The Victorian woman who died after a four-day exorcism

Pig-farmer Ralph Vollmer had first noticed his wife Joan was behaving strangely a few weeks before he decided to stage the violent four-day exorcism that led to her death. Joan had taken to lurching and dancing around outside, arms flailing about her head, swearing loudly at nobody in particular. Soon after Ralph claimed she was … Continue reading “The Victorian woman who died after a four-day exorcism”

Pig-farmer Ralph Vollmer had first noticed his wife Joan was behaving strangely a few weeks before he decided to stage the violent four-day exorcism that led to her death.

Joan had taken to lurching and dancing around outside, arms flailing about her head, swearing loudly at nobody in particular. Soon after Ralph claimed she was “acting like a prostitute” and at various times, took on the physical form of a pig and a dog, as well as the personality of a sheep shearer.

“There were manifestations of different people and animals,” he later explained.

The cause was clear to Ralph: Joan’s body had been possessed by demons.

Ralph and Joan Vollmer lived in Antwerp, a small Victoria town 356 kilometres north-west of Melbourne with a population of just 63 residents. It was settled in 1846 by Europeans, and by 1859 two Protestant missionaries had built a church and a mission for the local Aboriginal community.

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The church is long closed, but religion was still the pulse of the town in January, 1993, when Joan took her final tortured breath, aged 49. A number of fundamentalist Christians lived in and around the township, and it was they that Ralph called upon to rescue his wife from her dark possession.

At first, he attempted to rid her of these demons himself, by locking her in the basement, then, when that was unsuccessful, by tying her to the bed. Vollmer screamed throughout the night, however, and the demons remained.

Ralph Vollmer is consolled beside the grave of his wife after she died during an exorcism. Picture: Jamie DaviesSource:News Corp Australia

He then enlisted the help of his neighbour, Leanne Reichenbach, and the two of them received over-the-phone coaching from a 78-year-old spiritual leader, Leah Clugston on how best to rid a human of evil spirits. After they ascertained that ten separate demons were, indeed, in control of Joan’s body, they started an intense prayer session, with Joan seated in a chair at one end of the room.

When she struggled, they tied her to this chair with pairs of her own stockings. She was denied food and water throughout this entire period and when she attempted to close her eyes, they pried them open so the demons would better confront the Lord.

Joan continue to put up a violent struggle, and so the pair called in another member of the church, 28-year-old David Klingner. He took the lead, and restrained her with more pairs of stockings.

He started to slap her face repeatedly in order to summon the demons.

After three days of such torture, the group felt they had rid Joan of all but two stubborn demons: “Two strong male evil spirits”, as Vollmer later told AAP.

Leanne Reichenbach with husband John.Source:News Corp Australia

DAY FOUR OF THE EXORCISM: “HISSING AND FROTHING”

To eliminate these final demons, on day four they brought in 23-year-old Matthew Nuske. Nuske came highly-recommended by his mother, who touted his God-given ability to exorcise demons, despite having never done so before. Convinced, they handed control of Joan — or as Ralph now saw her, “an evil spirit that needed to be dealt with” — over to Nuske, and he amped up proceedings.

First, he instructed the group to destroy all of Joan’s possessions, including knocking down her garden beds and smashing an outside greenhouse with a hammer. These were also possessed by demon energy.

Next, he wrapped cling-wrap around the entire outside of the house seven times to act as protection from further spirits drawn by all the activity.

Joan Vollmer, pictured before her death, died during an exorcism in 1993.Source:News Corp Australia

Ralph Vollmer is comforted at the grave site of his dead wife. Picture: Jamie DaviesSource:News Corp Australia

From then, things got exceedingly violent, with Nuske beating Joan repeated across the head, smashing her into the wall and instructing members to sit on her weakened, food-deprived body as she begged them to stop. They moved her body into the bedroom for one final exorcism.

Finally, the demon was removed. The group of five started at her stomach and crushed her internal organs, moving their weigh up her body in order to squeeze the demon up and out her mouth. The enormous pressure placed on her neck caused Joan to begin having a heart attack.

“When they finally released the hold on her, she was hissing and frothing and they came out with a groan,” Vollmer said of the demons.

In reality, what was happening was the pressure applied to her neck was so intense, her thyroid cartilage had been fractured, causing her to suffer a fatal heart attack.

Joan Vollmer died after four days of torture and as she slumped to the ground, the group rejoiced and waited for her resurrection.

