Mel­bourne’s gang war has thrown up an odd se­cret agent, a de­fence lawyer and po­lice in­former, writes An­drew Rule

The Sunday Times - - NEWS -

IN the un­der­world, se­crets that don’t stay se­cret can get you killed, or locked up for a long time. Yet cun­ning crim­i­nals who would hardly trust their moth­ers, let alone po­lice or other crooks, mostly trust lawyers the way church­go­ers used to trust priests.

They are suck­ers for con­fi­den­tial­ity be­cause it’s so rare in their dog-eat-dog world.

An ex­am­ple. Lewis Mo­ran, the late un­der­world fig­ure fa­tally close to the heart of the un­der­world war, once told a lawyer he knew ex­actly who had killed the gang­land gun­man Dino Di­bra. He also knew why.

In­trigued, the lawyer asked the feared old-time crook why he was so sure he had the an­swer to a mur­der that po­lice had not been able to crack.

“Be­cause I killed him,” Mo­ran replied as if he were talk­ing about a park­ing ticket.

It was sim­ple, Mo­ran ex­plained: killing the vi­o­lent Di­bra (at Sun­shine in Oc­to­ber 2000) was pay­back for the mur­der of his step­son Mark Mo­ran out­side his Aber­feldie home ex­actly four months ear­lier. An eye for an eye, a bul­let for a bul­let.

The lawyer didn’t doubt the story. Still doesn’t. He was prob­a­bly the only per­son alive that Mo­ran would trust with a mur­der con­fes­sion, which had come up in a con­ver­sa­tion about po­lice and me­dia the­o­ries that Carl Wil­liams “pulled the trig­ger” on Mark Mo­ran.

The Di­bra story was an­other se­cret “in the vault”. The lawyer told no one un­til long af­ter Mo­ran was shot dead by a hit­man at the bar of the Brunswick Club in 2004. As a le­gal ad­vo­cate, he wasn’t big on pro­pri­ety, but con­fi­den­tial­ity al­ways mat­tered — which ex­plains why ly­ing, cheat­ing crooks trust some lawyers with truths they won’t tell any­one else.

At least, that’s the way it was un­til Lawyer X torched the rule­book with a string of be­tray­als that some peo­ple guessed at long be­fore the news of her be­ing a dou­ble agent fil­tered through po­lice and le­gal cir­cles to the un­der­world.

“I could never work out why I lost clients to her,” says one vet­eran bar­ris­ter. “Maybe I couldn’t give the same ser­vice.”

“I never trusted her,” a re­tired crim­i­nal lawyer said flatly this week.

Nei­ther did well-known “gang­land lawyer” Zarah Garde-Wil­son, the quiet achiever who has spent the last week ex­plain­ing to anx­ious rel­a­tives and oth­ers out­side the le­gal bub­ble that, no, she is not Lawyer X.

In fact, dur­ing the gang­land war Garde-Wil­son warned peo­ple not to trust Lawyer X. Garde-Wil­son, as care­ful and con­sid­ered as Lawyer X was out­spo­ken, says her pro­fes­sional ri­val hated her “be­cause I told peo­ple she was a po­lice in­former”.

Garde-Wil­son’s shrewd de­duc­tion prob­a­bly ex­plains why Carl Wil­liams de­scribed Lawyer X as a “dog” (in­former) be­fore it was com­mon knowl­edge, not that it helped him once he de­cided to do some in­form­ing of his own in jail.

The han­dling of Wil­liams af­ter his ar­rest in 2004 tells us some­thing about what led po­lice to “turn” a crim­i­nal lawyer into an in­former: a be­lief at po­lice head­quar­ters that des­per­ate and dan­ger­ous times re­quire dras­tic reme­dies, a fact eas­ily over­looked in hind­sight.

In Jan­uary 2009, the Her­ald Sun re­ported that po­lice had se­cretly ar­ranged to give Carl Wil­liams — drug dealer and con­victed mur­derer — an eight-day “Christ­mas hol­i­day” away from his high-se­cu­rity cell at Bar­won Prison.

The story, by chief po­lice re­porter Mark But­tler, im­plied Wil­liams was re­pay­ing the favours with in­for­ma­tion — notably about the ex­e­cu­tion of Terry and Chris­tine Hod­son at Kew in 2004, a crime that struck at the heart of law en­force­ment.

