Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Underbelly the second

The next few years in the late 80's saw us have to babysit a parade of undesirables.  If they were given protection because they were informing on other crooks it was something we could stomach but in several cases we were required to look after people involved in the murders of policemen.

In 1986 whilst I was still with the PSG [Protective Security Groups] a bomb went off in Russell Street outside the major city police station.  At the time we had no idea whether it was terrorist related but it certainly seemed to be aimed at the police force.  The bomb was in a car that was parked outside the main police communications centre.

It was timed to go off at lunch time and on almost any day of the week the street was crowded with police, the public and lawyers milling around outside the Melbourne Magistrates Court which was across the road.   This day, however, was Easter Thursday and the courts had been in wind down mode for the Easter Holidays so there were only a couple of people in the vicinity of the bomb as it went off.  One of those was Angela Taylor, a young police constable who had her clothes blown off with the force of the blast and who survived, her skin blackened and falling off, only to pass away in hospital around a month later.

Our office was around 150 meters from the blast but that day I was away on holidays and driving with my family down to Lakes Entrance in eastern Victoria.  My sister Deb was on duty that day and she was sitting in an office on the first floor of the building when the bomb went off blowing her off her seat and sowering her with glass.  I heard the news on the radio that a policewoman was seriously injured and it wasn't until late that night that I was able to find out that it wasn't my sister.

It turned out not to be terrorism, it was conducted by a group of crooks whose aim was to disrupt police communications so that they could commit some armed robberies in the northern suburbs.

The investigating police eventually were able to make some connections to the perpetrators based on forensic evidence from the remains of the car but in the end it was evidence given by Paul Hetzel that helped to put them away.

Hetzel lived for years in the witness protection program and we looked after him for the time in the lead up to the trial.   This was different to the Tizzone job.   This time a police woman had been murdered, a colleague and it could have been anyone of us.

We moved around a lot.  In one suburban safe house on a few acres of land there was a large shed at the rear of the property.  I remember one of the guys, nicknamed "Vegie" cobbled together bits and pieces of junk and came up with something resembling a machine gun which he mounted on a tripod aimed at the back of the house the witness was in.  It didn't last long because the braid at the time took a grim view of it and the witness nearly shat himself one morning when he stuck his head out the back door.

Before I move on a little more about Vegie who thought he was called that because as a red head he had a carrot top.  Truth is it had more to do with some of the things he said that earnt him the name.  One day we were driving along a country road when he said, "There's a lot of those new breed of horses around."

We bit and asked him what he was talking and he said the Caution Horse breed.  Then he explained that he'd seen a sign on the back of every horse float we'd passed "Caution Horses."

We also moved at one time down to a diary farm near Koo Wee Rup.  As with some of the other places we stayed at, the witness got the house and we had to make use of the sheds on the properties.   Another colleague who I shall call TT was a horrible snorer and as such he was put on permanent night shift so that the rest of us could get more sleep. 

Now we weren't the only occupants of these sheds and on this farm our constant companions were Huntsman spiders.

One day one of the guys came rushing into the shed and said "Quick, come and have a look at this."

So we all followed him quietly into the shed where TT was blissfully and loudly snoring.   On his face, moving up and down to the rhythym of his snoring was one of the largest huntsman I have ever seen.   Did we wake him I can hear you ask? 

Nope, we stifled our laughter and backed out thinking that finally he had found something that enjoyed his snoring.

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