The group had waited and prayed over Joan’s dead body for two days, when Leah Clugston arrived at the farmhouse where the exorcism had taken place. The 78-year-old had given early phone advice to the group on how best to proceed, and had herself received word from the Lord shortly after Joan’s death that she should place her hands on the bloated, quickly-decaying body and order Joan to rise and walk. When this failed to rouse her, Clugston called a local Baptist Minister for guidance. He arrived to find the group calmly eating lunch while Joan’s body laid in the 40 degree heat, being attacked by flies.

The minister phoned a doctor to the townhouse, who in turn called the police.

Ralph Vollmer at his home in Antwerp. Picture: Lisa BigelowSource:News Corp Australia

September, 1993: Ralph Vollmer sits in his kitchen where the exorcism occured. Picture: Peter WardSource:News Corp Australia

RESURRECTION AND ARRESTS

“God has made a solemn promise that she will rise on the day of the funeral and he wants us to witness it,” a chirpy Ralph Vollmer told AAP journalists in the days following his wife’s death.

Interviews with police went a similar way, with the group assuring them it had been a successful exorcism, and that Joan would vouch for this upon her return.

On the Friday, just four days after the police first became aware of Joan’s body, Ralph invited media to her funeral, to witness her resurrection.

When she failed to materialise, he wept, confused and angry.

1993: Ralph Vollmer leaves wife Joan’s funeral. Picture: David GeraghtySource:News Corp Australia

Ralph Vollmer (L) leaves the Victoria Supreme Court, appealing against a conviction for recklessly causing serious injury & false imprisonment of his wife Joan.Source:News Corp Australia

Detective Superintendent Paul Sheridan told the Herald Sun that the group “believed they were doing the right thing in trying to exorcise demons.”

Lest he be misunderstand, Sheridan quickly added, “they weren’t innocent and they certainly weren’t doing the right thing,” explaining how they openly discussed the methods used in the exorcism to police.

Police charged the four, Vollmer, Nuske, Reichenbach and Klingner, with manslaughter.

Ralph Vollmer, who orchestrated his wife’s torture and death, was convicted of false imprisonment and reckless injury. Picture: David GeraghtySource:News Corp Australia

Despite their open confessions and detailed descriptions to police, Leanne Reichenbach got the heaviest sentence: a paltry four months for manslaughter and false imprisonment.

David Klingner received three months for the same charges, while Matthew Nuske was found guilty of false imprisonment and received a suspended sentence.

Ralph Vollmer, who orchestrated his wife’s torture and death, was convicted of false imprisonment and reckless injury. He also received a suspended sentence, and served no jail time.

He soon left the farmhouse and the small town where Joan had died, and moved to Queensland, to live in bliss with his new wife.

David Klingner leaves Melbourne court in November, 1994, after being found guilty of manslaughter of Joan Vollmer during exorcism the ceremony in January, 1993.Source:News Corp Australia

– Nathan Jolly is a Sydney-based writer who specialises in pop culture and true crime. Follow him on Twitter @nathanjolly

Armed robbers attacked teens after out-of-control party in Melbourne

There were wild scenes in Melbourne’s west last night — as armed partygoers robbed teenagers on the street after police broke up an out-of-control party.

Victoria Police told news.com.au that officers were called to a “short stay rental property party” at St Clair Avenue, Point Cook just after 8.40pm on Friday night, where they found a “large number of youths”.

It’s understood up to 200 teenagers had descended on the property — and police said there was no damage caused by the partygoers.

However, once the teenagers were “dispersed without incident”, a shocking crime spree took place nearby.

It’s understood that up to 200 youths attended the Point Cook party last night. Picture: Victoria PoliceSource:Supplied

Several partygoers aged between 14 and 16 stayed in the area once the party had been broken up.

Police said, two teenage boys — aged 15 and 16 — were approached at 10.45pm by five youths on the same street — they allegedly asked for their belongings and pulled out a knife.

“The offenders assaulted the two teenage males and stole a mobile phone, backpack and pair of shoes,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

The victims were treated at the scene for minor injuries and did not go to hospital.

However, just a short time later, two other teenage males were robbed and assaulted by a group of about eight males on The Crescent — which is just a ten-minute walk away from where the previous incident took place.

A 17-year-old was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Police are investigating whether the incidents are linked.

It is believed all involved had recently attended the wild party in Point Cook which was broken up by police.

