Robert Stanley PENDERGAST
Missing presumed murdered.
Robert Pendergast, then aged 31 years, was reported missing by his
mother on 27 May 1999. She had last spoken with him on 6 February 1999
when he was staying in Adelaide. He has not been seen or heard from
since that time.
Prior to his disappearance Mr Pendergast had been arrested by NSW Police in April 1998 for being involved in interstate cannabis trafficking. He was subsequently staying with criminal associates in Adelaide during 1999. It is believed at least two of these associates are responsible for his murder. It is believed Mr Pendergast was shot at a country location somewhere east of Adelaide and his body buried. It is believed the motivation for his murder was a drug debt.
The suspects for each of these murders are known to investigators however further information is required to provide evidence that would lead to the charging and prosecution of these suspects.
If you have information that may assist police in the disappearance of Mr Pendergast please call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
|Robert was last spoken to by family in February 1999. He had recently moved to Adelaide after living in Guildford, NSW. He has not contacted family since this time.|
|Reported missing to:
Marrickville Police Station NSW
Tuesday April 4, 2000
A man and a woman have been shot dead in an Adelaide luxury apartment building.
A cleaner found the bodies of the victims, believed to be in their late 20s or early 30s, about 2pm yesterday at the Grand Apartments in Melbourne Street, North Adelaide.
Police have not confirmed the victims' identities but believe they may be locals. It is believed the two were murdered on Sunday night or yesterday morning.
The murder weapon has not been found and no motive established. There were no signs of a robbery.
Police had earlier unsuccessfully searched Ferries McDonald Conservation Park, near Murray Bridge, for four bodies in a drug-related killing.
A park ranger, Mr John Sorrell, reported seeing what looked like a grave three weeks ago.
The four men - Juan Phillip Morgan, Leo Joseph Daly, David Michael McWilliams and Robert Stanley Pendergast - are believed to have been drug couriers killed over debts.
Police believe that the death of a Victorian man and notorious robber, Aubrey Broughill, 73, is related to the four missing men. Broughill's body was found in a quarry at Wodonga on 17 February last year.
Turtles that live in the isolated Wodonga quarry were initially blamed for the wounds - but questions remain.
Police know Aubrey Maurice Broughill was the victim ofcold-blooded predators. But was itthe eastern snake-necked turtle or something lower? Certainly Broughill's family remain convinced the old-time criminal was murdered and now want the case reopened.
They intend to ask theAttorney-General, Rob Hulls, and Chief Commissioner, Christine Nixon, why, despite strong circumstantial evidence pointing to murder, Aubrey Broughill's death was never treated as a priority homicide squad investigation.
It was around 1.20pm on February 17, 1999, when Wodonga quarry manager
Reg Golding noticed a body floating about 30 metres from the shore of the
eight-hectare flooded quarry at the rear of the CSR Readymix plant on the
One of the first police to get there was Wodonga Detective Sergeant Peter Revell. "I observed what appeared to be the necks of some form of tortoise or similar bobbing up and down around the body of the deceased."
When the body was taken from the water, Revell could see the man had not died in a simple swimming accident. He was wearing a striped shirt and his blue denim jeans were caught around his left foot, although the belt remained fastened.
Revell also saw the man was not wearing underpants and was barefoot.
In the jeans, the police found spectacles in a case, a brown wallet containing $208.90, Broughill's driver's licence and Medicare, pension and seniors cards. Robbery, therefore was unlikely to be a motive.
But the detective's trained eye noted clues suggesting Broughill was the victim of foul play.
There was no car; there was no indication he had taken public transport to Wodonga; and extensive checks of hotels, motels and refuges showed no signs that he had stayed in the area.
There was another reason that Detective Sergeant Revell would have suspected the death of the old man may not have been an accident: Broughill had no testicles.
It was September 1938 that Broughill, then 12, was first arrested - for house-breaking and larceny. Over the next two decades, he committed petty crimes such as stealing a bike and driving without a licence. In 1961 he became more ambitious - and desperate. Armed with a gun, he stole a �4000 payroll from the Camberwell Town Hall. He was soon arrested, and sentenced to eight years' hard labour.
On his release, he became an unsuccessful burglar and in the 1970s, at an age when most criminals are considering retirement, he went back to armed robberies. Aged in his early 50s, he robbed seven banks and became known as the Beanie Bandit because he always wore a green beanie. It was a poor disguise.
When he robbed a State Bank branch in North Blackburn on March 8, 1979, an off-duty constable saw him drive off and took down the registration of his vehicle.
Members of the armed robbery squad were waiting when the Beanie Bandit got home.
He was sentenced to 15 years' jail, with a minimum of 12, on seven counts of armed robbery.
As an experienced prisoner, he did his jail term easily and was released in November 1986 after serving seven years. Then aged 60, Broughill took only two weeks to raise the $1000 he needed to buy a .44 magnum and rob the Wantirna National Bank of $11,000. "I couldn't find work. I kept getting knocked back, so I decided to get a gun and do a stick-up," he later confessed.
He robbed seven banks and two building societies in Melbourne over the next three months, escaping with more than $70,000.
