Gilles Jaques MATTAINI
Gilles (right) with partner Jacques Musy
Bondi’s memorial to gay and transgender hate crime victims
Gilles Jaques Mattaini was a 27-year-old French national. He was last seen walking near Mark's Park in Sydney's East in 1985.
See also Ross WARREN
12 August 2005
Police Seek Missing Man (Missing since 1985)
NSW Police from Operation Taradale are appealing for information from the public in relation to the disappearance of a French national in 1985. The 27-year-old Bondi resident, Gilles Mattaini, was last seen in September of 1985. Detective Sergeant Steve Page said investigators were keen to piece together the last known movements of Mr Mattaini. Investigators from Taradale have been investigating a number of serious assaults committed near Marks Park at Tamarama during the late 1980s. "At this time we are trying to determine if the disappearance of Mr Mattaini can be linked to any of the other disappearances or assaults in the area," Det Sgt Page said. "I urge anyone with information about Mr Mattaini's disappearance to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. As always callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and a reward of up to $1000 is payable for information which leads to an arrest", Det Sgt Page said. Mr Mattaini has been described as being of white/European appearance, 170cm tall, between 55 and 60 kgs, clean-shaven and with collar length brown hair.
If not for the persistent letter-writing of a mother wanting answers about her son's disappearance, and the dedication of one detective reopening a cold case, the truth of Sydney's brutal cliff-top gay murders might never have emerged.
As then Detective Sergeant Stephen Page delved into the disappearance of the WIN Television newsreader Ross Warren in July 1989, he unearthed evidence of police investigative ineptitude.
He forensically dissected the activities of hate-filled gangs of teenagers - boys and girls - who as a pack bashed, robbed, and murdered men at known gay beats in Marks Park, Tamarama, and in Alexandria and Randwick.
Mr Warren's suspected disappearance at Marks Park was the tip of an iceberg. By the time Mr Page finished his investigation, another file had been reopened, that of John Russell, 31, a barman, found dead at the foot of the Marks Park cliff in November 1989.
And following a police re-enactment in which a dummy was thrown over the cliff, another name emerged: Gilles Mattaini, a 27-year-old Frenchman missing since 1985 and last seen on a regular walk which would take him across Marks Park.
The later investigation of Mr Russell's death was "inadequate and naive", she said. It was "disgraceful" that vital forensic material - a tuft of hair in Mr Russell's hand - had been lost. At the time, police closed the cases, saying both men died by misadventure.
Ms Milledge said "persons of interest" who appeared before the inquest - some of whom had served sentences for the murders of other gay men at eastern suburbs beats - might have been involved in the Russell and Warren murders. However, there was insufficient evidence to make a finding against any person.
"The wealth of evidence gathered by Detective Page and his team, however, will provide an excellent source of evidence should other matters come to light
... I cannot make recommendations to change community attitudes towards homosexuals or for homosexuals to abandon the use of beats.
"All I can do is urge communities ... to regard any victimisation of a gay man or lesbian as completely abhorrent and not to be tolerated."
Ms Milledge mentioned Ted and Peter Russell, the father and brother of John Russell, who had attended the inquest every day and heard "awful" evidence of violence and hate. "Mrs Warren never lost sight of her son as a valuable and important person who deserved better," she said.
The case had shown police at their worst, but in Sergeant Page they had been shown at their best. "I don't think anyone will ever follow in your footsteps," she said.
Ms Milledge will recommend that the Police Commissioner award a commendation.
Outside the court, Mr Page, who has left the service, said "I think if we'd managed it a lot better back then, we wouldn't have been giving evidence before a coroner.
"It would have been before a jury and we would have had true finalisation for the families."
Investigative TV journalism at its best.
Read an edited transcript of an interview between Chris Masters and former NSW detective Sergeant Stephen Page.
In 2001, NSW detective sergeant Stephen Page began Operation Taradale, a police investigation into a series of violent assaults and deaths of homosexual men in Sydney’s eastern suburbs in the late 1980s. In March 2005, handing down her findings after conducting an inquest into these deaths, the Senior Deputy State Coroner, Jacqueline Milledge praised Stephen Page – who has since left the police force - for his work, describing it as a shining example of how police investigations should be conducted, and recommended the former officer for official police commendation.
Q. So Steve, can you describe the beat scene in Sydney, as it existed in the late 80s early 90s?
S. With beats, they’re as unique as the gay men who go there. You have some beats that may be truck stops that will cater for truck drivers. You’ll also have the beats just as probably a lot of us know, toilet blocks which is a meeting point out of the public view. Also parks, opens spaces and it’s basically word of mouth that beats exist, and once they get their hold in the gay community, it can be pretty hard to shake that stigma. Gays will keep going to that place with the intention of getting sex.
Q. So what’s the profile of the participants? Are these typical Oxford Street gays?
S. No. Oxford Street gays will go to Oxford Street, meet their partners and carry on with life. What you’ll have is people who perhaps don’t want to be known as homosexual and they want to remain anonymous and they will go to beats. The attraction with beats, you’ve got anonymity. It’s free and there’s no long-term ties with whom you meet.
Q. So do the people who go to these beats, do they see themselves as gay necessarily?
S. You’ll get gay men going to gay beats but you’ll also get bisexual men going to gay beats. You’ll have other people such as - the term that we’ve used is in the closet. They don’t want to be known in the community as gay and they will also go there. Beats are known within the gay community where they go to pick up the less overt members of the gay community.
Q. So these are men that have very much crossed over? They may well have appeared to be perfectly heterosexual in another life?
S. Well and truly.
Q. How risky was it?
S. It was very risky. The period I was looking at was late 1980s. There was a lot of violence towards gays back in that era. There was a lot of phobia against gays back in that time. In the mid 1980s it was still an offence for men to have homosexual intercourse with other men and you also had the hysteria of AIDS when it first came out. And, if everyone can remember the Grim Reaper ads and the repercussions that sent through society, there was a lot of fear and loathing of gays at that time.
Q. Was there also danger from within the gay community? I mean, when they had sexual contact with one another, were they also at risk?
S. There were risks of violence with your partner. What we’ve got to remember is that adrenalin was running pretty high amongst the partners and if things didn’t go one way or the other you know violence could happen. One partner could flair up and strike out. I certainly became aware of violence upon gays at the beats I looked at.
Q. So they were fearful of gay bashers, of groups of young white men who would take them on? Also, they were fearful of running into a partner who, for one reason or another, might want to take it out on them, and they were fearful clearly of the police?
Q. So tell me about the range of murders. I mean Wayne Tonks was murdered in May 1990, but before and since there were quite a few others. Can you set the scene for us?
S. We had one fellow, Richard Johnson, who was bashed to death at Alexandria Park. There was another fellow also who was bashed at Alexandria Park - made it home and subsequently died and had complained of being bashed and he was a member of the gay community. We had a Thai national in 1990 – he was bashed at Mark’s Park and subsequently fell to his death over a cliff. We’ve had two other murders of John Russell and Ross Warren again at Mark’s Park, where they’ve met their death purely because they were gay, and there’s another five or six that I could run you through, plus the other attempted murders that I’ve come across.