“The offenders in both robberies are perceived to be of African appearance,” Victoria Police said in a statement this morning.

The crime spree took place just one day after a disturbing home invasion in the same suburb. Picture: Ian CurrieSource:News Corp Australia

It comes just one day after a violent home invasion in the same suburb — in which an axe-wielding teenager who broke into a home and attacked a father.

On Thursday night, the offender stole keys and wallets from the Point Cook home overnight, as two children aged two and four slept inside.

He gained entry to a car parked in the garage and was confronted by a 40-year-old father, who received a minor cut during the struggle.

“He’s trying to pull the offender out of the car, the offender is armed with an axe, and he’s actually been struck by the axe and has a large laceration to his arm,” police Commander Tim Hansen told 3AW on Friday.

Father of two, Robert Gelevski, 40, woke to noises and decided to investigate.

“I woke up in bed and saw him in my spare room upstairs, axe in his hand,” Mr Gelevski told Nine.

The dad received a cut to the arm. Picture: Ian CurrieSource:News Corp Australia

Father of two, Robert Gelevski, 40, woke to noises and decided to investigate.Source:News Corp Australia

He was able to calm the teen down and get him to leave the home, but he returned 10 minutes later.

“He decided to come back, the idiot,” Mr Gelevski said.

Two police constables arrived just after 3.40am and confronted the teenager in the driveway.

They instructed him to drop the weapon and get on the ground before police fired a shot.

“He kept moving towards them and we’ve discharged a warning shot,” Commander Hansen said.

The youth, who was significantly drug or alcohol affected, fled on foot and officers gave chase.

The 14-year-old male from Kew was soon after found in the front yard of a nearby address and arrested.

The father was treated at the scene for his cut. There were no other injuries.

Armed robbers attacked teens after out-of-control party in Melbourne

There were wild scenes in Melbourne’s west last night — as armed partygoers robbed teenagers on the street after police broke up an out-of-control party.

Victoria Police told news.com.au that officers were called to a “short stay rental property party” at St Clair Avenue, Point Cook just after 8.40pm on Friday night, where they found a “large number of youths”.

It’s understood up to 200 teenagers had descended on the property — and police said there was no damage caused by the partygoers.

However, once the teenagers were “dispersed without incident”, a shocking crime spree took place nearby.

It’s understood that up to 200 youths attended the Point Cook party last night. Picture: Victoria PoliceSource:Supplied

Several partygoers aged between 14 and 16 stayed in the area once the party had been broken up.

Police said, two teenage boys — aged 15 and 16 — were approached at 10.45pm by five youths on the same street — they allegedly asked for their belongings and pulled out a knife.

“The offenders assaulted the two teenage males and stole a mobile phone, backpack and pair of shoes,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

The victims were treated at the scene for minor injuries and did not go to hospital.

However, just a short time later, two other teenage males were robbed and assaulted by a group of about eight males on The Crescent — which is just a ten-minute walk away from where the previous incident took place.

A 17-year-old was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Police are investigating whether the incidents are linked.

It is believed all involved had recently attended the wild party in Point Cook which was broken up by police.

“The offenders in both robberies are perceived to be of African appearance,” Victoria Police said in a statement this morning.

The crime spree took place just one day after a disturbing home invasion in the same suburb. Picture: Ian CurrieSource:News Corp Australia

It comes just one day after a violent home invasion in the same suburb — in which an axe-wielding teenager who broke into a home and attacked a father.

On Thursday night, the offender stole keys and wallets from the Point Cook home overnight, as two children aged two and four slept inside.

He gained entry to a car parked in the garage and was confronted by a 40-year-old father, who received a minor cut during the struggle.

“He’s trying to pull the offender out of the car, the offender is armed with an axe, and he’s actually been struck by the axe and has a large laceration to his arm,” police Commander Tim Hansen told 3AW on Friday.

Father of two, Robert Gelevski, 40, woke to noises and decided to investigate.

“I woke up in bed and saw him in my spare room upstairs, axe in his hand,” Mr Gelevski told Nine.

The dad received a cut to the arm. Picture: Ian CurrieSource:News Corp Australia

Father of two, Robert Gelevski, 40, woke to noises and decided to investigate.Source:News Corp Australia

He was able to calm the teen down and get him to leave the home, but he returned 10 minutes later.

“He decided to come back, the idiot,” Mr Gelevski said.