It was clear that po­lice com­mand be­lieved it was worth the risk of be­ing seen to hu­mour a con­victed killer be­cause, in such a high-stakes case, the ends can jus­tify the means.

If the po­lice brains trust thought it nec­es­sary to shout Wil­liams a beach hol­i­day with his fa­ther, also a pris­oner (there were even ru­mours of pros­ti­tutes hired to sweeten the deal) it fol­lows the same au­thor­i­ties would horse-trade with a mav­er­ick lawyer will­ing to sell out her crim­i­nal cronies and con­tacts, if not clients.

Af­ter all, po­lice had got into bed be­fore with crim­i­nals and their con­sorts in pur­suit of a higher pur­pose. In a pre­vi­ous cri­sis — the doomed at­tempt to solve the “Walsh Street mur­ders” of two young po­lice­men — un­happy de­tec­tives were or­dered to sneak a key Crown wit­ness, Wendy Peirce, to a Bal­larat night­club and cheap mo­tel so she could “pick up” be­cause she was bored with wit­ness pro­tec­tion.

Then there was the strange case, much ear­lier, where po­lice spir­ited a dan­ger­ous pris­oner out of prison for a night with his wife, who was des­per­ate to cover up the fact she was newly preg­nant to an­other man and was scared the hus­band would harm her if he twigged he wasn’t the baby’s fa­ther. The po­lice were keen to keep the woman alive and “on side” and so they set up the elab­o­rate li­ai­son.

Sex played a part in both those sto­ries and so it was with Lawyer X, alias reg­is­tered in­former 3838. She could just as eas­ily have been dubbed Lawyer X-rated.

Sala­cious sto­ries are like wa­ter — they trickle down from high places to low. Well-in­formed le­gal in­sid­ers have for years heard the whis­pers about the con­vent girl they now say be­came the ul­ti­mate love rat, the Mata Hari of the Mel­bourne Bar, among other bars.

Hid­den in the tan­gled story of clients, cronies, bent cops and hard crims is the fact that Lawyer X the barstool pi­geon gath­ered some in­trigu­ing in­for­ma­tion in the bed­room.

At least one of her bed­mates must have been puz­zled be­cause it is hard to hide a record­ing de­vice when you’re as naked as a rat­tlesnake. Later, the lover must have re­alised he’d been sleep­ing with the en­emy.

But it might never have oc­curred to him that the “bug” trans­mit­ting the event was hid­den in a hair clip art­fully mod­i­fied by tech­ni­cians. A ploy straight from James Bond.

There are a mil­lion sto­ries in the naked city and now that is one of them. But the sup­posed de­tails of in­former 3838’s bed­room an­tics on ei­ther side of the law do not throw much light on her mo­ti­va­tion.

Why would she play such a dan­ger­ous game? One tempt­ing an­swer is that she could: she rel­ished a “chess game” in which the pieces were real peo­ple and the stakes were life-chang­ing, even life-end­ing. But this idea of a strate­gic “ge­nius” amus­ing her­self might be glam­or­is­ing a more sor­did re­al­ity.

Some­where in a long and ex­pen­sive royal com­mis­sion, var­i­ous things might emerge. Among them, per­haps, ev­i­dence that Lawyer X — a mid­dling ju­nior bar­ris­ter — was in some ways just an­other in­former, a flawed and com­pro­mised char­ac­ter will­ing to spy for po­lice and be­tray “friends” to save her own neck.

Her weak­ness for bad com­pany showed up early. One ver­sion of events is that it went back to her univer­sity days, when her house­mates were ar­rested in raids that could have ru­ined her le­gal ca­reer be­fore it even started, had she not avoided be­ing charged.

Then there is the story, cir­cu­lat­ing le­gal and po­lice cir­cles, that she was recorded in a con­ver­sa­tion with a drug dealer and a bent po­lice­man that ef­fec­tively made her a party to a con­spir­acy. That record­ing, some lawyers sug­gest, meant she could be made an of­fer she couldn’t refuse.

Wise crim­i­nal lawyers steer clear of their clients out­side court. But not all crim­i­nal lawyers are wise. Some, like Lawyer X, have felt com­pelled to have their fin­gers in many pies.

When Lawyer X was an ar­ti­cled clerk with a re­spected law firm, she wanted to earn more. That’s why she sold pies at the MCG on game days. One of her fel­low pie sell­ers, a law stu­dent, re­calls her strangely bel­liger­ent at­ti­tude.

“What was she like? She was large and loud and an­gry.”

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