THE QUIET MAN
HE KEPT HIS MOUTH SHUT FOR A REASON
TWENTY years after they’d started high school, the class of ’82 came home to Cobram to celebrate the milestone. They gathered in their favourite pub to talk old times.
Before the event they filled in a questionnaire for a reunion booklet. Among the questions was, “What’s the best advice or motto to live by?”. Most of the answers were forgettable but one would stick in people’s minds.
It came from a tall, athletic man that former classmates recalled as a quiet, skinny kid at school.
Now he was a policeman — a drug squad detective — and it showed. Gym work had filled out the lean frame. Years of carrying badge and gun and telling people what to do had rubbed away the country-boy shyness to expose something harder underneath.
He wore his long hair in a pigtail, rode a motorbike and talked with an insider’s offhand assurance about the drug busts he did in the big smoke.
When the completed questionnaire came around his classmates saw that he had written, “Deny, deny, deny. Demand proof”.
The following year, his former classmates would recall that strange “advice” when he was arrested on charges that landed him in jail.
Had he been playing “bad cop” to show off back in a home town where he had never cut much of a dash? Or subconsciously steeling himself for what every bent police officer must fear — the day the sky falls in.
The tall man’s name was David Anthony Miechel.
COPS can fall further and harder than Dave Miechel — ask Roger Rogerson — but not many have. Even Paul Higgins, a detective sergeant notorious for taking huge bribes from illegal brothels and drug dealers, got seven years with a minimum of five after a marathon investigation and a trial that cost millions.
Wayne Strawhorn, a former senior sergeant charged with serious corruption in 2003, was sentenced to a minimum four years.
Miechel was never as notorious as Higgins or Strawhorn. But by the time he gets out in the new year, he will have served more time than those two put together: close to 12 years of a maximum 15.
That is the same time served by the rogue detective Colin Creed, who was originally sentenced to a total 21 years — with another 24 served concurrently — for a rape and a string of robberies in the early 1980s.
Some people do less time for homicide than Miechel has for the bungled burglary from a “drug house” under police surveillance.
The reason for the long sentence seems obvious: he stayed silent, resisting overtures to tell all he knows of connections between certain underworld figures and certain corrupt police.
He might have halved his jail time by “co-operating”.
Whether his silence is honour among thieves or something more sinister is hard to tell, but it has attracted grudging admiration from some former colleagues.
“He is admired by the scallywag element in the police department,” says one ex-detective who knows that fringe group.
Doing jail time is never easy — but it can be extra hard.
As an ex-policeman, Miechel is a pariah in the prison hierarchy, which puts cops just above child molesters. According to his lawyers, other prisoners have spat on him, abused him and, if given the chance, would have harmed him. The sort of treatment that would make most prisoners cut a deal.
“I think I would have thrown that
card on the table,” says the former detective. “You’d have to think something is ticking over.” He’s suggesting Miechel might be on a promise of reward or threatened with retribution, or both: carrot and stick.
All of which raises the spectre of Paul Dale, the former detective sergeant whose name has loomed over Miechel since it all went wrong on Grand Final day, 2003.
That Saturday evening, September 27, as the Brisbane Lions celebrated their third straight flag, two men met to do “a job”. One was Miechel. The other was Terry Hodson, an Englishborn carpenter turned Aussie crook.
Two years earlier, in August 2001, Miechel, then a detective in his 12th year as a policeman, had laid drugtrafficking charges against Hodson’s daughter, Mandy.
Hodson was a bad man but a good father, desperate to help his daughter. If that meant informing on other criminals — or paying bribes — he would. Within weeks, he was a registered police informer.
Hodson’s relationship with his handlers soon became dangerously tangled. Miechel was engaged to a schoolteacher but had started a secret affair with Mandy in late 2002.
Meanwhile, the young cop and the old crook pooled their drug scene knowledge to steal drugs and cash — and Miechel may not have been the only policeman “in the joke”.
Miechel has never said so but Hodson would later insist that Dale was meant to join them that night, pulling out at the last minute.
That allegation, if backed up with other evidence, might have been enough to put Dale in jail but it died along with Hodson just months later.
But back in 2002 and early 2003, Hodson and Miechel were “running hot”. A cocaine trafficker later told
Herald Sun crime reporter Mark Buttler that Hodson stood over him for money while Miechel was his handler. It seemed Hodson had a what bent cops call “a green light” to do as he liked.
“I was arrested with some coke supplied by Hodson. Miechel stole cash from my premises that day.”
It seems clear Miechel was one of a corrupt circle that “sold out” police cases so that crooks could pay to stay out of jail. The only question was how big the circle was.
Carl Williams, drug dealer and murderer, would later tell investigators he had paid $10,000 to get pictures and a video removed from a police brief against a dealer. The exhibits were later found in Miechel’s home, Williams said.
That allegation doesn’t surprise a former detective who chanced against Miechel in the 1990s. The detective, who had worked on big drug cases, was stationed in Melbourne’s inner north when he and his partner arrested a Richmond drug user who promptly “sold out” his dealer to them.