Q. So did you feel at the time that there was any likelihood that the perpetrators were much the same? That this was a gang operating or a series of gangs?
S. I came to the conclusion there was a series of gangs and to some degree there was crossovers between the gangs. The gangs weren’t static. They were mobile. They wouldn't just hit one beat, they’d be aware of all of them and they’d travel around until they were cashed up sufficiently to satisfy their needs and move on.
Q. Is there a typical motivation? Is there a particular reason why they were doing this?
S. There’s many motivators that I came across. What we had that I did see was pure greed. What we had were gangs of youths who just wanted to get some money. They saw the gays as being people who were reasonably well off in society. They hit them at a gay beat and they knew that they would be unlikely to report those offences to the police so they could literally get away with those crimes. You also had people who as children had been victims of paedophiles and had a misguided hatred of paedophiles directed towards gays, and they would strike out at anyone who they believed was remotely connected to what they were affected with.
Q. And perhaps in some circumstances even fear and loathing about their own sexuality, taking it out on, on gay men?
S. Well and truly yes. These were very, very violent offences. I’ve seen a number of underworld killings and they’re clinical. They’re businesslike where someone is shot and we move away. These bashings seemed to be more pleasure orientated. There’d be a lot of violence involved and to some extent a lot of torture of the victims.
Q. They were cruel?
S. Very cruel.
Q. Can you give us a bit more detail of what happened to Richard Johnson?
S. Richard Johnson was a gay man who was lured to a gay beat at Alexandria Park. There he was met by eight youths and he was punched and kicked until he was dead. A very violent, bloody death.
Q. And what contact did Wayne Tonks have with any of those perpetrators?
S. He was a schoolteacher where the majority of them went to school. They knew him.
Q. And they went back to school after they’d been charged?
Q. So he had regular contact with them?
Q. It must have been considered at the time that was a clue that was too hard to ignore considering Wayne Tonks’ later death.
S. That’s right.
Q. But as it turned out they were unrelated.
Q. You mentioned the Grim Reaper ad. Was there much understanding of the differentiation of contracting the AIDS virus through different forms of sex? I mean set the scene if you would a little bit to explain the hysteria that existed at that time.
S. At that time there was an understanding that the people who were most affected by the AIDS virus were members of the gay community getting the virus through unsafe sex and because they were potential carriers of the disease, everyone was trying to keep them at arms distance.
Q. So this was another excuse if you like to go after them?
Q. What about this differentiation between homosexuality and paedophilia. Were the lines also blurred there?
S. They were blurred to the offenders. With my enquiries you’ve got paedophiles and you’ve got homosexuals. You don’t tend to have a crossover, but there was a misguided hatred between some of the offenders that if you had sex, consensual sex between men, you were still a deviate and still suffered their wrath.
Q. Steve I know this enquiry occupied a great deal of your life. You conducted a very thorough examination. Do you think that attitudes have changed since these murders occurred?
S. Yeah well and truly. Mid-1980s it was an offence for gay men to have sex and I know with the first Mardi Gras the police marched into it swinging batons and I think these days they march in the Mardi Gras twirling batons. Society’s come a long way since then.
Q. So how prominent was gay bashing at this time?
S. It was very prominent. Gay beats had victims seen as easy targets. Offenders would walk away cashed up and numerous people have called it the sport of the 80s. I’d probably lengthen it and call it the team sport of the 80s because there were no brave people in amongst that. They were all cowards and they would all act as a group.
Q. Thanks very much Steve.
Coroner criticises police investigation into gay men's deaths
PM - Wednesday, 9 March , 2005 18:39:34
Reporter: David Mark - ABC
MARK COLVIN: An investigation stretching back 20 years had an ending of sorts today, when the Deputy New South Wales Coroner handed down her findings into the deaths of three gay men in Sydney.
The three men died or went missing in the mid to late 1980s from a well-known gay haunt in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs.
The cases were all investigated, inadequately according to the Coroner, and quickly forgotten.
But in a story that could come from the files of a television "cold case" program, a New South Wales policeman who wanted to know the truth re-opened the cases a decade later.
David Mark reports.
DAVID MARK: The late 1980s and early '90s were a dangerous time to be gay in Sydney.
Gay hate crimes were prolific around Sydney's inner city and eastern suburbs.
At least seven people were murdered, while others were brutally attacked in a violent spree dating from 1985 to 1990.
While some people were arrested and prosecuted, many of the crimes went unsolved.
STEPHEN PAGE: Gay bashing was seen as a sport, particularly for young single men, predominantly of Caucasian background. And it appeared with a lot of them that they couldn't differentiate the difference between paedophiles and homosexuals.
DAVID MARK: Detective Sergeant Stephen Page of Paddington Police began investigating one of those unsolved cases in 2000 when a letter came across his desk.
STEPHEN PAGE: Kay Warren, the mother of Ross Warren, had written numerous letters to the police service asking that an inquest be held into her son's death. One came across my desk, and I could sense the hopelessness in Kay Warren's words that she was using, and I felt for her.
She was a mother who'd lost her son. She didn't have the opportunity of burying her son. There was no body. And I wanted to help her by giving her a little bit of closure.
DAVID MARK: Stephen Page saw a link between the disappearance of Ross Warren in 1989 and the death four months later of another man at a known gay beat near Sydney's Bondi Beach.
STEPHEN PAGE: With Ross Warren he was a 25-year old man. He was homosexual, and he met his demise at Mark's Park at Tamarama. Four months later we had the death of another fellow by the name of John Russell, who was 31 years of age, also homosexual. And taking into account that both people met their demise at their location, taking into account victimology – both victims were homosexual men attending a gay beat. And there's the history of violence towards gay men back in that era. I just couldn't exclude the possibility that we had the potential for serial offenders.
DAVID MARK: And so in 2003 he presented a comprehensive dossier to the New South Wales Deputy Coroner Jacqueline Milledge. Two 11-year-old cases were being reopened and a third was soon added.
Gilles Jaques Mattaini was a 27-year-old French national and a homosexual who also went missing. He was last seen walking near Mark's Park in 1985.
One factor linked all the cases, apart from the victims' homosexuality and the location of their death or disappearance – they were all poorly investigated by police at the time.
Here's Stephen Page on the Ross Warren investigation – one the Deputy Coroner has described as grossly inadequate, naive and shameful.
STEPHEN PAGE: There was no crime scene photographs. There was no… there appeared to be no canvassing of witnesses. There were no witness statements. From my point of view it was almost as if the offence happened yesterday.
DAVID MARK: The Deputy Coroner's findings were handed down today.
Jacqueline Milledge found that Ross Warren and John Russel had been murdered and while she did find Giles Mattaini had died, she couldn't say how.
And she's launched a scathing attack on the New South Wales Police force for not only their handling of the investigations but also for the way the attitudes of some police alienated members of the gay community.
CORONER'S FINDING EXTRACT: It wouldn't be unreasonable for the gay community to believe that as a group they don't warrant proper police attention. It's hard for the New South Wales Police force to be seen as progressive and equitable when some officers fail in their duty to the community they're meant to serve.
