Bikies’ bad blood boils after assassination bid
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.