. Two of the judges have links to Bongiorno's court cases in 1995 and one of these also has a connection to his funeral.

    There are connections to two currently alive and very public priests – one very much loved and one very much hated.
    There is a connection to a priest and satanist currently sitting in jail. Victoria Police know all about him. He and his history are in their files, too.

    There are connections to some very dead priests. As well as Thomas O'Keeffe and Anthony Bongiorno, we have convicted paedophiles, Kevin O'Donnell, Victor Rubeo and Peter Searson for starters. These priests were also satanists and police have received statements attesting to their violent behaviour and satanic practices. It's all in the files.

    O'Keeffe and Rubeo have connections to a satanic cult in Ballarat. And it circles back again. Before his death in 2011 on the eve of another court appearance, Victor Rubeo worked part-time (unofficially after having been convicted of paedophilia) at St Paul's parish in Coburg . Sean O'Connell (close friend of Church figures in high places, Bongiorno and other criminals) was still the parish priest at St Paul's in Coburg and officiated at Rubeo's funeral there.

    There are connections with Monsignor Day (serial paedophile) in Mildura and Bishop Mulkearns in Ballarat and the persecution of former policeman, Denis Ryan. Ryan was hounded out of the police force by a group within the Victoria Police back in the 1970's that he called, “The Catholic Mafia”. All this was officially recognised by former Police Commissioner, Mick Miller, and current Police Commissioner Graham Ashton in 2016.

    Denis Ryan wrote a book detailing corruption surrounding the paedophilia within the Catholic Church and the roles of the police and the legal system in allowing it to continue. His book is called, “Unholy Trinity”.

    If this "Catholic Mafia" was still in existence in 1980 and is still in existence in 2017 (and why wouldn't it be?), wouldn't it be a fair question to ask, “Did they compromise the original Maria James investigation and would they have an interest in continuing to compromise the investigation now?”

    There are also senior Victorian politicians, past and present, who have inserted themselves in odd ways into this murder investigation of Maria James.

    The connections seem to spread out forever and then repeatedly circle back again. Not all the connections involve illegal behaviour, of course, but much of it is very odd and often very questionable.

    And at the centre of this extensive and complex maze of corruption is Maria James, a mother who wanted nothing more than to protect her sons and had the courage to do so in the face of great danger.

    By asking her elder son, Mark, to look after his younger brother, Adam, should anything happen to her, did Maria sense that she was up against much more than one short, fat paedophile priest? That she was up against something far larger and far more sinister?

    At the beginning of the TRACE series, journalist Rachael Brown said she had found the case involved far more than police realised. That was certainly true for some police but it seems that this case involves far more than Rachael realised, even then. And much of it was already “in the files” of Victoria Police and had been for many years.

    The story of what actually happened regarding the murder itself is simple enough, but how it has remained officially unsolved for 37 years and counting, is even more labyrinthine, if anything, than before now that we come to the end of the series. There is much information that has not been included in this series of articles in the interests of keeping a sharp focus on the murder and on information that directly pertains to the cover-up.

    What is clear to the writers is that, with the exception of only one person, none of the people connected with this story in any way come out of it smelling like a rose. Even the best have withheld information, which is not a crime but it does affect credibility. As for the rest, their behaviour has at times ranged from mildly misleading to flat out lying.

    The history of Victoria Police corruption, which is extraordinary in scope and consistency over many decades, is just mind-boggling. Co-writer of this series, McJ, did an outstanding job of researching and summarising it in this episode. We have only been able to include a fraction of what was involved and the Byzantine connections. We can say, though, that much of it revolved around the Police Association.

    There is much information about the satanic cult connection to the murder and the Catholic Church that has not been included in this series. Though much is known to this writer and to the police, we have tried to keep our reporting to include only publicly available information in the interests of credibility and to show that an absolutely solid case can be made against O'Keeffe and Bongiorno from publicly available information and regardless of any DNA information. Even though Maria James was killed ritually, the satanism has much more to do with the cover-up than with the reasons leading to her death.

    There is something about Thomas O'Keeffe, Catholic priest, paedophile, satanist and very dead, that scares the hell out of people in high places. Why? The imminent public inclusion of O'Keeffe in the Trace investigation somehow forced Victoria Police out of their obstructionist passive behaviour regarding the ABC investigation into hyper activity. They took over the story with their ridiculous claim of the wrong DNA sample and risking the cover-up becoming a public display.