Two police constables arrived just after 3.40am and confronted the teenager in the driveway.

They instructed him to drop the weapon and get on the ground before police fired a shot.

“He kept moving towards them and we’ve discharged a warning shot,” Commander Hansen said.

The youth, who was significantly drug or alcohol affected, fled on foot and officers gave chase.

The 14-year-old male from Kew was soon after found in the front yard of a nearby address and arrested.

The father was treated at the scene for his cut. There were no other injuries.

Shots fired as axe-armed teen arrested

Police have fired a shot while arresting an axe-wielding teenager who broke into a Melbourne home and attacked a father.

The offender stole keys and wallets from the Point Cook home overnight, as two children aged two and four slept inside.

He gained entry to a car parked in the garage and was confronted by a 40-year-old father, who received a minor cut during the struggle.

“He’s trying to pull the offender out of the car, the offender is armed with an axe, and he’s actually been struck by the axe and has a large laceration to his arm,” police Commander Tim Hansen told 3AW on Friday.

Father of two, Robert Gelevski, 40, woke to noises and decided to investigate.

“I woke up in bed and saw him in my spare room upstairs, axe in his hand,” Mr Gelevski told Nine.

He was able to calm the teen down and get him to leave the home, but he returned 10 minutes later.

“He decided to come back, the idiot,” Mr Gelevski said.

The dad received a cut to the arm. Picture: Ian CurrieSource:News Corp Australia

Father of two, Robert Gelevski, 40, woke to noises and decided to investigate.Source:News Corp Australia

Two police constables arrived just after 3.40am and confronted the teenager in the driveway.

They instructed him to drop the weapon and get on the ground before police fired a shot.

“He kept moving towards them and we’ve discharged a warning shot,” Commander Hansen said.

The youth, who was significantly drug or alcohol affected, fled on foot and officers gave chase.

The 14-year-old male from Kew was soon after found in the front yard of a nearby address and arrested.

He is yet to be interviewed due to intoxication.

Commander Hansen said it was a “horrific” experience for the family involved. “I put myself in their shoes and it’s not a situation I’d want to wake up to,” he said.

“All kudos to the dad, in some respects going into protection mode. “We’d rather that confrontation probably didn’t happen, but we fully understand it.” Police professional command is investigating, as per protocol when an officer discharges their firearm.

Commander Hansen said it is police preference to avoid firing warning shots but police were faced with a complex situation.

The father was treated at the scene for his cut. There were no other injuries.

Serial sex predator jailed for luring teen girls to his van with drugs

A “disturbing” serial predator on the sex offender register has been jailed after being caught luring teen girls to his van by his mum.

Samuel Cooper repeatedly preyed on teenage girls using social media, offering drugs and cash in exchange for sex.

The 39-year-old was arrested in August last year after meeting up with two 15-year-old girls at their New South Wales home before taking them to a motel and then to his house in Victoria.

He gave them cannabis and ice in a bid to groom them before leaving them in his van.

Cooper’s mother discovered them in his vehicle while he was at work and the girls later contacted their families, who alerted police.

At the time of his offending Cooper was on the sex offenders’ register after a 2009 conviction for sexual activity with a child and was required to report contact with anyone underage.

He was jailed for six years at the Victorian County Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to more than 20 offences.

On a separate occasion, he exchanged sexually explicit images with another 15-year-old and spent the night with her in his van.

The court heard Cooper sent dozens of messages and sexually explicit images to girls over Facebook between January 2016 and November 2017.

He offered two teenagers hundreds of dollars for sex, but they declined his advances.

Judge Meryl Sexton labelled his behaviour disgusting.

“Over a period of nearly two years you persistently preyed on a large number of underage females using social media,” she said.

“The internet makes it all too easy for sexually deviant people like you to access girls for your own sexual gratification.

“Further, you followed through with personal contact with three of them, who were not emotionally or socially mature enough to realise the danger they were placing themselves in.” Judge Sexton said Cooper, who lied about his age, had sought to take sexual advantage of the teenagers.

“In my view you have no insight into your paraphilic attraction to post-pubertal females,” she said.

Cooper must serve a minimum of four years before he is eligible for parole.

Serial sex predator jailed for luring teen girls to his van with drugs

A “disturbing” serial predator on the sex offender register has been jailed after being caught luring teen girls to his van by his mum.

