Looking back one more time I smiled at Sandra and Roy before being led handcuffed through the courtroom doors. I’d been sentenced to five years imprisonment with parole set for nine months, and I was ready to get this part of my life over so I could move on.
The Fitzgerald Inquiry
It was a series of articles in the Courier Mail newspaper that heralded the beginning of the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
The articles focused on high-level police corruption in Queensland. In particular, investigating prostitution and gambling which led to a Four Corners (ABC) television report called The Moonlight State which aired on the 11th May 1987.
The Inquiry was predicted to take only six weeks but instead dragged on for two years. Once the trickle of information started filtering through the extent of corruption rose to the surface implicating well-known figures including the police commissioner, Terry Lewis, who was stripped of his knighthood and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.
The Four Corners program was aired two weeks after the birth of Ryan, our second son. Ryan completed our happy family, and his arrival provided a welcome relief to the stresses that were to follow over the next two years.
Initially, I wasn’t concerned at all about the program, and neither was Jack Herbert (the bagman) or the other police I had contact. Jack Herbert told me “they’ll probably want you to make a statement but just deny it all.”
Sandra’s parents would spend around four weeks with us every year during the Christmas and New Year period. Up until this point, they believed that I was a Property Developer but it was now time to come clean with them; and what a good job we did.
When they arrived Christmas 1987 the shit hit the fan.
One morning while we were all going about our usual, relaxed morning routines, we heard a cavalcade of cars thundering down our long driveway. We didn’t have time to think when 16 police officers charged into the house flashing search warrants.
I’d been warned of this visit so I immediately told Sandra to take the boys and her parents out while I dealt with the mob that was now flying through the house.
They went through every room looking through suitcases, pulling things out of cupboards and draws, but they seemed more interested in digging up the chicken pen. Watching them scrambling through the dirt, and chicken poo amused the shit out of me.
When they’d finished with searching the house, they took me down to the Southport Police Station for questioning. Sandra and her dad came to pick me up later in the day.
When I hopped in the car, Sandra said: “do you know that they left your diary and a stash of money on the bedroom lounge?”
I couldn’t believe this news – in their haste to get me to the Gold Coast for my ‘interrogation’ they forget to take the most valuable catch of the day…my diary. They’d obviously found the diary, and a large amount of cash but some idiot had forgotten to collect them when they left.
It was hilarious…they’d spent hours raiding my house and digging through chicken shit. They’d no doubt found my diary; a treasure trove of names, telephone numbers and amounts of money I’d paid Jack Herbert each month. This information could have fast forwarded the entire Inquiry, but the sheer stupidity of the coppers had them walking away with nothing.
Once I was back home, I ripped all the pages out of the diary and burnt them in the incinerator. The next day I received a phone call: “we left your diary, can you bring it to the station as soon as possible?”
There was only one obvious response to this question – “what diary?”
Herbert Takes Flight
Soon after the raid, Jack Herbert and his wife hightailed it to the UK ending our relationship. I was still keeping in close contact with Peter Le Gros, who was also a part of ‘The Joke.’
Eventually, Jack Herbert was tracked down in the UK and flown back to face charges. Now back in Australia Herbert decided to spill his guts and made a statement revealing names and how the corruption money was distributed.
All payments from me ceased around May 1987 and other than in the early stages, before Herbert absconded to the UK, I’d no further contact or communication with him. Peter Le Gros was now my main contact.
Le Gros and I had regular meetings either in our cars or at the beach. I was still prepared not to drag his name into the fray. Once Herbert had made his statement things started to move forward quickly, and I was called up to appear in front of Tony Fitzgerald and his offsiders.
There was no point in denying that Herbert and I had a connection, but I had decided to act as though I didn’t know he was a policeman.
“What did you think when Mr Herbert came to see you in your Southport premises asking for money?” Tony Fitzgerald asked. “I thought he was a criminal,” I said, with what I hoped was a blank face.
After that first statement, I decided to take my family out of the Gold Coast, and we moved up to the serenity of Airlie Beach; it was January 1989.
More and more names were dragged out into the open as the Fitzgerald Inquiry escalated. My determination to remain staunch was starting to frustrate Sandra. At this stage, I hadn’t revealed any details of my relationship with the coppers. To save my marriage, I relented and contacted my lawyer to say I was ready to make a statement.
I was the last person to give a proper and full statement so I was a bit late in trying to cut a deal. In the end, we agreed to a five-year sentence with a nine-month minimum.
Return To Tamborine Mountain
Bored now with the laid-back Airlie Beach lifestyle we packed up and headed south to Noosa. I bought a Real Estate Agency (to this day I have no idea why.) After a couple of months in Noosa, we packed up again and headed North to Cairns.
It was getting close to my court appearance so after five weeks in Cairns we drove back to Tamborine Mountain, Sandra phoned her parents asking them to come and stay with her while I was ‘doing time.’
A sense of peace and certainty, (which we hadn’t enjoyed for nearly two years,) descended on our house; Sandra and I both now knew what we were facing and could soon put all this behind us.
It was the beginning of the end; I now needed to prepare to head off to jail.
I hope you enjoyed this blog. The Fitzgerald saga and my time in prison, doing it ‘my way,’ will be out next week.
Thanks for reading and until next week…see ya later mate 😀