    The point of that risk being that O'Keeffe's DNA couldn't now be compared to the sample from the crime scene (which is almost certainly O'Keeffe's). Should a future researcher come along with the resources to take this investigation further, this is where I suggest you start, with O'Keeffe and why he scares 'the powers that be'. My guess is that O'Keeffe is some kind of corruption Rosetta Stone. Anyway, that is another story for another time.

    This murder is never going to be publicly acknowledged in all its evil machinations because it goes to the satanic heart of the corrupt system that rules Victoria. This system involves the police, the government, the legal system and that puppet-master hiding in the shadows, the Catholic Church. These groups will be in charge of any future investigation.

    Few working within this nasty system understand it in its totality, I'm sure, but they all do their little bit because it is perceived as all too big and too unbeatable. Or so it appears . . . until the day that it is all exposed - for those that wish to see, that is.

    In the meantime, the stonewalling and the bumbling ad-hoc cover-up will continue.

  • Acknowledgements
  • I would like to pay tribute to Mark and Adam James for your courage and tenacity in continuing to push for an answer to your mother's death. Time and again you have upended your lives over the years in the quest to have some sort of justice for your mother. You have both been so badly betrayed and short-changed by these institutions. May you have your answers officially acknowledged and achieve some measure of peace.

    I would like to acknowledge my fellow blogger here at Winter Patriot, McJ, for all her work with this series. Though I have done much of the writing, McJ has put in months of research and contributed many hours of discussion into the meaning and ramifications of the many facts and connections that she has unearthed. This discussion has not only kept my thinking straight but has supported me in just being able to continue to think at all about this appalling crime.

    It has been soul-crushing work for both of us. But there have been some lighter moments such as the more ridiculous announcements of current and ex officials.

    Remembering Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana's look of 'who me?' at his press conference always brings a smile to my face. Actually, I'm undecided as to whether the look is 'who me?' or whether it is more 'rabbit in the headlights'. Let's hope you don't get run over, Steve.

    And, of course, there is Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton's knee-jerk response to being asked by ABC Radio's Jon Faine about the possibility that the Catholic Church had something to do with The Great DNA Bungle and the missing evidence. "No, it's got nothing to do with the Catholic Church", he instantly fired back, giving the game away!

    Of course, how could he know that the Catholic Church were not involved given that they hadn't conducted an internal investigation into the Great DNA Bungle as yet. Funny.

    It has also been amusing to watch as some dutiful little apparatchik, who had obviously hacked our communications, was following our searches around the interwebs. Whoever it was, was deleting information and putting up firewalls (all too late!) between us and interesting information we had discovered about the Police Association, the Catholic Mafia and its subset, the now defunct Victoria Police Special Branch.

    And to our anonymous commenter/apparatchik who travelled to different public parks in Canberra to transmit his clever comments from, it was fun following you around and we will miss you!

  • Recommended Reading/Listening
  • "Unholy Trinity - The hunt for the paedophile priest Monsignor John Day" (also available on Kindle)
    by Denis Ryan and Peter Hoysted

    "Ballarat's Children" - a podcast series by Peter Hoysted

    "Cardinal - The Rise and Fall of George Pell" by Louise Milligan

    Background reading and ancient history but excellent resources-

    Phoebe's Fall - a podcast series into the strange death of Phoebe Handsjuk and the bizarre police/legal investigation of it by Richard Baker and Michael Bachelard. Same state, same police force, same legal system, same Coroners Court, same same.

    Any of the books and articles by Evan Whitton. These expose the legal system - how it works and for whom. They are available free at the link.

    "Unholy Trinity (yes, another one!) - The Vatican, The Nazis and The Swiss Banks" by Mark Aarons and John Loftus

    "The Decline and Fall of The Roman Church" by Fr Malachi Martin (free download at the link).


    McJ's picture

    Nice wrap up, James!

    Nice wrap up, James!
    And thanks for your kind words. smiling

    I thought I would add this bit from Denis Ryan's book 'Unholy Trinity' for those readers who may have a further interest in the significance of the Victoria Police Special Branch (an intelligence gathering unit within the force) which was disbanded in 1983 with two new units being formed in it’s place, the Operations Intelligence Unit (OIU) and the Counter Terrorist and Explosives Information Section (CTEIS)

    • "[Jack] O’Connor was a detective sergeant in Victoria’s Special Branch, a clandestine group that saw reds under almost every bed. It was pro-Catholic and pro-Vatican, so there wasn’t a Protestant in the place. Special Branch liaised closely with ASIO [Australian Services Intelligence Organization], sharing files and information. It also played an integral part in Australia’s McCarthyite fight against the perceived threat of communism in Victoria. Following the Vatican’s denunciation of communism in Pope Pius XI’s encyclical in 1937, and the establishment of Special Branch in the period immediately after World War II, the branch became a virtual arm of the Catholic Church under the supervision of the archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix".