DAVID MARK: Stephen Page has retired from the police, but was on hand at the Coroner's court this morning to hear her findings and was delighted.
STEPHEN PAGE: I'm extremely pleased with the findings, and also the opinion that the Coroner's put forward at the time of findings.
What we had, basically, was cowardly acts by groups of young men going out and bashing gays for no other reason than it being a sport and to chase money. You know, they're not mainstream society. They're people that should be despised.
DAVID MARK: Do you believe there will come a time when people are prosecuted for these crimes?
STEPHEN PAGE: It's not beyond the realms of possibility. I've been involved in matters before which have been cold for many many years, and then all of a sudden a witness comes out of the blue and we can just keep our fingers crossed.
MARK COLVIN: Former New South Wales Police detective sergeant, Stephen Page, ending David Mark's report
Following please find the Coroner's Report into Gilles' death -
InQuest into the death of.fohn Alan RUSSELL
InQuests into the susoected deaths of Ross Bradlev WARREN &
Gilles JacQues MATTAINI
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
On Thursday 23 November 1989, the body of John Alan Russell was discovered
lying on rocks below the very popular Bondi to Tamarama walking path. The area
where Mr Russell was found is known as 'Marks Park'. It was also known to be a
'gay beat' frequented by men intending to meet other men for casual sex.
Mr Russell was 31 years of age and homosexual. He resided with his brother Peter at
Bondi. He was hard working, engaged in two jobs and had the support of a loving
and committed family. He was excited about his plans to build a 'kit home' on his
father's farm at Wollombi near Cessnock, funded by a substantial inheritance form his
grandfather. He also intended to use some of that money to travel around Australia.
The night before his death he was socialising with a friend at the Bondi Hotel. He was
last seen alive at 11 pm.
Near Mr Russell's body were a number of coins. On one of Mr Russell's hands were
human hairs believed to be from another person. Whilst there is evidence that these
crucial hairs were 'bagged' for analysis, they were lost well before the initial inquest
and were never forensically examined as part of the investigation.
His death was investigated, however the Officer in Charge of the matter deemed his
death 'accidental' and it was not further pursued as a possible homicide. Some police
involved in the investigation, however, were suspicious of the circumstances ofMr
Russell's demise and believed that he may have been a victim of a violent assault.
An inquest was conducted on 2 July 1990. Unfortunately no transcript of that
proceeding is available therefore what was made of the missing hairs remains
The cause and manner of death was recorded as " the effects of multiple injuries
sustained then and there when he fell from a cliff to the rocks below, but whether he
fell accidentally or otherwise, the evidence does not enable me to say. "
Four months before Mr Russell's death, another young man, Ross Bradley Warren,
was reported 'missing'. At the time of his disappearance he was 25 years old and was
a television presenter with WIN 4 Television in Wollongong. He was homosexual.
His last known contact was with a friend in Oxford Street, Sydney, when they parted
company at 2am on 22 July 1989. Mr Warren had made plans to visit friends on that
weekend and when he hadn't contacted them, they became concerned.
After initially telephoning police, his friends presented to Paddington Police Station
and formally reported him 'missing'.
Mr Warren's friends gave considerable thought as to where he may have gone and
began a search of the Marks Parkffamarama area. On 23 July 1989 they located his
car in Kenneth Street Bondi, very near to Marks Park. The next day, the two men
returned to the area and located Mr Warren's keys in a rock 'pocket' below the cliff
near the water's edge. These keys were given to police. Police subsequently searched
the car finding his wallet.
Evidence was given that police initially investigated Mr Warren's disappearance and
were greatly assisted by his two friends. Mr Warren's mother and family also assisted
with enquiries and an appeal for information concerning his whereabouts was made
through the media.
Within a week of his disappearance, without Mr Warren's body being found or his
disappearance explained, the senior detective co-ordinating the investigation chose to
sideline the investigation by concluding "Investigating police are of the opinion that
the missing person has fallen into the ocean in some manner and it is anticipated that
his body will surface and be recovered. I am not able to offer any explanation as to
how he would have fallen into the water, only that the area near where the keys were
located is a treacherous rock formation which at present time is secreting a lot of
water and moisture from recent rains. There is extensive moss and slippery sections
from where experience (sic) would not be difficult to envisage slipping onto the rocks,
particularly after 2am on the morning of 22 July".
Mr Warren's suspected death was never reported to the Coroner.
Gilles Jacques Mattaini was 27 years old at the time of his disappearance. He was a
French National. He was homosexual.
At the time he went missing he had overstayed his visa and was concerned about his
residency. Whilst he was worried about his future in that regard, he was also excited
about a friend who was soon to visit from France and had purchased furnishings to
decorate his apartment. He lived in a flat in Bondi with another friend who had
returned to France in August 1985 for a brief holiday.
His flatmate was contacted in France by another concerned friend. He had been made
aware that Mattaini had not presented for work. When the flatmate returned to Sydney
in September, both men undertook an extensive search for their friend but it proved
Mr Mattaini was known to take long walks along the Marks Park walking track. He
would wear earphones on his walks, this item was missing from his home as well as a
yellow spray jacket and his keys.
Mr Mattaini would not frequent the Mark's Park area for male companionship. He
was said to be shy. He was last seen walking on the track at Bondi on or about 15
One of his friends engaged in the original search, believed the other friend had
reported Mr Mattaini 'missing' to the Paddington Police Station. No report of that
could be found. No police investigation was undertaken at the time and that person
who allegedly report him 'missing' is now deceased.
Mr Mattaini' s father was not close to his son and his mother believed it was possible
that her son had 'suicided'. There is no evidence before me to support the finding of
Detective Sergeant Page describes it this way. "Marks Park at Tamarama is situated
on a headland between Bondi Beach and Tamarama Beach. The Park is
predominantly open space with a walkway on its eastern side travelling adjacent to
the ocean front. The park is bordered by Marks Lane to the west and the area is
residential with a mi.x of detached dwellings and unit blocks. The park itself is
somewhat elevated. However there are several locations where steps have been
created for easy access to the coastal walkway".
Marks Park was formally called MacKenzies Point.
The area is a popular walking track during the day and at night gay men will 'cruise
the coastal walkway rattling keys or coins as an indication of their availability for
Some vegetation and rock formations provide a screen for the men to engage in
physical contact, but mostly once a person was 'engaged' the parties would retreat to
cars or homes.
It was well known to everyone in the community that this was a gay beat, including
Expert evidence was given at inquest into the nature of men who engaged in sex in
these areas. Gay men, and men who have sex with men, frequent 'beats' to engage in
anonymous free sex. There are 'beats' in all areas including country NSW. 'Beats'
can differ from place to place to suit the different needs of men who frequent them.
Marks Park was known as a night time 'beat' and was very busy and popular,
The 'Gav Hate' climate at the time
The inquest was told:
.Gay men are more likely to be victims of violence than other male
members of the community.
Homosexuals in that era were not likely to report crimes of violence
against them because of shame and embarrassment. They also believed
Police would not respond appropriately to their victimisation.
