Mr Asia – the real inside story
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.