      Hoysted, Peter. Unholy Trinity (None) (p. 170). Allen & Unwin. Kindle Edition.

    In other words, the Special Branch was spying on the public for the Catholic Church - and no doubt on their political opponents.

    Daniel Mannix

    Thanks and you're every welcome, McJ!

    Great quote! Daniel Mannix was Irish and a hero of Pell's. Pell had a statue of Mannix erected outside St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. Mannix clearly did not understand Jesus' words when facing Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler, "My kingdom is not of this world".

    Mannix strove to become Pilate rather than Jesus and Special Branch was part of that quest. His legacy lives on.

    McJ's picture

    Knowledge is power

    It has been said countless times (first attributed to Francis Bacon in the late 1500's) that knowledge (information) is power. For those readers who may doubt the power and influence of the Catholic Church over the Victoria Police consider that not only did the Catholic Church have the information collected from the confessional and a group of officers dubbed the Catholic Mafia working inside the force for their direct benefit, in 1980 they had a powerful, basically unregulateed arm of the Victoria Police (the Special Branch) collecting information for them. This would have given them extraordinary power. It is no mystery as to why in 1982 the newly elected Cain Labour Government wanted to get rid of the Special Branch.

    Hugh Selby

    Another lighter moment was provided by reading some correspondence between Ombudsman Perry and Mr Hugh Selby, former head of the Police Complaints Authority.

    Mr Selby had no confidence in Perry's abilities or his independence from the Police Association. So he decided to not provide evidence of conspiracy between senior policemen to Perry's Inquiry.

    Perry wrote back with a pompous and vacuous letter that only a trained lawyer could write. Mr Selby's short and pithy response was a delight to read. The correspondence is included below-

    upload photos to internet
    file image uploader

    Beautiful! Thank you, Mr Selby, for your incisive wit and your integrity.

    Indeed, Hugh Selby's reservations about Perry's abilities appeared to be borne out during the inquiry into Special Branch moving around (and hiding) files that were supposed to have been destroyed. When refuting a charge of conspiracy between policemen, Mick Miller, Paul Delianus and Ron Anstee, Ombudsman Perry pointed out that because Miller had an "unblemished record", his refutation of a conspiracy must be true and because the other two said exactly the same thing, this was evidence that there could not be a conspiracy between them . . . . .

    Fixing the foundations of corruption

    As was noted towards the end of the article, most of the serious corruption within Victoria Police has historically revolved around the Police Association (PA). One of the reasons is that it is the PA that funds police officers when they are brought before the courts. The provision of legal defence funds is not automatic but is at the discretion of the management of the PA.

    So police officers, whether corrupt or not, have to make sure they do not make themselves an enemy of the PA in case they should ever need those funds themselves. And it is not too hard for corrupt cops to set up a bogus charge. That is quite a lever for the corrupt to have over the non-corrupt within the force. The Beach Inquiry made all this clear forty years ago; two years before Maria was killed.

    For any change for the better to be effective, the PA needs to be radically reformed/restructured and not just by swapping the faces in charge.

    But even if this were to happen, there remains the more fundamental problem of the legal system. It is a dysfunctional Adversarial system which underpins all systemic corruption in our society. It is extraordinarily effective in protecting (for a price) wealthy criminals or criminals with access to major funds such as the PA has. These PA funds are even subsidised by the government.

    An interesting and brief summary of the history and workings of the Adversarial System as opposed to the far more effective Inquisitorial System of Europe can be accessed and downloaded here-

    The author, Evan Whitton, is a veteran Australian journalist and legal author and researcher and I recommend his books on the subject.

    McJ's picture

    Power of Victoria Police Association

    This is an excerpt from a transcript of a 2007 Four Corners investigation into the Victoria Police Association titled 'The Culture'. It focused on the power the Police Association was able to wield over it's members and the undue influence it wielded on policing in Victoria.