In NSW 22% of 'gay hate' homicides between 1989 and 1999 occurred at
There is a disproportionate level of 'gay hate' homicides perpetrated by
Predominately the offenders are white, Caucasian, single and unemployed,
The common cause of death was beating.
The involvement of strangers as offenders in 'gay hate' crime is
significantly higher when compared to other male homicides.
Offenders often admit to a long history of violent attacks against gay men.
Motives established through 'debriefing' of offenders include prejudice
and homophobia, group initiation, proving masculinity, proving they are
not gay, entertainment, robbery, 'alpha male syndrome', a belief that gay
men are 'soft' targets and less 'legitimate'.
1989/1990 a number of gay men were attacked and some killed in the inner city and
eastern suburbs, all victims of 'gay hate' violence. Whilst a number of offenders were
arrested, many of the brutal attacks went unsolved. It is fair to say that only a
percentage of the brutality would have been reported to the police at that time.
On 24 January 1990, Richard Nonnan Johnson was murdered. Eight
persons were convicted, five for manslaughter, three of murder.
A Thai National Mr Kritchikom Rattanajurathapom, was murdered at
Marks Park on 21 July 1990, three youths were convicted of that homicide.
A comparable assault on a male at South Bondi on 18 December 1989
Another brutal assault on a male at South Bondi on 21 December 1989
The murder of William Allen at Alexandria Park 28 December 1988
The murder of Wayne Rick Tonks at Marmon 19 May 1990
The murder of Raymond Kearn at Allison Park, Randwick on 13 January
All these victims were homosexual men. All assaults and killings were unprovoked
Whilst Mr Tonks was murdered outside the 'area' he had been a schoolteacher to
many of the gay hate assailants and killers. There is no doubt his murder is linked to
all the other incidents.
During the 1980's and 1990's police were aware of a number of gangs of youths that
were systematically engaged in the assault and robbery of gay men in Marks Park and
other areas. The gangs were given identifying 'tags' by the police, and the gangs
themselvesa doptedn amest hat werei ndicative of their foul mission
Side Killers is an example.
'PSK' for Park
These gangs of misfits saw homosexual men as easy targets. The victims' lifestyles
often providing a shield for the perpetrators, as they believed that their prey would be
reluctant to come forward and report their attacks. The gangs believed they were
While many did not report to police some victims did in the hopes of identifying and
stopping their assailants.
The Police lnvestil!ations -Past & Present
The disappearance of Ross Bradley Warren was reported to police within 48 hours of
his last sighting. The investigation was co-ordinated by Detective Sergeant Bowditch,
however within the week the Detective Sergeant had effectively 'closed' any further
investigation by concluding Mr Warren dead by misadventure.
When questioned with regard to the detail of his investigation, (the now) Mr
Bowditch asserted all was done to detennine the circumstances of Mr Warren's
He was insistent that his brief of evidence was submitted to the coroner in 1990. No
brief of evidence was ever received by this office. When asked if he kept copies, he
stated copies of all documents would have been sent to Missing Persons to be kept in
There are no photographs of Mr Warren's car, keys or crime scene. He assured the
inquest that the Scientific Section (Crime Scene) was called and attended, however he
could not nominate any officer, nor was there a record of the 'callout'.
Similarly he stated the Air Wing and the Water Police were called to examine the
area. Again records held at those Sections do not show any 'callout' to the Warren
On the one document that was located, he nominated three other officers as assisting
him in the investigation. Two of those officers deny any involvement in the
investigation, one was on annual leave at the time of being nominated.
When asked by Counsel Assisting Mr Lakatos why there were no notebooks, duty
books, statements or other documents from the earlier investigations, Bowditch
answered "After that period of time a copy would have gone to Missing Persons, I do
recall that in 1991/1992 a task force was set up by Missing Persons or the Police
Department to put on the TIM System, all records pertaining to previously missing
people. The originals that were taken by myself into Missing Persons and the Task
Force, I recall it was headed by a Detective Inspector Mal Cox. Now they put
everything on the TIM System. Records were left with them, plus a copy was left at
Paddington. Now where those records are sir, I have no idea and that included
dental charts, recent photographs of Mr Warren, which were brought down from
Queensland by his parents. Bank checks on his credit cards to see if his credit cards
had been used. All the nonnal stuff we do in an inquiry. Now where it is I have no
idea and I am appalled the department has lost it"
He's right! It is appalling that no documents allegedly struck during the course of the
investigation have been found. There were no records of any of the specialist police
Bowditch asserts he involved in the matter having been 'activated',
This state of affairs defies belief.
To this day, no documentsh aves urfaced,n or has their supposedd isappearancbee en
This was a grossly inadequate and shameful investigation. Indeed to characterise it as
an 'investigation' is to give it a label it does not deserve.
Bowditch knew that the area was a 'gay beat' even volunteering that he knew "the
goat track in Moore Park was a 'gay beat". However he paid little or no regard to the
possibility of foul play.
Almost 4 months to the day of Mr Warren's disappearance, the body of John Allan
Russell was discovered at the base of a rocky cliff at Marks Park.
Had police paid careful attention to the crime scene and the vital evidence that
presented to them, the perpetrator of that brutal act may have been identified or, at the
very least, Mr Russell's death would have been seen differently and not simply as a
result of 'misadventure'.
A 'better' investigation was undertaken for Mr Russell but it too was far from
adequate. Whilst it was known that Marks Park was an area where homosexual men
were bashed and robbed, little investigation regarding this type of activity was
undertaken into Mr Russell's death.
In fairness to the police involved, Sergeant Ingleby and Constable Scanlon had always
considered the possibility that these were more than just disappearances and more
Unlike the Warren case, good crime scene photos were taken of Mr Russell's body
and surroundings. In a number of the photo's a clump of hair can be seen in his hand.
Whilst evidence was given that those vital hairs were secured and bagged for forensic
testing, none was undertaken and the exhibit was lost. Disgraceful!
The police officers that should have been responsible for the safe storage of exhibits
blamed each other for its disappearance by stating the other should have been
responsible for it safe keeping. Not good enough!
Dr Alan Cala, Forensic Pathologist, gave evidence in this current inquest that it
appeared (from the photographs) that the hair did not belong to Mr Russell and
appeared to have been pulled from another person "tugged out".
When asked about the hair Dr Cala stated "MrRussell's hair is dark brown and these
hairs that I saw. but they looked, they did not look as if they would have come
naturally from M r Russell's head hair".
He continued "However I can't be absolutely sure and obviously I can't say that they
were definitively not from MrRussell, but they don't appear to be. That'sprobably
all I can say, but it's also unusual, in a case like this, and I've seen many people
who've jumped from great heights. The findings of hairs is unusual and would raise
questions with me ".
Unfortunately the significance of this appears to have been lost on the police officers.
Like the missing Warren brief of evidence, this important exhibit has never been
found nor has a satisfactory explanation been given as to the reason it was not
safeguarded at the time.
The positioning of Mr Russell's body should also have triggered some concerns for
the investigating officers.