Samuel Cooper repeatedly preyed on teenage girls using social media, offering drugs and cash in exchange for sex.

The 39-year-old was arrested in August last year after meeting up with two 15-year-old girls at their New South Wales home before taking them to a motel and then to his house in Victoria.

He gave them cannabis and ice in a bid to groom them before leaving them in his van.

Cooper’s mother discovered them in his vehicle while he was at work and the girls later contacted their families, who alerted police.

At the time of his offending Cooper was on the sex offenders’ register after a 2009 conviction for sexual activity with a child and was required to report contact with anyone underage.

He was jailed for six years at the Victorian County Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to more than 20 offences.

On a separate occasion, he exchanged sexually explicit images with another 15-year-old and spent the night with her in his van.

The court heard Cooper sent dozens of messages and sexually explicit images to girls over Facebook between January 2016 and November 2017.

He offered two teenagers hundreds of dollars for sex, but they declined his advances.

Judge Meryl Sexton labelled his behaviour disgusting.

“Over a period of nearly two years you persistently preyed on a large number of underage females using social media,” she said.

“The internet makes it all too easy for sexually deviant people like you to access girls for your own sexual gratification.

“Further, you followed through with personal contact with three of them, who were not emotionally or socially mature enough to realise the danger they were placing themselves in.” Judge Sexton said Cooper, who lied about his age, had sought to take sexual advantage of the teenagers.

“In my view you have no insight into your paraphilic attraction to post-pubertal females,” she said.

Cooper must serve a minimum of four years before he is eligible for parole.

Serial sex predator jailed for luring teen girls to his van with drugs

A “disturbing” serial predator on the sex offender register has been jailed after being caught luring teen girls to his van by his mum.

Samuel Cooper repeatedly preyed on teenage girls using social media, offering drugs and cash in exchange for sex.

The 39-year-old was arrested in August last year after meeting up with two 15-year-old girls at their New South Wales home before taking them to a motel and then to his house in Victoria.

He gave them cannabis and ice in a bid to groom them before leaving them in his van.

Cooper’s mother discovered them in his vehicle while he was at work and the girls later contacted their families, who alerted police.

At the time of his offending Cooper was on the sex offenders’ register after a 2009 conviction for sexual activity with a child and was required to report contact with anyone underage.

He was jailed for six years at the Victorian County Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to more than 20 offences.

On a separate occasion, he exchanged sexually explicit images with another 15-year-old and spent the night with her in his van.

The court heard Cooper sent dozens of messages and sexually explicit images to girls over Facebook between January 2016 and November 2017.

He offered two teenagers hundreds of dollars for sex, but they declined his advances.

Judge Meryl Sexton labelled his behaviour disgusting.

“Over a period of nearly two years you persistently preyed on a large number of underage females using social media,” she said.

“The internet makes it all too easy for sexually deviant people like you to access girls for your own sexual gratification.

“Further, you followed through with personal contact with three of them, who were not emotionally or socially mature enough to realise the danger they were placing themselves in.” Judge Sexton said Cooper, who lied about his age, had sought to take sexual advantage of the teenagers.

“In my view you have no insight into your paraphilic attraction to post-pubertal females,” she said.

Cooper must serve a minimum of four years before he is eligible for parole.

African community leader slams ‘deplorable’ bashing by youths at St Kilda

The group of young men behind a senseless attack at St Kilda have been slammed by leaders of their own community.

As many as 20 youths of African appearance are wanted over a December 1 bashing on the esplanade not far from Melbourne’s CBD.

CCTV footage of the attack, which was shared by Victoria Police yesterday, shows three men cowering while they’re punched and kicked over and over again. For good measure, the offenders took the victims’ wallets and mobile phones.

As police search for those responsible, a leader of the African community in Melbourne says enough is enough.

“It’s absolutely deplorable,” lawyer Maker Mayek told news.com.au. “So many young people descending on one person is horrible. I was appalled when I saw it.”

Three men were attacked at St Kilda on December 1. Picture: Victoria PoliceSource:Supplied

The campaigner who helped his community reclaim the #AfricanGangs hashtag also slammed those on social media who rejected the use of the term “African Australians” in describing those responsible.

Many, including those who commented on news.com.au’s Facebook page, suggested they’re “not Australians”.

Mr Mayek said that’s plainly wrong.

“To those people, I say that prejudice is everywhere. Those comments are the result of prejudice. They look at a person’s skin colour and make a judgment.

