Don Mackay’s in­for­mant named

The mafia thought it had a rat in its ranks who tipped off the cam­paigner. It was wrong

The Weekend Australian - - INQUIRER - TOM GILLING

For more than four decades it has re­mained a mys­tery: who told Don Mackay about the Grif­fith mafia’s huge mar­i­juana crops?

On No­vem­ber 10, 1975, the day be­fore the dis­missal of Gough Whit­lam’s La­bor gov­ern­ment, po­lice act­ing on a tip-off from Mackay en­tered a prop­erty at Coleam­bally, 60km from Grif­fith, and dis­cov­ered what was then the big­gest mar­i­juana plan­ta­tion found in NSW. They ar­rested three men. Worse, for the mafia god­fa­thers who had planned and fi­nanced the crop, they seized $50 mil­lion worth of mar­i­juana.

Many sus­pected a mafia rat had given Mackay, an anti-drugs cam­paigner and aspir­ing politi­cian, the in­for­ma­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Terry Jones, then ed­i­tor of The Area News in Grif­fith, the god­fa­thers — among them “Aussie Bob” Trim­bole and lo­cal wine­maker An­to­nio “Win­ery Tony” Sergi — be­lieved it too, es­pe­cially af­ter po­lice found an­other crop at nearby Eus­ton. Two-thirds of the Eus­ton crop had been har­vested by the time po­lice ar­rived but it was an­other fi­nan­cial hit bit­terly re­sented by the ’Ndrangheta, or Cal­abrian mafia.

“Af­ter the Coleam­bally raid, Trim­bole thought there was a snitch,” says Jones. “That was the trig­ger for him to call a meet­ing where they de­cided to have Don killed.” Mackay’s in­creas­ingly out­spo­ken at­tacks against the drug grow­ers made him an ob­vi­ous tar­get for ret­ri­bu­tion, he says, but the les­son also would have been meant for the un­known ’Ndrangheta rat sus­pected of hav­ing given him the in­for­ma­tion.

Since the morn­ing of Sat­ur­day, July 16, 1977, when he picked up the phone to hear his friend-Mackay had been shot, and prob­a­bly mur­dered, in the carpark of the Grif­fith Ho­tel, Jones has been chas­ing down clues to the killing.

As a prom­i­nent ci­ti­zen in town, he was on speak­ing terms with the god­fa­thers who or­dered Mackay’s killing and with lo­cal de­tec­tives who turned a blind eye. He re­ported on the bod­ies of mafia snitches pulled out of the river. Like ev­ery­one with an in­ter­est in one of Aus­tralia’s most no­to­ri­ous mur­ders, he was dis­ap­pointed, if not sur­prised, by last week’s news that Mackay’s killer, hit­man James Fred­er­ick Bazley, had taken his se­crets to the grave. Bazley would not have known who told Mackay about the Coleam­bally crop, but Jones does, and he now has spo­ken about it for the first time. Mackay’s source was not an ’Ndrangheta snitch but a lo­cal agri­cul­tural pi­lot.

“A young woman, Linda Humphries, went miss­ing two weeks be­fore the Coleam­bally drug bust,” Jones tells In­quirer. “She had just got mar­ried and it was thought she might have stum­bled on a drug crop while driv­ing around look­ing for work. Po­lice found her car and asked lo­cal crop dusters to keep an eye out for Linda. Jimmy Dar­byshire was search­ing for Linda when he flew over the Coleam­bally plan­ta­tion. Jim knew what he was look­ing at and told Don. It’s pos­si­ble he may even have taken Don for a flight.”

Since then, the iden­tity of Mackay’s in­for­mant has been known only among a “very close cir­cle” of friends of the Mackay and Dar­byshire fam­i­lies, all of whom kept it se­cret out of fear of reprisals against Jim and his wife, Pat. Now that both Dar­byshires are dead, Jones has de­cided it is time to break his si­lence.

“The aw­ful thing is that part of the rea­son the mafia wanted Don killed is be­cause they feared hav­ing a rat in their ranks. You’ve got to re­mem­ber that while the Coleam­bally trial was go­ing on, the po­lice found a big cannabis crop at Eus­ton. They thought Don might have given that up, too, but he didn’t. If they had known about Jim, they might have taken him out rather than Don.”

Jones’s rev­e­la­tions come as civic lead­ers strug­gle to play down the town’s mafia links, with Grif­fith mayor John Dal Broi say­ing the peo­ple of Grif­fith would like “clo­sure on this ter­ri­ble blot on the com­mu­nity” and declar­ing “a new gen­er­a­tion has emerged since Don was mur­dered”. But Jones points to ev­i­dence cannabis grow­ing is still big busi­ness in Grif­fith. In No­vem­ber 2015 two lo­cal men, Pasquale Sergi, 50, and Save­rio Ci­ampa, 52, were jailed for in­volve­ment in a cannabis crop at Crowther, north of Young, worth about $5.5m.

An­other Grif­fith man, Mar­cello Casella, whose fam­ily’s wine­mak­ing busi­ness, Casella Fam­ily Brands, has been val­ued at $1.5 bil­lion, pleaded guilty to know­ingly con­ceal­ing a se­ri­ous in­dictable of­fence by fail­ing to tell po­lice about the Crowther crop, de­spite hav­ing vis­ited the prop­erty three times. Casella, who is ap­peal­ing his six-month jail sen­tence, had pre­vi­ously been sen­tenced to five years’ jail for a $57m cannabis crop in Queens­land.

In an­other case with Grif­fith con­nec­tions, for­mer pub­lic ser­vant David East­man has pleaded not guilty in the ACT Supreme Court to the 1989 mur­der of Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner Colin Winch­ester.

In 1981, Winch­ester, then a su­per­in­ten­dent, sanc­tioned a cannabis plan­ta­tion at Bun­gen­dore in NSW, os­ten­si­bly for the pur­pose of get­ting in­for­ma­tion linked to Mackay’s mur­der. Af­ter be­ing stopped with more than 90kg of Bun­gen­dore mar­i­juana in his car, Gian­franco Tiz­zoni rolled over to po­lice and told them Bazley had mur­dered Mackay on the or­ders of the Grif­fith mob.

Jones says he be­lieves Mackay’s body was thrown in the Mur­ray River and will never be found, but he has not given up hope that one day the truth about his friend will be known.

Don Mackay

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