Dr Cala was asked by Counsel Assisting, Mr Lakatos "What conclusions if any, did
you draw from the examination of the photographs which showed that Mr Russell's
head was towards the face of the cliff andhis legs were towards the sea if/can
put it that way? "
Dr Cala answered " Yes. That's an unusual position, most people that are found
around the Gap or North Head, around the cliffs of Sydney are not in that position.
They're head is facing towards the ocean and their feet towards the cliff So this is an
unusual position. What it means to me is that it's likely that this man, perhaps, his
body has twisted on the way down, rotated, in some way such that he's landed and
stayed in this position, because as I've said he hasn't moved. As soon as he's struck
the rocks he hasn't been able to move. That being the case would make me wonder
whether he's been deliberately thrown off the cliff perhaps ".
Toxicology examination of Mr Russell's system indicated a blood alcohol reading of
.255. This is a high reading and on its own could suggest Mr Russell could have met
his death accidentally, but decompositional changes in Mr Russell's body could also
account for an increased alcohol reading.
Dr Cala' s evidence supported the probability that Mr Russell was thrown from the
Mr Lakatos asked the Doctor about the sloppy-joe Mr Russel was wearing:
"Concerning the configuration of the fold in the jumper which lead you to certain
conclusion. Can you just tell us what that was?"
Dr Cala answers " Yes the sweater that he's wearing is pulled up at the back and at
the front and exposes his lower back and the lower front of his chest and abdomen. If
somebody even fell accidentally I would expect that the jersey, it looks very loose in
fact and would tend to be positioned over the belt line of the jeans, I would expect.
But it's not it is quite a long way up his body and that again makes me wonder
whether it's been actually forcible retracted in some other way by another person
The very limited earlier police investigation into Mr Russell's death does not take
these features into account.
In both Mr Warren's disappearance and Mr Russell's death there were similarities that
should have linked them in the early stages of the investigation and suggested to the
police the possibility of foul play in both deaths.
Both men were homosexual. The last place either man was prior to death was Marks
Park. Mr Russell had coins scattered near his body, Mr Warren's keys were found on
the rocks. These items were used by some men to attract attention in that area and
may have been used for that purpose by the victims. Marks Park was a known area
for brutal attacks on homosexual males. Yet investigating police believed Mr Warren
and Mr Russell met their death by 'misadventure'.
The earlier investigations into these men were inadequate and naIve. Not so the
current investigation that triggered the inquests into the death of Mr Russell and the
suspected deaths of Mr Warren and Mr Mattaini.
Not only was the investigation thorough, it was impeccable. Everything that could be
done was done. Extremely sophisticated police techniques and methodology were
used. The Detective in charge of the investigation Detective Sergeant Stephen Page
was committed and was an abundantly talented investigator.
I began my finding by stating Mr Russell's death had already gone to inquest in July
1990 and his investigation may have remained as it was.
Mrs Warren, Ross Warren's mother had continually written to the police seeking to
have the investigation into her son's death brought to a conclusion. She wanted a
death certificate to enable her to deal with his property and give the family a little
'closure'. This was never done until her last plea for action.
Her son's death could not be considered by the Coroner as the police had not reported
his suspected death. As no brief was available, his death needed to be re-investigated.
During the course of these enquiries, Detective Page noticed similarities between Mr
Warren's suspected death and a number of incidents of foul play against gay men. He
asked for appropriate resources to allow a full investigation into this and related
matters. To his credit and the credit of his Commanders, Operation Taradale was
established and an investigation plan was set in place.
I do not intend to reveal any of the methodology used during the course of the
operation, suffice to say valuable information was obtained that lead to arrests for
other matters and gave this inquest an opportunity of examining a number of persons
of interest in relation to these deaths.
As a result of media attention during the course of this inquest, a number of persons
volunteered information to police concerning the disappearance of Mr Warren. There
was an alleged sighting in South Australia and an alleged phone call to his place of
employment stating he was alive and well. Both accounts were investigated but found
to be unreliable.
No additional information was received concerning Mr Russell, however Mr
Mattaini ' s friends contacted police when they believed his disappearance my have
been related to their current inquiries. Fifteen years after Mr Mattaini' s disappearance,
his suspected death was to be investigated by police.
Given new material unearthed by Detective Page, the inquest into the death of Mr
Russell was re-opened pursuant to Section 23A of the Coroner's Act of 1980.
The Current Inauest
Evidence was taken from dozens of witnesses, police officers, victims and
The inquest was very much a 'work in motion'. Detective Page's investigation was
ongoing during the hearing. Statements were taken from many more witnesses as
they became known during the course of the inquest.
The brief of evidence as it stood at the beginning of the inquest comprised 6 lever
arched folders of statements and 276 annexures. Detective Pages original statement
was some 258 pages. Every page contained valuable and important information
crucial to understanding the circumstances of the deaths and disappearance of our
A number of witnesses were in custody, serving sentences for similar matters being
considered by the inquest. Some witnesses had been convicted of murder and served
sentences of up to 14 years. The killers of Mr Rattanajurathapom gave evidence.
Many of the witnesses were 'persons of interest' most denying any involvement in
violence against homosexual men. The evidence they gave was completely at odds
with the police intelligence gathered during the course of the investigation and whilst
it was 'possible' that some were involved in the deaths of Mr Russell and Mr Warren,
the weight of evidence was not there to support any finding in that regard.
General admissions were made by some 'persons of interest' during conversations
with family and friends. Details of Mr Russell's death and the disappearance of Mr
Warren were discussed. These brutes that prey on people are known to be cowardly
and boastful. Whilst a lay person could get quite excited about hearing one of them
boast they had some involvement in the matter, without any independent evidence
linking them to the event they could not be prosecuted successfully for any crime.
The wealth of information gathered by Detective Page and his team, however, will
provide an excellent source of evidence should other matters come to light. It is
always possible that someone will decide to tell police what they know about a
perpetrator if they feel the need. Relationships between these thugs do not always
The NSW Police and its Gav/Lesbian Clients
Ms Sue Thompson, the former Gay and Lesbian Client Service Policy and
Programmes Officer, gave evidence the NSW Police Force had been a leader in
Gay/Lesbian Client relations in the 1990's. She established training programmes for
police and established a network of Gay Liaison Officer across the State.
She conducted training days to selected schools where issues of homophobia had been
identified. This provided a double benefit in that children were being educated to
tolerate 'differences' in others but it also provided a valuable source of 'feedback'
where police were given some insight into the thinking and actions of school based
The cuITent Gay/Lesbian Client Consultant, Mr Toolan, told the inquest that some of
the projects had stalled since Ms Thompson had been on sick leave, however he
tendered a number of documents supporting the cuITent position that the
Commissioner of Police is actively considering guidelines for the effective policing of
A Beat Working Group had been established to identify key stakeholders that could
be consulted when considering any policies that effect policing 'beats'. The focus of
the group was 'Beat Usage Reduction and Safety Improvement'.
The issue of 'beats' is contentious. There are many who support their existence, there
are those that cannot understand the need for them given the improving attitudes of
the community towards homosexual men.