Security pictures at the first bank job showed the offender was Broughill, who earned the nickname Grandpa Harry because the elderly robber was using the same type of gun as Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry. This time, he was sentenced to 16 years with a minimum of 12. Detectives wrote on his file: "Will probably re-offend if he is ever released." They were right.
Broughill, on release from prison on November 27, 1995, moved in with a younger sister in outer Melbourne. His parole officer reported that he was making an effort to stay out of jail and was still fit enough to work two nights a week at the Victoria Market unloading trucks. His mother had left him $10,000 and he had saved $1400 while in prison.
Broughill may have had good intentions, but eventually he reverted to type. As a career criminal, he tended to work alone but now, aged in his 70s, he teamed up with a gang of thieves from South Australia.
According to police, the group was led by Geoffrey James Stanley and his son Rodney James Stanley, alias James Weston.
The team, including Broughill, was involved in a series of indiscriminate thefts through country Victoria and South Australia. It was January 12, 1999, when 13 Victorian police arrested Broughill and four others, including the Stanleys, as part of an investigation codenamed Heather.
It was Broughill's 73rd birthday. The bandit who had once made headlines had sunk to being a petty thief. He was charged with 19 offences and released the following day at 4am.
On February 3, Geoffrey Stanley's de facto wife, Carol Rudd, rang Renmark police asking if Broughill could pick up his Ford utility, which had been seized from the Stanley property as part of Operation Heather. Senior Detective Lincoln Gore told her to tell Broughill to ring Renmark police himself.
At 2.35pm that day, Gore received a phone call at the Renmark police station. "An elderly male voice identified himself as Aubrey Broughill. He stated that he was broke and did not want to come up to Renmark unless he could collect his vehicle."
Broughill's body was found two weeks later.
On February 22, 1999 - five days after the body was discovered - Victorian investigators Senior Detective David Magher and Senior Detective John McIllree went to Geoffrey Stanley's property near Renmark. Magher asked Stanley about Broughill. "Stanley appeared nervous in our presence but agreed to answer any questions. We had a casual chat about Broughill in the front yard of his property."
Stanley told the two detectives that when they had been released from the St Kilda Road police station on January 13 they had breakfast and had then taken a train to Swan Hill, then a bus to Mildura, where Geoffrey's son Scott drove them to the Renmark property.
He said Broughill had then tried to get his ute from the police but was unable to do so. Stanley said he drove Broughill more than 200 kilometres to Adelaide so he could catch a bus to Melbourne.
Stanley volunteered that Broughill was unsteady on his feet and often tripped when walking. Just the sort, perhaps, who could fall into a flooded quarry.
Broughill's younger sister, Beverley, has a different story. "He was very fit for his age. He didn't drink or smoke and was a very strong man. He was still very agile." What's more, she says, he was "the strongest swimmer I have ever seen". Beverley remembers the family going eeling in the Yarra and her big brother diving into the current. "He would glide through the water like Johnny Weissmuller."
McIllree and Magher, who investigated Stanley's story, remain sceptical. But Broughill certainly was in Adelaide on January 14. He had forgotten his blood pressure medication and went to Doctor Karen Woo in Gouger Street for a new prescription. He said nothing of being in Renmark and told her he was from Melbourne and had caught the bus to South Australia. She prescribed him 100 Aldomet tablets, which he bought at a nearby chemist.
Stanley's son, Scott James Stanley, refused to answer police questions about Broughill.
Magher was adamant. In his statement to the coroner he said: "In my opinion, Stanley is not telling the truth about Broughill. The way he spoke to us in Renmark and his demeanour, I believe he is lying."
On March 5, 1999, Senior Detective Lincoln Gore spoke to Stanley's partner, Carol. He asked her when she had last seen the old bandit. She said he had not come back with Stanley on January 13 and she had not seen him since Christmas.
Police may suspect that Geoffrey James Stanley was lying, but the question is, what was he trying to conceal?
While Victorian and South Australian police were investigating the Stanley gang for thefts, a second, more serious investigation, codenamed Operation Jarrah, was under way into its activities.
Police believed that four men connected with a 30-strong Adelaide drug ring had been murdered over a seven-year period. The victims were drifters without strong family connections - just like the wandering Beanie Bandit.
In a sworn statement on Broughill's death, Detective Sergeant John Woite, of the Adelaide Major Crime Investigation Section, said police were investigating the suspected murder of four men - Juan Phillip Morgan, who was 17 when he went missing in 1992; Leo Joseph Daly, 33 when he disappeared in 1998; David Michael McWilliams, 40, who disappeared in 1998, and Robert Stanley Prendergast, 32, who went missing in 1999.
Woite said: "Inquiries revealed that Rodney James Stanley, alias James Weston, born July 19, 1967, and his father, Geoffrey James Stanley,born November 28, 1944, are the common denominator in all of the disappearances."
The police theory was that Morgan had a minor dispute with one of the gang members and was murdered. Morgan was thought to have been buried in a National Park near theSA-Victoria border.