“Most came here when they were one, two or three-years-old or were born here. They’re Australian. There’s no way to deny that. Somebody who is born here, has an Australian passport, is a resident of Australia — they’re Australian. They share more in common with Australians than anyone else.”

He said it was important to remember that “a crime is not worse because the person who commits that crime isn’t white”.

Mr Mayek also rejected claims that those responsible were part of a “gang”.

“They’re not gangs. They’re a bunch of cousins, relatives, friends who are all hanging out together. They drink alcohol and do silly things in the process.”

An image of one of the men police wish to speak to over a bashing on St Kilda foreshore. Picture: Victoria PoliceSource:Supplied

Two men suffered serious injuries and were taken to hospital. Picture: Victoria PoliceSource:Supplied

WHAT SPARKED ST KILDA ATTACK

Police labelled the attack “unprovoked” but Mr Mayek said it was possible somebody “said something” before the group of youths confronted three men about 11.15pm.

“Racist words — sometimes there’s somebody that would’ve said something, but the attackers should’ve exercised restraint.”

Police said the confrontation started when three men were walking along the foreshore. After being approached, they were punched and kicked.

The victims attempted to walk away but were approached and hassled by the group again, police say. That’s when a number of other young males joined in.

One of the victims, a 24-year-old man from Burwood East, suffered a broken nose and facial bruising. His wallet and phone were stolen and he was transported to hospital for treatment.

Sudanese community leader Maker Mayek slammed those responsible for a violent attack at St Kilda. Picture: David Geraghty/The AustralianSource:News Corp Australia

A second victim, a 26-year-old man from Wheelers Hill, tried to intervene and was knocked out by a kick to the head. He suffered lacerations to his face and was also taken to hospital for treatment.

A third victim, a 20-year-old man from Vermont South, was chased from the area and suffered minor injuries but did not require treatment.

Mr Mayek has a message for those responsible.

“Go to school, find jobs, prepare for your future.”

He said that’s all the community wants for them, and that’s all their parents want for them.

“We’re ambitious and we want to see them succeed.”

Anyone with information, who recognises the males or who may have footage of the incident are urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 0000 or submit a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au

Tony Mokbel plotting second great escape 12 years after his first

Tony Mokbel is plotting his second great escape, more than a decade after he posed as a bloke from Bondi named Stephen Papas and pulled off one of Australia’s biggest breakaways.

From inside his cell at Barwon Prison, Australia’s most notorious drug trafficker is at the centre of an unprecedented scandal that could see him walk free.

Fat Tony, who is not so fat anymore, is mounting a legal challenge to overturn his 30-year sentence on the grounds that his lawyer turned on him and told secrets to police.

He and a number of Melbourne gangland figures will have their cases heard in court after the lawyer, who cannot be named, was revealed as a paid informer.

Informer 3838, otherwise known by the pseudonym Lawyer X, was allegedly paid compensation of $2.9 million after she turned over information given to her by high-profile criminals in confidence.

The information was allegedly used by police to mount their case but the High Court said that was a step too far. A royal commission will delve deeper at the beginning of next year.

The extraordinary turn of events comes 12 years after Mokbel made headlines around the world when he was arrested wearing a bad wig in Athens, having pulled off a remarkable escape while seemingly under the microscope of Victoria’s top cops.

This is how he did it…

Mokbel’s lavish lifestyle played out in the hit TV series Underbelly. Robert Mammone played Mokbel and Madeleine West played his love interest Danielle McGuire.Source:Supplied

LONG WALKS IN REGIONAL VICTORIA

When Mokbel presented at the South Melbourne Police Station at 5pm on March 19, 2006, he was doing exactly what he was supposed to do as part of conditions applied to his $1 million bail.

He was co-operating, police thought. Then, suddenly, he was gone.

Mokbel, the so-called “Principal” of Melbourne drug empire The Company, had his bags packed and he fled. His escape was later detailed in court.

He didn’t board a plane or drive interstate. Instead, he used a contact who owed him money to sneak him into Lot 671, Dry Gully Road, Bonnie Doon.

The property, 168km northeast of Melbourne, included a weatherboard farmhouse, a shed with a tractor and plenty of space for Mokbel to hide.

He stayed there for seven months, plotting his next step. While police circulated his picture at airports and alerted authorities abroad, assuming the former dishwasher and pizza shop owner had long since found a home overseas, Mokbel was getting everything together.

