Mr Asia – the real in­side story

Central Leader - - News -

I don’t want to be a wit­ness when tragedies are triv­i­alised for money-mak­ing en­ter­tain­ment.

So, no, I’m not watch­ing the Mr Asia TV spe­cial.

The TV3 full-page ad: “The true story about a small-time New Zealand crim who went on to be­come the big­gest crime lord in Aus­tralia. How’s that for Kiwi in­ge­nu­ity” just sick­ened me.

In­ge­nu­ity? Homi­ci­dal, sadis­tic, to­tally without con­science, a vi­cious crim­i­nal who mur­dered or had killed at least six as­so­ci­ates – one sur­vivor es­ti­mates 12 dead.

He also de­stroyed the lives of hun­dreds of New Zealan­ders with his heroin and other drugs, and left fam­i­lies mourn­ing loved ones from the com­mu­nity I shared.

Dead sons, miss­ing without trace or phys­i­cally and men­tally crip­pled by the ad­dic­tions he made a for­tune from, some still liv­ing un­der the false names given to pro­tect them be­cause they talked nearly 30 years ago. And daugh­ters se­duced into beat­ing Cus­toms car­ry­ing drugs, ex­ploited sex­u­ally and beaten when they failed.

I re­mem­ber the pain of the mother of one of Terry Clark’s vic­tims, cling­ing to hope. “Why do you say my daugh­ter is dead?” I couldn’t tell her that beau­ti­ful girl had been a drug courier, that we knew how she died and who mur­dered her.

I know the truth about Clark, hav­ing led the team that re­vealed the syn­di­cate and pur­sued it for more than a year un­til it self-de­struc­ted through its own vi­o­lence.

Clark took out a con­tract on me – $30,000 and flights from Syd­ney to have me killed, like Aus­tralian anti-drugs cam­paigner Don­ald Mackay, mur­dered in Grif­fith two years be­fore. He was never found, the only clues were car­tridge cases in a carpark. My hit­man never ar­rived. In 1980 I wrote the book The Mr Asia File while Clark was await­ing trial for the mur­der of the real Mr Asia, Martin John­stone. He car­ried a copy in court in Eng­land.

The se­ries, rid­dled with fic­tion and omis­sions, drew mil­lions of view­ers in Aus­tralia and will here too, while ad­ver­tis­ers will ped­dle their wares dur­ing it.

But my mem­o­ries of the syn­di­cate and its vic­tims are too raw.

Like the then anony­mous woman’s voice on the phone the night the Star pub­lished our first find­ings – hav­ing coined the Mr Asia la­bel for John­stone. Her warn­ing: “You have made a se­ri­ous er­ror of judge­ment. Martin will not be pleased.”

My re­ply: “I never doubted the per­son we’re point­ing to was not go­ing to like it.”

Then there was overnight tam­per­ing with my car, try­ing to in­jure or kill my wife and chil­dren, the calls nam­ing my sons as po­ten­tial vic­tims, a break-in – switch­ing the deepfreeze off to rot just to let us know they’d been, and the lawyer who waved a bag of Star clip­pings at one re­porter say­ing: “We’re watch­ing you lot.”

Those clip­pings were next seen when UK po­lice searched John­stone’s lug­gage af­ter his mur­der.

My crit­i­cisms have sup­port from an un­likely source, de­scribed as “the high­est rank­ing Mr Asia syn­di­cate mem­ber still alive”. See­ing the se­ries in Aus­tralia he damned it.

The Do­min­ion Post quotes him on a se­ries se­quence of Clark be­ing beaten by ri­vals: “If that had hap­pened to Terry or me, we would have killed them. We’d have gone around and shot them.”

You don’t have to con­vince me.

He says Clark – the man writ­ers have de­scribed as “suave, charis­matic and per­son­able” – de­vel­oped a taste for mur­der and “lost it” af­ter tak­ing too many drugs. “I can put him down to about a dozen (mur­ders).”

About the script: “The only thing they got right are the names.” Not even that.

Terry Clark – alias Alex- an­der Sin­clair – was not Mr Asia. I know, be­cause our dis­grun­tled Star team dreamed up that la­bel for John­stone when the com­pany bar­ris­ter ruled against us nam­ing him – de­spite our ev­i­dence.

Marty to his mates – de­scribed him­self as Martin C John­stone Esq on the busi­ness card I’ve still got. “Esquire” was his co­de­name. He was based in Sin­ga­pore. So, to us and our read­ers, he be­came “Mr Asia”. The name lived on – he didn’t.

Then, there’s the TV se­quence when one of Clark’s women strips and rolls on a pile of money spilled on to their bed. Our po­lice source at the time would say wrong time, place and even mis­tress. With the help the TV crew is re­ported to have had, why choose to get it so wrong, revil­ing the wrong per­son with some­one else’s gang­ster moll­style mo­ment?

The name po­lice gave us years ago wouldn’t sur­prise any­one. If you go to UK po­lice files – and even some here – you could track down Clark’s own pho­tos of the in­ci­dent.

I won’t name vic­tims or low-level Clark fol­low­ers. Why be­gin the tor­ment again for par­ents who see their chil­dren vil­i­fied, as if their orig­i­nal grief was not enough, or re­brand some­one stupid in the past but who has re­ha­bil­i­tated them­selves since?

I don’t worry about the con­sciences of lawyers who bent the law for the syn­di­cate – those jailed and/or struck off. Oth­ers did nicely off the le­gal work that fol­lowed. And I re­mem­ber who took their wigs and flew to Lon­don try­ing to ar­range a de­fence of the in­de­fen­si­ble af­ter Clark’s mur­der of John­stone.

If you watch to the last episode, you may be in­ter­ested in this re­con­struc­tion I first pub­lished in The Mr Asia File.

In 1979 in the build-up to John­stone’s mur­der in Novem­ber I be­gan get­ting calls from Peter Miller, a Kiwi in a Fre­man­tle jail af­ter drug runs from Thai­land. Picked up af­ter one run to Perth, he tried an­other while on bail but po­lice ar­rested him.

He was a for­mer “busi­ness part­ner” of John­stone’s in front com­pa­nies la­belled the Mill­tone group – from the names Miller and John­stone. We knew him from our files.

With years to run on his sen­tence he would blow the whis­tle in re­turn for serv­ing his time in New Zealand. He would only talk to the Star, and when Mur­ray Wil­liams and I flew to Perth, he signed a state­ment con­firm­ing that.

Later, af­ter John­stone’s killing, Mur­ray flew to Sin­ga­pore, gath­er­ing ev­i­dence on his op­er­a­tions, pho­tos and that busi­ness card.

When we gave Miller’s doc­u­ment to New Zealand drug po­lice – whose su­pe­ri­ors had re­fused them tick­ets to Perth – they be­gan pre­par­ing an ar­rest war­rant on John­stone. They planned to bring him home to trial. Miller was the star wit­ness.

That’s when years of bribes to crooked Aus­tralian drug po­lice paid off for Clark. While in Perth, I spoke to highly-placed nar­cotics bureau con­tacts, brief­ing them on the Miller plan. Mis­take.

When the facts hit the com­puter they were leaked to Clark in Bri­tain. Know­ing he couldn’t de­pend on John­stone’s loy­alty, and fear­ing he would do a deal, Clark called him to Bri­tain, mur­dered him, chopped off his hands in case fin­ger­prints would iden­tify him, and dumped the body where he be­lieved it would never be found.

But divers found the body in a flooded Chor­ley quarry and de­tec­tives went call­ing on Clark and his real mis­tress. See if that’s in the se­ries.

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