    "LIZ JACKSON: The Beach Board of inquiry was the first major inquiry into allegations of corruption in Victoria Police. It ran for 15 months, called over 200 witnesses, and in its final report made adverse findings against 55 officers, including conspiracy to give false evidence to the inquiry itself. The Police Association went on the attack. The union called a massive rally of over 4,000 members, and in a move that rattled the government of the day, they threatened to strike. The rest of this history is proudly recorded on the Association's website as follows: "Beach's proposals were never implemented, and none of the police named by Beach were convicted. It was a turning point for the Association, as it had never before exerted so much political influence, and it marked the beginning of a new militant phase." Ten years after Beach, the State Government set up an independent Police Complaints Authority. It only lasted two years - the Police Association fought back.

    DR IAN FRECKELTON (POLICE COMPLAINTS AUTHORITY 1986-88) They just indulged in outright obstructionism and antagonism.

    LIZ JACKSON: What sort of obstruction?

    IAN FRECKLETON: They lobbied strongly in the media against every effort that the Authority made to investigate. They lobbied behind the scenes in relation to the powers that the Authority had and was to have, and ultimately they lobbied very strongly for the closing down of the Authority, and they were successful.

    GRAHAM ASHTON: I'm sure they see their role as being fierce advocates for the police, and that if any wrongdoing is alleged against any of their members that it's a slight on the entire force, and all the members of the force that that's made. I think that's the viewpoint they come from. But when they attack every anti-corruption effort and every effort by the police to maintain ethical standards, when all those efforts are attacked in a public way, that really is an obstacle to progress in maintaining ethical standards.

    LIZ JACKSON: Senior Sergeant Janet Mitchell graduated from the Police Academy in 1984. She was voted onto the Police Association Executive in 1998. She didn't fit the usual mould. She was the only woman, and she was not a former member of a crime squad. The most dominant members then and now were graduates of the old Armed Robbery Squad. And why do you think that was?

    SEN SGT JANET MITCHELL: Well, I think that some of them historically had received assistance from the Association, and it was their way of repaying time to the Association, probably in gratitude for the assistance they received themselves.

    JACKSON: You mean, when they were perhaps charged with various kinds of criminal offences, they got money through the legal Cost Fund, and in a sense owed the Association for that kind of support?

    JANET MITCHELL: Well, it may have been that they had been charged, it may have been that they were the subject of discipline matters, or it might have been industrial advice.

    LIZ JACKSON: The overwhelming majority of police officers of all ranks in Victoria are members of their union - around 98%. A major reason is that union membership gives police access to the Association's legal Cost Fund, set up in the wake of the Beach Inquiry to pay the lawyers' fees for police who get in strife. The legal Cost Fund now has assets of around $14 million. Doug Potter was a uniformed officer for 17 years, and served on the Association board. He's now a lawyer.

    DOUG POTTER (FORMER POLICE ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE): Having worked in uniform and having been a detective throughout my career, it was often said by people, "The only reason they were a member of the Police Association was because of the Cost Funding, the legal Cost Funding," So that if someone did make a complaint and you ended up before the courts, you would have that protection.

    LIZ JACKSON: But access to the union's Cost Fund depends on meeting certain criteria. A member must be deemed to be acting in good faith while on duty, or only charged because they're a police officer. And it's Police Association executives who decide who fits. Explain to people outside the system, how significant is it to get funding?

    JANET MITCHELL: Oh, it's life and death. It can be, it can be a person going to jail for 15 years, losing their job, potentially losing their family, to being found not guilty and retaining their position, retaining their job, what they've loved and worked for, for all of their life.

    LIZ JACKSON: There's no published information available as to who gets funded, and for how much. Not even to police whose union subs pay the legal costs of those found guilty, or to the taxpayers of Victoria whose money is used to reimburse the union for those who are acquitted."


    "JANET MITCHELL: Well, I was particularly concerned about who selected members to participate in Cost Funds, and it used to be done in a very ad hoc way, people would be telephoned and asked to go on certain Cost Fund hearings, and I remember having a conversation with an office bearer about that ring-around, and even though someone who is doing the ring-around might've had a conflict of interest because they were friends of the person who was applying for funding, that they were still making the decision on who to select. And I said things that, I remember saying that decisions or processes as subtle as those really have to be spelt out, we really have to get down to some process, so that the members can look at what we do and say, "Look, OK, there is a process here, it's not just people putting their mates on a committee, not loading a committee with certain favourable people who will make the right decision." You know, to move away from that perception, and I know that that perception has existed.

    LIZ JACKSON: A perception that, in a sense, mates might get a better deal in terms of who was selected as to whether or not they'd get funding?


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