“This dealer worked out in the gym all day and dealt drugs at night, mostly in the gay scene,” the former detective says. “When we raided him he kept saying ‘I can’t go to jail, I can’t go to jail’. He lived in a luxurious two-storey converted warehouse in Collingwood.”
When the detectives searched the house, they found a backpack sitting by the back door leading into the lane. In it was $50,000 cash, apparently ready to hand to someone higher up the criminal food chain in return for wholesale drugs.
As luck had it, the dealer had no drugs at the house. As for the $50,000, he later told a court it was from bets he and his uncle had made. The arresting detectives found the drug dealer had been investigated by a young drug squad detective, David Miechel. But when they asked Miechel to make a statement about the dealer’s activities, he refused. He said he was “too busy” to get involved — but turned up at the dealer’s court hearing, noticeably flustered.
“He (Miechel) was sweating and agitated and I said straight away, ‘He’s getting paid by this bloke and he’s worried in case the crook rolls over’,” recalls the former detective.
But the dealer beat the charges and he didn’t implicate Miechel or others in dirty deals. The next time the angry and suspicious detectives heard Miechel’s name was when he was arrested on Grand Final night in 2003. Then it all made sense.
ABBY Haynes moved into 23 Dublin St, Oakleigh early in September 2003. She put her dogs in the house and a pill press on a trailer in the carport. She didn’t know the drug squad was already setting up a surveillance post in the house behind hers and had gathered enough evidence of large-scale drug dealing to plan a raid for Sunday, September 28.
Miechel had volunteered to swap the surveillance tapes that Saturday. On the way to Oakleigh from Essendon he dropped into Dale’s house in Coburg. That evening he returned to Oakleigh by motorcycle. Police knew that Abby Haynes was going out — and that there was probably a huge amount of drugs and cash in the house.
By chance, neighbours saw two men on the porch after dark and called police when they heard breaking glass.
Two dog handlers turned up as well as a divvy van. One dog grabbed Hodson but Miechel made a run for it and climbed a tree, calling “I’m in the job, I’m in the job”. It didn’t help. And when he hit the dog, the handler hit him with a torch. When he hit the handler, the dog tore a chunk out of his buttocks.
Miechel yelled then but kept quiet afterwards — apart from claiming he had just dropped in to check the surveillance post when the dog attacked him.
But a jury didn’t believe him; one reason being that bags of drugs worth $1.3 million found thrown over the back fence had his DNA on them.
Hodson immediately started telling investigators damning details about his handlers, Dale and Miechel.
Within hours, a police file exposing Hodson as a long-time informer was stolen from the drug squad and leaked to the underworld, which conveniently guaranteed plenty of potential suspects if something happened to him.
Which, of course, it did eight months later, when Hodson and his wife were shot dead, kneeling in their living room in Kew. After that, there was no one to testify against Dale … unless Miechel rolled over, and he never did.
NO one who went to school with Dave Miechel picked him as a future policeman, let alone a bent one. Locals recall him as a wiry youngster helping his father, Phil, a blacksmith who could weld farm machinery, strip a wreck, cut down a tree or build a fence. One neighbour recalls getting father and son to bring down a tree in his yard. Young David climbed it to cut down the limbs before they felled the trunk.
His agility, strength and willingness probably helped him get into the police force — but his luck ran out when he joined the drug squad and fell under the influence of others and the spell of easy money.
By the time Miechel was arrested with Hodson, he had surely been “taxing” crooks for drugs and money for years. Only a defence lawyer would suggest straight-faced that the Dublin St debacle was the first and only rip-off the corrupt crew had pulled. Apart from stealing precursor chemicals ready to make drugs worth millions, there were huge cash bribes to be had.
If there is a cache of drugs and money somewhere, does that explain Miechel’s deafening silence?
The temptation to cut down his sentence by giving up other corrupt cops must have been huge. But he stayed “staunch”.
Some time in the coming months, the quiet man will step out of a prison, maybe at Ararat, where he has spent the past few years. Or it might be a low-security jail. But his release will probably be between midnight and dawn to make it hard for anyone outside his family to anticipate. After that, he will try to rebuild his life. It won’t be easy. His contacts and his sources of income should be of great interest to the force he belonged to until greed, in the shape of a police dog, came back to bite him on the bum.
No matter how many regrets Miechel has, he is alive. Unlike Terry Hodson and Carl Williams, who died terrible deaths because of what they knew — and what they said. In David Miechel’s case, people will always wonder if his silence is golden. firstname.lastname@example.org
Miechel was sweating and agitated and I said straight away, ‘He’s getting paid by this bloke, he’s worried in case (he) rolls over’ A FORMER DRUG SQUAD COLLEAGUE
house. attheOakleigh stashfound Partofthedrugs DAVIDMIECHEL
COLIN CREED ROGER ROGERS ON WAYNE STRAWHORN CHRISTINEAND TERENCEHODSON