Kevin Victor GORE
A brief inquest heard Robert had been running with some very dangerous men before he went missing, chief among them Johnny Regan, known as 'The Magician' for his ability to make people disappear.
He had also been associating with another nasty piece of work by the name of Kevin Victor Gore, head of a gang called the 'Toe Cutters' who preyed on fellow crooks.
Almost as notorious during the era were the Toe Cutters, who along with Gore included brothers William Andrew 'Billy' Maloney and John Patrick 'Jake' Maloney and Linus Patrick 'The Pom' Driscoll - perhaps the worst of them all.
Underworld rumour has it that his captors cut off several of Blair's toes and put a blowtorch to his testicles before he disclosed the location of his booty and died of his wounds.
Enter The Magician - born Stewart John Regan - who seems to have used the unfortunate Robert Donnelly to get close to Gore and the Mayne Nickless money.
Neddy Smith had knocked around the streets of Redfern with Donnelly when they were children and did not see him as a real criminal, as he recounted in Catch And Kill Your Own.
'Robert Donnelly was a very close friend of mine and had been since early childhood,' Smith wrote. 'We started kindergarten together and went through what little school we did together.
'Robert was not really a thief in the proper sense of the word. Sure, he would steal little things and later, just before he was murdered, he started working with a team of professional shoplifters. But he was not the normal criminal or thief.
'He didn't know how to do the wrong thing and would rather cut his hand off than do anyone a bad turn. That's just the way he was and he never changed.'
Smith, who would become one of Australia's leading gangsters in the 1980s, was horrified when he learnt in early 1972 that Donnelly had begun associating with Regan and Gore.
Donnelly wrote to Smith shortly before his disappearance to tell him about his new friends while his old school mate was serving a sentence for rape at Grafton jail.
'I put pen to paper and wrote to him straightaway to try to warn him of the danger he was in by being in the company of these two low-lifes,' Smith wrote.
Robert Donnelly borrowed Kevin Gore's car from his house at Rose Bay in Sydney's eastern suburbs on May 1, 1972. He was never seen again.
Gore was the leader of a gang called the Toe Cutters, who had been hunting the three Melbourne robbers who snatched $587,890 from a Mayne Nickless van in Sydney in 1970.
The Toe Cutters had tortured and killed robber Frank 'Baldy' Blair for his share of the Mayne Nickless money.
Donnelly might have been murdered by Melbourne hitmen who mistook him for Gore.
Gangster Neddy Smith believes the psychopathic criminal Johnny Regan killed Donnelly to get closer to Gore, who disappeared two days later. Gore was last seen with Regan and his body has never been found.
Police suspected Regan was either hired by Melbourne criminals to murder Gore, or was acting on his own to steal back from the Toe Cutters.
Police at the time suspected Regan was either hired by Melbourne Dockers to catch and kill Gore, or was acting on his own to steal back from the Toe Cutters.
Donnelly, who was working with Gore in a shoplifting gang separate from the Toe Cutters, might have been used by Regan to get close to their leader so he could kill him.
But the 28-year-old Donnelly, who was living alone at Bondi at the time of his disappearance, might also have been the victim of a simple case of mistaken identity.
Donnelly had borrowed Gore's 1970 Ford Fairlane from his house in Rose Bay on the evening of May 1, 1972, with the intention of returning it the following morning.
The crew of Melbourne hitmen who were targeting Gore may have spotted the Fairlane and assumed the man behind the wheel was Gore, when it was actually Donnelly.
He was never seen alive again.
Smith was told Regan flagged down Donnelly for a lift, killed him and dumped the body in the sea.
Two days later Regan and Gore met at an office criminal Neville Biber kept at Paddington. The pair left together with Gore telling Biber he would be back in half an hour.
Gore was never seen alive again. Like Donnelly, his body has never been found.
On May 7 the Ford Fairlane was located burnt out in Osroy Avenue, Earlwood with a .38 rimless cartridge case inside the vehicle.
Four days after that police received an anonymous tip-off that William Gordon 'The Stockman' Johnston had torched the car.