He posed for passport photos in a thick, black wig and acquired a passport and driver’s licence under the name Stephen Papas. Mr Papas lived in Albion St, Bondi, nowhere near the Melbourne drug scene Mokbel was leaving behind.

Tony Mokbel’s fake ID, including a forged passport and driver’s licence.Source:Supplied

Tony Mokbel hid on this farm at Bonnie Doon for seven months. Picture: Channel 10.Source:News Limited

A police handout shows Mokbel wearing the wig he took with him to Greece. Picture: AFPSource:News Limited

With help from the his friend at Bonnie Doon, a man named George Elias, Mokbel bought a luxury yacht. It wasn’t so big that authorities would be suspicious, but it was capable of getting him to where he needed to go.

The 18-foot “Edwena” cost Mokbel a little over $300,000 but it needed some work. While he waited, he walked, plotting what longtime crime writer John Silvester called “an international escape of spy novel proportions”.

According to Silvester, who wrote about the escape for The Age, Mokbel and an associate rented a four-wheel-drive from Budget in Melbourne’s northern suburbs and started a drive from Victoria to Western Australia.

It was October 18, 2006, and Mokbel, joined by Elias, travelled across the country to Fremantle where “Edwena” — fitted with all the modern comforts to which Mokbel had become accustomed — was waiting.

They arrived four days later and on November 11 set said from Fremantle Sailing Club towards the Mediterranean.

Tony Mokbel in handcuffs following his arrest in Athens in June, 2007. Picture: Thanassis Stavrakis/APSource:News Limited

Danielle McGuire and Mokbel’s daughter visit him in prison.Source:News Limited

LIVING THE HIGH LIFE IN GLYFADA

Mokbel hid in Athens, in an expensive home, in an expensive coastal suburb called Glyfada. He was joined by his partner Danielle McGuire and the couple’s young daughter.

He didn’t lie low.

From Athens, Mokbel continued to run The Company, raking in profits while police raised the stakes by offering a reward of $1 million.

Then Deputy Police Commissioner Simon Overland said at the time he hoped an associate might turn on him.

“We’ve got no doubt there are people out there who know where he is, who are probably in regular contact with him,” Mr Overland said.

“Every time he now contacts those individuals, there are going to be huge seeds of doubt in his mind. ‘Is this the person who’s going to sell me out?’”

Police from the gangland taskforce Purana were narrowing their search to Greece’s coastal suburbs and in June, 2007, spotted a man that looked like Mokbel in a coffee shop.

On him, he had the wig, the fake passport and the fake driver’s licence.

The extradition process was expedited and Mokbel faced the judges he was fleeing in Melbourne.

At a pre-sentence hearing, the court heard Mokbel told a psychologist he was a reformed man.

“Dealing in drugs was definitely wrong,” Mokbel had said. “It causes damage to a lot of people, creates headaches and violence in people’s lives. It puts good people in awful places … kids in vulnerable positions.”

For his part in Melbourne’s drug scene, he would be sentenced to 30 years in prison. George Elias was later sentenced to 11 years for his part in helping Mokbel flee.

Edwena, the luxury yacht Mokbel used when he fled from Australia to Greece in 2006.Source:News Limited

Tony Mokbel’s former pizza shop in Boronia.Source:News Limited

Tony Mokbel with Melbourne hit man Andrew VeniaminSource:Supplied

THE LETTER THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING

Inside his cell at Barwon Prison, Mokbel received a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions that changed everything. It read:

(The Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission) produced a confidential report last year, relating to the use by Victoria Police of a certain legal practitioner (to whom I will refer as ‘3838’) as a registered human source — that is, a police informer.

The matter that I wish to disclose to you is that the material contained in the report could be interpreted to mean that at or about a time when 3838 was your legal representative in relation to charges for which you were later convicted, 3838 was also providing information to Victoria Police about you, in possible breach of legal professional privilege and/or in breach of a duty of confidentiality.

The same letter was sent to a number of convicted criminals who had Informer 3838 as their lawyer.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton faced tough questions after the use of the lawyer-turned-informer was made public last week following the lifting of suppression orders.

But he played down the scandal.

“Over the preceding 12 months, numerous people had been murdered, some in very public locations and high-profile criminals were vying for control of drug operations that were inflicting serious harm on the Victorian community. It was accordingly a desperate and dangerous time,” Mr Ashton said.

