Bikies’ bad blood boils af­ter as­sas­si­na­tion bid

The West Australian - - NEWS - Gabrielle Knowles Chief Crime Re­porter

The drive-by shoot­ing on a sub­ur­ban street was a clear sign that the feud be­tween the Rebels and Co­manchero gangs was heat­ing up.

As a 53-year-old Rebels as­so­ciate rode home from a meet­ing, an un­marked SUV with a blue flash­ing light sig­nalled for him to pull over.

Used to po­lice at­ten­tion on any­one linked to a bikie gang, the mo­tor­cy­clist likely had no sense of the im­pend­ing dan­ger that Tues­day evening last month in Cal­ista. But in­stead of of­fi­cers step­ping out to ques­tion him, he in­stead found him­self star­ing down the bar­rel of a gun.

As the un­known as­sailants sped away, nearby res­i­dents alerted by the gun­shots found the man lay­ing in a pool of blood, lucky to sur­vive bul­lets that pierced his stom­ach and arm.

Po­lice say the failed as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt was an es­ca­la­tion of the stoush, which had pre­vi­ously been char­ac­terised by overnight fire­bomb­ings at tat­too par­lours and shots fired at a Rebels bikie’s house.

“The fire­bomb­ings and the shoot­ing in Warn­bro didn’t have that in­tent to in­jure, whereas the na­ture of this crime took it up a notch,” Det-Insp. Mark Twamley said. “There was plan­ning and thought gone into it.” The in­ci­dent also in­ten­si­fied the risk to pub­lic safety as op­posed to some of the bash­ings that hap­pened out of the pub­lic eye and went un­re­ported to po­lice.

Though what has sparked the hos­til­ity is un­clear for the sim­ple rea­son that bikies refuse to speak to po­lice, ten­sions were in­flamed in June last year when at least seven Rebels sud­denly de­fected to the Co­mancheros — the move con­sid­ered to be a se­ri­ous breach of the bikie code.

The roots of the feud may also be traced back three years to a bash­ing at a Dar­win nightspot.

High-pro­file Vic­to­rian Co­manchero boss Mick Mur­ray — ru­moured to then be the gang’s na­tional leader — was hol­i­day­ing from Mel­bourne when he re­port­edly copped a hid­ing from some Rebels bikies.

What fol­lowed were tit-for-tat bash­ings, fire­bomb­ings and shoot­ings that quickly spread across the coun­try. Det-Insp. Twamley said the Co­mancheros were known across Aus­tralia to be quite “vi­cious” and most States where they had a pres­ence were manag­ing fric­tion be­tween them and other gangs.

Po­lice be­lieve the cur­rent dis­pute here is mostly linked to lo­cal ar­gu­ments over turf and drug sup­ply chains, with DetInsp. Twamley de­scrib­ing the gangs as crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions mo­ti­vated by money and power.

“When peo­ple patch over they take their dis­tri­bu­tion net­works with them, their con­tacts and their il­licit ac­tiv­i­ties,” he ex­plained.

“Some out­law mo­tor­cy­cle gangs think they own a par­tic­u­lar geo­graph­i­cal area and no one can op­er­ate a tat­too shop in their patch with­out them giv­ing ap­proval to do so.

“Some of (the busi­nesses) are owned by as­so­ciates of dif­fer­ent groups, some of them have to pay pro­tec­tion money.

“There were a num­ber of in­ci­dents that were re­lated . . . and also what might start as a dis­pute be­tween a cou­ple of fel­las over a tat­too shop open­ing up or some­thing, sud­denly turns into fric­tions be­tween the two groups as a whole.

“They all have rules that they back each other up and sup­port each other in dis­putes.”

Ten­sions might also be linked to the power plays within the Co­manchero gang since sev­eral se­nior mem­bers were jailed in 2015 over an ex­tor­tion racket on a North­bridge karaoke bar.

The WA branch was left in tat­ters and there have been con­tin­u­ing strug­gles as other men at­tempted to take con­trol.

What­ever the rea­sons for the lo­cal stoush po­lice are work­ing hard to keep a lid on the hos­til­i­ties, raid­ing homes and other prop­er­ties linked to the gangs and their as­so­ciates and stop­ping those seen out on the roads.

Det-Insp. Twamley warned young men who be­lieved bikie gangs of­fered a glam­orous life­style to think again, claim­ing many of those re­cently ar­rested were ju­nior mem­bers or as­so­ciates who were or­dered to hold on to firearms and drugs for oth­ers. “These hi­er­ar­chies are man­aged by ma­ture crim­i­nals who prey on young im­pres­sion­able blokes to do their dirty work,” he said.

“They’re the ones who are go­ing to go to jail while the more se­nior mem­bers make the money but dis­tance them­selves from the il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.”

Out­law mo­tor­cy­cle gang ex­pert Mark Lauchs, a Queens­land Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor, said while gangs might be di­rect­ing their vi­o­lence at each other, there had been nu­mer­ous in­ci­dents around the coun­try where in­no­cent peo­ple had been caught in the cross­fire and in­jured or killed.

He said there were more pub­lic shoot­ings and fire­bomb­ings by bikies than ter­ror­ists in Aus­tralia so the chances of be­com­ing col­lat­eral dam­age of bikie vi­o­lence was more likely.

“These aren’t guys who keep up-to-date data­bases, it’s quite reg­u­lar in Syd­ney and the ACT for them to shoot the wrong house be­cause the guy they’re tar­get­ing used to live there,” Pro­fes­sor Lauchs said. “They go to the wrong street or a com­pletely in­no­cent per­son is rent­ing a house owned by a bikie.”

He said it was im­por­tant that States in­tro­duced uni­form tough laws to help au­thor­i­ties, with ev­i­dence bikies moved to wher­ever it was eas­ier to op­er­ate. Pro­fes­sor Lauchs said some of the big play­ers in Queens­land

had moved out of the State be­cause of laws that banned gang mem­bers from as­so­ci­at­ing with each other, re­cruit­ing or hav­ing club­houses.

In con­trast, gangs had been mov­ing into Can­berra and vi­o­lence had in­creased be­cause of a lack of laws, he said.

WA At­tor­ney-Gen­eral John Quigley said NSW-style an­ti­con­sort­ing laws that would ban peo­ple with con­vic­tions from con­sort­ing with each other were be­ing drafted.

More than 300 of the State’s known 560 “patched” bikies could be hit by the tough laws be­cause they have been con­victed in WA of crimes that carry penal­ties of more than five years in jail.

Leg­is­la­tion for firearm pro­hi­bi­tion or­ders is also still be­ing drafted more than two years af­ter the WA Law Re­form Com­mis­sion rec­om­mended they be given the green light.

The laws, which are used in NSW and other States, would en­able the Po­lice Com­mis­sioner to ban any­one “rea­son­ably sus­pected” of pos­ing a threat to the com­mu­nity from hold­ing a gun li­cence or from liv­ing in a house where guns are stored.

Po­lice would also have the power to en­ter the home, car or work­place of a pro­hib­ited per­son at any time to search for il­le­gal guns, with­out the need for a war­rant. Po­lice Min­is­ter Michelle Roberts said she ex­pected to be able to in­tro­duce the leg­is­la­tion early next year.

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