The theory goes that Daly owed the syndicate money and was dragging the chain on paying. He was taken out to sea, shot and dumped overboard in April 1998. One of those present was McWilliams, who started to worry about what he had done. Seen as a possible weak link, he was shot and buried in South Australia three months later.
Police were told the next was Prendergast, a known drug courier, who wanted to collect money he was owed by the syndicate. Lacking the muscle to physically intimidate, he warned the syndicate heads hewould inform the National Crime Authority that they were trafficking amphetamines and pseudo ecstasy. They called his bluff and he was never seen again. His body was thought to have been buried near Adelaide.
Operation Jarrah detectives arrested Geoffrey Stanley and James Weston for the murder of Leo Daly, but the charges were withdrawn in July 1999.A spokesman for the South Australian DPP said the case was abandoned because "the key prosecution witnesses refused to give evidence".
According to the head of Operation Jarrah, Detective Senior Sergeant Mick Johnson, the syndicate was led by "vicious men who would do anything to protect themselves". "We believe that four men were killed over drug debts and to ensure others remained silent."
Weston was later implicated in another murder, of David Kovacic in his Kidman Park home in October 1999. Telephone intercepts picked up Weston urging two men to rob Kovacic over a drug debt. In the attack, the victim was stabbed in the back. Weston was sentenced to seven years for assisting the man who stabbed Kovacic and over possessing a trafficable quantity of drugs.
Geoffrey Stanley now lives quietly on a fruit block at Renmark, the property where police seized stolen goods valued at $500,000 in early 1999.
On March 5, 2002, he received a 15-month suspended sentence at the Berri court for unlawful possession.
Perhaps no one knows what happened to Aubrey Broughill; or, if they do, they aren't saying. In a report lodged at Broughill's inquest, senior pathologist Michael Burke explained the bizarre wound to the groin. "The testes are not present . . . Examination of the edges of the injury showed no hesitation marks and no serrations or other defects." In lay terms, he had been castrated. But by whom, or what?
Burke said: "It is my understanding that turtles were associated with the deceased's body when the remains were recovered by police. I have had a discussion with veterinary experts regarding the structure of freshwater turtle mouth parts. I have been informed that the mouth parts have a scissors-like action. The incised-like injury to the scrotum could be explained by post mortem activity by turtles." He added a rider: "It is unusual that no other such injuries were seen on any other part of the deceased's body."
Police sought an opinion from John Coventry, former president of the Australian Society of Herpetologists and an expert who worked for Museum Victoria in the herpetology section for 45 years.
He gave qualified support to the theory that the eastern snake-necked turtle could damage a body. He said it was "possible" for the species "to feed on a partially submerged human body". He said "it would be more likely" that the flesh would be taken from soft-tissue areas rather than bony areas such as fingers."
But no one has been able to explain why the turtles would attack only the testicles and ignore other soft areas of the body including thighs, cheeks and abdomen. Michael Swan, reptile keeper at the Melbourne Zoo, said that the eastern snake-necked turtle could break down carrion using a ripping action with front claws just a few millimetres long. He said the turtle would leave shredding marks.
When given the details of Broughill's injuries, he said he doubted that turtles were the culprits. "I have never heard of them being involved in something like that . . . I'm no expert on murders but it sounds to me as if there must have been some form of human intervention."
John Coventry, now retired, recalls the Broughill case and is far from convinced that turtles were the real culprits. He is concerned the wounds were an incised cut and there were no signs of claw marks.
In July 2001, the coroner, John Martin Murphy, found: "Due to the decomposed condition of the body, the cause of death was unascertained. However, the deceased suffered an unusual injury to the scrotum with absent testes. The scrotal injuries had a distinct incised-like injury. There were turtles in the water at the quarry and the incised-like injury to the scrotum would be explained by post mortem activity by turtles. It is, however, unusual that no other injuries were seen to any part of the deceased's body. I am unable to say if any person or persons contributed to the death of the deceased or if his death was caused by natural causes."
There are no real conclusions. Despite all attempts, no one can establish why Broughill was in the area, how he entered the water or even a cause of death.
Detective Sergeant Revell said that despite his investigations he is no closer to knowing the truth.
But there are plenty of theories.
Geoff Stanley, the man who police believe was less than forthright over Broughill, has one of his own. When approached by The Sunday Age, he said he believed his mate was murdered.
He repeated his version of events, saying he had taken him to Adelaide so he could return to Melbourne. "He said he felt too poorly to drive his ute, so I drove him to Adelaide and put him on a bus to go home."
Stanley speculates further: "I reckon the Victoria Police done him. I reckon it was murder. I reckon the police picked him up when he got back to Melbourne, did him over, then thought, 'Look, the poor bastard's dead. We better get rid of him'."
Broughill's family cannot believe why, if Broughill travelled to Renmark to recover his ute, he chose to leave Geoff Stanley's without it. Years later, Stanley says the ute remains on his property, "rusted out down the back".
Aubrey Broughill's niece, Frankie Puccini, says there has been no public outrage over his death because he was an old man with a criminal record. "It makes you so angry not knowing what happened. We still don't even have a cause of death. But looking at what we know now, we believe Aubrey was murdered."