One witness, a gay man, gave this evidence regarding 'beats': "My philosophy is very
simple. A lot of gay guys don't agree with me but I believe it's all over red rover.
You know the days of going and doing beats, searching for partners and that is
dangerous, risky business and I'm not saying that people who go there deserve any
sort of retaliation but I'm saying we need to take responsibility for our own behaviour
and I think the message needs to go out loud in the gay community, which I am a
part of. I believe that we need to look at these things and say okay these are the
problems, right, we need to send the message out that we shouldn't be going down to
these parks because its too dangerous. With all good intentions the police officers,
many of them, are trying to do their best with limited education on how to deal with
the problem. "
His sentiment is simple and sensible and I agree that homosexual men should be
discouraged from attending 'beats'. They are exposed to treacherous individuals that
prey on victims for 'sport'. Policing 'beats' is also problematic.
'Beats' are however a 'given' in any community. Police must be aware of the
problems associated with them and the violent criminal behaviour that they attract.
Policing 'beats' is not simply an exercise in gay client and police relationships, it
must have a strong operational focus for the reduction of crime and the safety of
individuals using those areas for whatever purpose.
Evidence was given that at the time of these disappearances and the death of Mr
Russell, police attitude to gay victims was far from satisfactory. In fact some offences
went unreported because it was felt that police would judge the victim and nothing
would be achieved.
The families of Mr Warren and Mr Russell were not pleased with the police response
to their own cases. Mrs Warren could not get police to deal with her son's
disappearance affectively. Mr Russell's family felt somewhat abandoned without
feedback as to the progress or otherwise of their own investigation. Neither family
would have been given the impression that their loved one was important enough to
warrant a proper investigation.
One witness gave an account of approaching the police after his own victimisation
only to be told that the police would not be involved in 'domestics'. He said there
was a commonly held view in the gay community that "If there was a homosexual
assault or a murder it wouldn't get the same privilege as so called heterosexual
assault or murder".
There is no doubt that that was the belief in the gay/lesbian community, hence the
reason for the NSW Police to set up policies and programmes to bridge any gap
between those communities and the operational police.
The same witness who is critical of some operational police acknowledges there are
some hard working and decent officers that do make a difference.
Given the disgraceful investigation into Mr Warren's suspected death and the
completely 'lack lustre' investigation into Mr Russell's demise, it would not be
unreasonable for the gay community to believe that as a group they do not warrant
proper police attention. It is hard for the NSW Police Force to be seen as progressive
and equitable when some officers fail in their duty to the community they are meant
Detective Sergeant Page is a member of the same Constabulary and he is a shining
example of how investigations should be conducted and the sensitivity and
compassion that is often needed when dealing with persons who have been
As Counsel for the Commissioner of Police, Mr Saidi said in his closing submission:
"The climate which then existed, which was a climate I think no one in society could
really be proud of, and that is the culture of gay hate, a gay hate crime. The Police
Service, whatever defects it may have suffered from during that period, was no more
than a reflection of it (sic) was exhibiting the broader values and principles of the
then society. Much I think to the credit of the Police Service and other government
instrumentalities over the years, rather than being a mere reflection of society's
values, I think it fairly could be said that they're taking affinnative action to indeed
change society's view".
There is no doubt that the NSW Police has made significant improvements to the
many issues raised during the course of this inquest eg it attitude to gayflesbian crime,
case management and proper and timely investigations.
There is need, however, for recommendations to ensure the work currently being
As Coroner I can only make recommendations that can be implemented by a person
or organisation. I cannot make recommendations to change community attitudes
towards homosexuals or for homosexuals to abandon the use of 'beats'.
All I can do is urge communities, through my finding, to regard any victimisation of a
gay man or lesbian as completely abhorrent and not to be tolerated.
No one deserves to become a victim. A lack of judgement or discretion should not
invite brutality, nor should we as a decent society turn away from anyone needing
help and understanding.
Don't think for one moment that this type of crime is only visited on homosexuals.
One man gave evidence of his own brutal attack by a gang of young 'gay bashers'
when he was walking home from a night out with friends. He was not gay but very
much heterosexual. It was simply a matter of him being in the vicinity of North
Bondi, the wrong place at the wrong time.
Young thugs that gang up and visit their hate on any individual deserve to be 'brought
to heel' as quickly as possible.
One witness who had served 12 years for the murder of Mr Rattanajurathapom spoke
of his own victimisation as a child by a friend of the family, a paedophile. He said
"Basically what it was with me, ] was a victim for years, and then one day ] sort of -
you know when you turn into a teenager the honnones kick in, you fill out a bit, you
grow up and, sorry about the language, but] said' Fuck this, ] am never going to be a
victim again No one is ever gunna hurt me again' ] was filthy on the world.
Because] was raped and bashed by a man for years, so therefore] thought, okay this
bloke here was a man he had sex with another man even though it was another
human as a male, so me not having the social skill or the education back then, or the
mentality or whatever to differentiate -] couldn't differentiate between paedophilia
and homosexuality" Of gay men he said "] hated them with a passion. "
When he spent time in prison he made friends with some gay prisoners and realised
that, as he put it "Sexuality doesn't make someone who they are ".
I have deliberately not named civilian witnesses in my finding. These courageous
individuals who had been victimised came forward to tell their stories at inquest.
Unlike many of the 'persons of interest', they were honest and forthright and their
accounts were chilling.
Compare the accounts of a victim and the accounts of the 'suspects'.
The Victim: "They grabbed me and they started to call me names, 'poofter' and all
the rest of it and they just started bashing me and they kept saying to me 'Don't look
at our faces'. And I was actually face down at the time. The best, to my knowledge I
remember is trying to protect my face' cause I had an interview the following week"
"them just attacking me, hitting me, kicking me ". " Two main people and I remember
them. They were the ones doing a lot of talking and everyone else in the group was
like standing around watching and I remember the girls, I remember seeing the girls.
Watching and laughing and still to this day it runs through my mind that they could
sit there and do that".
He believes the assault lasted 15 to 20 minutes. They were pulling his shoes off and
his clothes. His earring was ripped out and his signet ring was lost. "They started to
drag me around. I was on the ground and they were literally dragging me. I don't
remember much, I blanked a lot of that part of it out. I remember from when it started,
the bashing and everything started, I don't remember much. I remember at the end, I
remember getting away, I remember running, I remember screaming for help, I
remember the comments coming from the units They had a stick in their hand
and they kept saying that they're -excuse my expression -'shove it up my arse', and
that petrified me even more"
As he was being dragged, one of his assailants said 'I'm going to throw you over the
side" At the time that was said the victim had been dragged to the top of the cliff face.
The victim escaped to his unit where he waited for police and a friend to arrive.
When he was running for his life and screaming for help a voice from a nearby unit
yelled back at him "['m not helping no poofter".
These are accounts of some of the 'persons of interest' for gay hate related crime.