It’s yet to be seen whether the use of Informer 3838 will set Mokbel free. If it does, it’ll be the second time he’s made a miraculous escape.

rohan.smith1@news.com.au | @ro_smith

Informer 3838 was ‘willing’ to join the other side, turn back on criminal clients

It’s 2004, and Tony Mokbel is walking from the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.

He’s dressed in a black leather jacket but he’s a wearing a smile, too, confident in the knowledge his lawyer will get him off, or perhaps plotting an elaborate plan to abscond to Greece via Bonnie Doon.

On his left side, walking shoulder to shoulder with the dishwasher-turned-drug kingpin down the courthouse steps, is a young female lawyer carrying thick folders filled with papers.

The photographs from that day tell an intriguing story that can only now be revealed. She was his faithful lawyer at the time but she wanted out. He had no idea.

Within months, she would reach a lucrative, unprecedented agreement with senior members of Victoria Police to become “Informer 3838” and turn on Mokbel and a host of other dangerous Melbourne gangland figures.

The deal was a closely-guarded secret.

Lawyer X, as she would become known, made $2.9 million from dealing gangland secrets from one party to the other, but it cost her dearly.

Tony Mokbel is leading a group of convicted criminals appealing their sentences.Source:News Corp Australia

She may have entered into the agreement “willingly”, as court documents suggest, but she regrets it now. She lives in fear that those she turned against will come after her and her children, but she distrusts police to such a degree she refuses to enter witness protection.

Mokbel fled the country in 2006 while on trial for cocaine importation charges. He was found wearing an unconvincing disguise that relied on a bad wig and dragged back to Melbourne.

Jailed for 30 years, he wouldn’t find out that Lawyer X turned on him for some time — not until both the Victorian Supreme Court and Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that the Director of Public Prosecutions could disclose the lawyer’s dealings with police in a bombshell letter.

The informer begged the DPP to reconsider on grounds it would put her in danger, to no avail.

This week, 14 years after walking from court with his trusted lawyer on his hip, Mokbel is among a group of underworld criminals appealing their convictions from behind bars.

He’s joined by Rob Karam and Pasquale Barbaro, both put away for drug-related crimes, but there are reportedly hundreds of others that Lawyer X helped put away. According to court documents she did it for a number of reasons.

Tony Mokbel never knew the lawyer representing him was working for police. Picture: Thanassis Stavrakis/APSource:News Limited

“So far as the facts are concerned … (Informer 3838) had a mix of motivations for becoming an informer,” the documents read.

“(They include) ill health, feeling trapped in the criminal world of her clients and frustrated with the way criminals used the system.”

In particular, she despised Tony Mokbel, Australia’s most notorious drug trafficker.

“(She) wanted to be rid of Mr Mokbel and his associates,” the documents read.

Andrew Rule, who wrote the Underbelly books that inspired the TV series, said this week that in ridding herself of Mokbel, she was “playing both sides”.

“This person has taken it on herself to play both sides against the middle,” he said.

“She’s run with the hares and hunted with the hounds. That reflects on her personality as much as anything else.”

Rule described her as “well-known”, as having a “strong personality” and being “fairly charismatic”.

The gangland war started in Melbourne in 1998 led to the murders of Alphonse Gangitano, Andrew Veniamin, Carl Williams and Jason Moran, among others.

The pressure on police and politicians to end the carnage was immense. It will be alleged at an upcoming royal commission into Informer 3838 that it was that pressure that led police to team up with their special informer.

A police handout of Tony Mokbel wearing a wig. Picture: AFPSource:News Limited

But what they did was, according to the High Court, was “reprehensible conduct in knowingly encouraging (Informer 3838) to do as she did”.

In a 2015 letter published this week, Lawyer X reflected on what was to come.

“I have accepted that I will have to continue to live with the prospect that more details may emerge publicly and, with the assistance of a clinical psychologist and a doctor, I will need to continue to manage the literally paralysing fears and uncertainty as well as heightened danger that impacts upon my existence,” she wrote.

“The confirmation that an extremely dangerous Italian organised crime family has learned this type of detail is nothing short of horrifying.”

It makes you wonder if the young lawyer walking down the courthouse steps in 2004 would reconsider her pending decision to become a police informer.

If she had, what would that have meant for the gangland war that was playing out so violently and publicly on Melbourne’s streets?

— rohan.smith1@news.com.au | @ro_smith