"I threw a fag off the cliff at Bondi I've jumped on blokes head you wouldn't
believe were always going out bashing fags"
"We were walking jump up and look in the bushes, just see em going for it. Oh
you dirty man. And they would just keep going. 1 went Doh, screamed at them. They
just have been that involved in it they blocked out all the noise. The waves were
heaps big and it was freezing l had my new Boks from America on that day too, 1
had blood all over 'em went up and 1 go Oooo come up and grabbed a
handful of hair and went, Dirty fuckin' maggot He should have gone went off the
cliff that night but he didn't we went down and put a cigarette butt out on his
When asked why he 'bashed fags' one assailant said "Something to do mate. Mate [
made fuckin one, one guy [ bashed [got fuckin 1300.. .he was doing a bank run, bank
run, taking money to the bank. Stopped him, smashed him, fuckin jumped on his head,
went out to his car, looked at his briefcase.. ..do it for the fucking money mate. ['ts
not fun...it's a sport in Redfern Oh it's a fuckin hobby mate. What are you doin
tonight boys? Oh, just going fag bashin "
Further accounts of assault on gay men "Them cunts copped a bad hiding, two of em
did anyway we were jumping off the roof of his car onto his head, mate. His head
was on the gutter"
Many of the Marks Park victims that reported to police told of hearing their assailants
threatening to throw them off the cliff face. There is no doubt that at the time of Mr
Warren's and Mr Mattaini' s disappearance and Mr Russell's death that this was a
Modus Operandi of some gay hate assailants. This strongly supports the probability
that Mr Warren, Mr Mattaini and Mr Russell met their deaths this way.
To make a finding that each of these men were victims of homicide, I must be
satisfied to the 'Briginshaw' standard of proof that one or more persons were
responsible for their deaths. That standard of proof is slightly higher than the usual
'balance of probabilities'.
I am comfortably satisfied that I can make the finding of 'foul play' in relation to Mr
Warren and Mr Russell, but I cannot make a finding that Mr Manttaini met his death
at the hands of another person or persons. The persons of interest that may have been
responsible for the deaths of Mr Warren and Mr Russell would have been far too
young at the time of Mr Mattaini' s disappearance in August 1985.
I can however bring in a finding of 'death' for Mr Mattaini, but where and how he
died remains unknown although there is a strong possibility that he died in similar
circumstances to the other men.
I find that Ross Bradley Warren died in Sydney on or about 22 July 1989. Whilst
the causea nd manner of death are unknown, I am satisfiedt hat the deceasedw as a
victim of homicide perpetrated by person or persons unknown.
I find that John Alan Russell died at Marks Park, North Bondi between the 22 or
23 November 1989. The cause of death is multiple injuries sustained when he was
thrown from the cliff onto rocks, by a person or persons unknown.
I find that Giles Jacques Mattaini died on or about the 15 September 1985 in
Sydney. The cause and manner of his death remain undetermined as the evidence
before me does not enable me to say.
That the Minister of Police and Police Commissioner:
.Ensure that all Missing Person reports are investigated in a timely and
.Ensure that Missing Person cases considered 'suspicious' deaths are to
be referred for criminal investigation
.Ensure that all Missing Persons be reported to the State Coroner after a
reasonable period of time after all routine investigations have been
.Undertake a review of the current case management and monitoring
systems to ensure that all investigations are pursued with due diligence
Review procedures in relation to the collection and retention of physical
evidence and exhibits relating to unsolved homicides and any deaths
reportable to the coroner
Review procedures in relation to tracking exhibits sent to other areas for
forensic testing or examination
Consider training Rescue Squad personnel in the use of crime scene
cameras and techniques for securing bodies and exhibits in rock
creviceso r other areasi naccessibleto other police
Review procedures in relation to the recording of possible causes of
death at early stages of any investigation in order to minimise erroneous
or lazy conclusions based on incomplete information
Reinforce the requirements of the Charter for Victims Rights where
Victims of Crime are entitled to be given information concerning their
investigations in a timely fashion, and that all Victims of Crime are to
be dealt with compassionately
Audit outstanding homicides and suspected deaths to ensure
investigations are active and ongoing. Where investigations have stalled
these matters are to be referred to the State Coroner for his
Reintroduce the Gay Liaison Officers 'in service training' programme
Ensure all Local Area Commanders are aware of 'beats' in their areas
and promote the needfo r crime prevention strategiest o minimise risk
Promote the use of 'Standard OperatingP roceduresfo r Policing Beats'
within each Local Area Command
Develop and implement the 'Beat Usage Reduction and Safety
MagistrateJ acquelineM . Milledge
Senior Deputy State Coroner
9 March 2005
There was a dark time in Australia’s recent history when same-sex attracted men were assaulted and killed while cruising for sex at beats at an alarming rate. And while many perpetrators were convicted and sentenced, a handful of cases remain unresolved to this day. Matthew Wade revisited the murders and spoke to those who were closely tied to them.
It was night.
The jovial banter between eight teenage boys pierced Sydney’s summer air like a cast of falcons. They were shooting hoops on an inner-city basketball court.
A phone was dialled, the call was answered.
And like clockwork, as Richard Johnson parked his car nearby and walked over to the toilet block in search of his mystery hook-up, the group of teenage boys ran towards him and knocked him to the ground with one blow.
The boys, now known as the Alexandria Eight, then took turns punching and kicking his head and body until he was left fatally wounded on the ground.
It was 1990, and when interviewed by detectives the following month and asked why the attack was carried out, the eldest of the boys simply replied: “because he was a fag.”
Between 1989 and 1999 there were 46 known gay hate murders that took place in New South Wales, with an additional 30 that remained unsolved and have only been revisited in recent years.
Assaults were even more frequent, with 1990 seeing 38 gay-related beatings
reported to the Surry Hills and Kings Cross police in one month alone.
Same-sex attracted men were hunted by bigots as sport.
They were mainly carried out at beats in places like Bondi and Tamarama. Beats provided an ideal site for the violent perpetrators: they were secluded, they were often frequented after the sun had set, and they had a magnetic pull for many same-sex attracted and curious men.
Opening a queer rag and reading an article about a gay hate crime became commonplace, a morbid signifier of the increasingly dangerous times gay men and lesbian women were living in. And each new case was no easier to digest.
Thai student Kritchikorn Rattanajaturathaporn was found wedged in the rocks at the bottom of a sea cliff at South Bondi.
John Russell was similarly found dead in a rock pool at the bottom of a 12 metre cliff at Bondi Beach, a popular beat at the time.
And Garry Webster was found dead in a Campbelltown motel with the word “poof” cut into the bloodstained mattress.
Rattanajaturathaporn was murdered by the Tamarama Three, comprising brothers David and Sean and their friend Matthew, who were all sentenced to twenty years in prison.
A school friend of theirs made a statement at the committal hearing, saying one had boasted about what he’d done shortly after the crime.
“[The defendant] came up to me and said, ‘guess what? We beat up this slap
[Asian],’” she said.
He continued on, saying “see the blood on my shoe – I was kicking him in the head.”
When Peter Rolfe discovered his missing partner Stephen’s car, empty and parked at a beat he used to frequent, he was mortified.
“Stephen used to do beats quite often and I used to do them with him, but it did surprise me he was murdered at one – he’d always been so fearless,” Rolfe told the Star Observer.
“After I’d discovered he was missing I was driving past Deep Creek Park and I remembered that Stephen used to go there, so I drove in to check.”
As soon as he found the car he phoned the police, who took Rolfe to the station before searching his house to make sure he hadn’t been keeping Stephen tied up somewhere himself.
For months Stephen’s body had vanished, until 21-year-old Richard Leonard stabbed a taxi driver at Collaroy Plateau, not far from the beat where Stephen had gone missing.
“The detective in charge was looking over into Deep Creek which you could see from there and he made a comment to his partner about that,” Rolfe said.
“Soon after a torso washed up at Pittwater, and through a DNA test they discovered it was Stephen, and that he’d been shot with a bow and arrow.”
Witnesses then came forward to tell police that Leonard used to hang around Deep Creek with a bow and arrow.
Leonard had fired an arrow into Stephen, killed him, dismembered his body, and kept it in a freezer for four months.
He then dumped the body parts into the sea.
Rolfe said finding his partner that way and being surrounded by so many assaults and murders at the time was horrifying.
“I was threatened at a beat in Collaroy in the early eighties,” he said.
“I was always very careful, you had to be careful.
“Five or six kids came in, led by a much older kid and I just told them to fuck off.”
Despite his partner’s case being resolved, and the perpetrator caught early on, Rolfe said he can’t express just how important it is now for the police to work on resolving the unsolved cases.
He currently runs a support group for homicide survivors called Support after Murder, through which he also does a lot of lobby work.
“We’ve been lobbying the NSW Police Force and the government to increase the rewards for unresolved homicides,” he said.
“It currently averages around $150,000 but we’re aiming to push them to $1 million.
“It’s very important… we just want to be able to pay anyone with information around the identities of the people who committed these murders.”
The beat murders had begun to amplify by the time Ulo Klemmer became a beat
officer with ACON in 1988.
His role was to hand out condoms and chat with men that were cruising about sexual health and HIV at the beats around Western Sydney.
He said despite the gay hate murders becoming more prevalent at the time, there were still a number of people at risk who may have been unaware.
“Some people knew, and some people didn’t, it depended how attached to the community you were,” he said.
However, Klemmer said when it came to beats, an awareness of the risks or danger involved in cruising at night wouldn’t deter many same-sex attracted men from visiting.
“I think testosterone takes over at a beat, the worry goes out of it and the need [for sex] becomes more important than the worry,” he said.
“You take risks you wouldn’t normally take, it’s kind of dangerous.
“One of the conditions of our job was that we worked in pairs, because we were working day and night.”
As the nature of his job involved going from beat, to beat, to beat, Klemmer naturally had a small handful of dealings with the tragic murders that occurred.
The year that he started working as a beat officer, the body of Scott Johnson was found at the base of a cliff at Manly on Sydney’s northern beaches.
He had been completing his PhD, happily living with his partner in Sydney, and had made an amazing leap forward with his research that he was ready to tell his professor, whom he’d booked in a time to see.
The NSW Police ruled his death as a suicide.
“The sergeant with Manly Police at the time brought up that the area was a beat when we spoke about it, but publicly always denied any knowledge of it being a beat at the time,” Klemmer said.
“They dismissed it as a suicide.
“That’s why years later when I got a call from a U.S. investigator asking me if I’d put that knowledge in a stacked deck, I did.”
A street watch violence monitoring project in undertaken by the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and Counselling Service found that children as young as ten were hunting in packs, and responsible for some of the assaults against gay men and lesbian women.
It found that in six per cent of beatings, the age of the attackers was between 10 and 15, and 43 per cent were carried out by people between 15 and 20.
It was the many beatings and murders perpetrated by young schoolchildren that motivated Sue Thompson to reach out to high schools in her role co-ordinating the gay and lesbian liaison program in the Sydney Police in the nineties.
Gay teacher Wayne Tonks was brutally murdered by two 16-year-old students from Cleveland Street High School, after he had received threats and school and had his house ransacked.
In response Thompson and the Sydney Police’s gay and lesbian liaison officers ran three full days of workshops at the school the students were from.
“I took in a panel of 20 gay and lesbian people and kids could ask questions,” she told the Star Observer.
“It was the first time anything like that had ever been done in a school, it was an incredibly huge step forward.
“It had only been six years since homosexuality was decriminalised in NSW so there was a lot of resistance to dealing with these issues… I’d always bring it down to violence, and say you’re encouraging a culture where violence is okay, where teenagers are picking on innocent gay men.”
Thompson does admit that huge changes have taken place since then, and she hopes justice will be brought to the many unresolved cases to ensure families and loved ones can be brought out of the dark they’ve been in for the past two decades.
“It’s incredibly important that justice has been done when the most injustice has been done,” she said.
A New South Wales inquiry into dozens of historical hate crimes against LGBTIQ+ people has called for anyone with information to come forward.
Led by Supreme Court judge John Sackar, the Special Commission of Inquiry is looking at the unsolved deaths in the state between 1970 and 2010.
The deaths occurred during a spate of brutal bashings and murders across Sydney that terrorised gay and trans people for decades.
The inquiry is set to start its first public hearings in October.
Senior Counsel Assisting Peter Gray SC says it’s vital any family members, friends or members of the public with information make contact.
“Any recollections or pieces of information that you might have, however major or minor, could provide a vital link in understanding what happened,” he said.
“In some cases, it may ultimately lead to arrests and prosecutions.
“Justice in these cases has been long-delayed, and long-awaited.
“This may be the last chance for the truth about some of these historical deaths to be exposed. We need to hear from you.”
Gray also called for anyone who may have committed crimes, or been involved in them, to come forward.
“If you’ve had something weighing on your mind for years about these things, now’s your chance to do something to make some amends,” he said.
“Now is the time to break your silence.”
Information can be submitted anonymously by email, post or through the commission’s website.
The NSW government launched the Special Commission of Inquiry in April. It has extensive powers including the authority to compel witnesses to give evidence and also obtain documents.
A team of barristers, solicitors and investigators has obtained and analysed more than 100,000 documents from 40 years of police files, coroners’ files and other sources ahead of the first public hearings.
Justice Sackar will deliver a final report in June 2023.
The Special Commission of Inquiry was a key recommendation of an earlier parliamentary inquiry into gay and transgender hate crimes.
That inquiry acknowledged a “prevailing acceptance of and indifference” to violence against gay men in the 1970s, 80s and 90s led to failures of justice for many victims.
NSW Police Force also “failed in its responsibility to properly investigate cases,” the inquiry found.
Earlier this year, Sydney man Scott White was convicted of the murder of gay man Scott Johnson in 1988 in a stunning breakthrough.
In some other cases, police have offered rewards for information on other suspected “gay hate” deaths, including newsreader Ross Warren (pictured above), barman John Russell and French national Gilles Mattaini.
In June a permanent memorial to victims of gay and trans hate violence was launched with a ceremony at Mark’s Park in Bondi.