Juanita Nielsen: Requiem for a courageous campaigner
So the plotters and their killers got away with it; the conspiracy is inviolable and continuing. More than 30 years after the hideous torture murder of Sydney heiress-publisher Juanita Nielsen her assassins remain anonymous, the conspirators protected. At least two of the three killers are dead. The leader, unlamented and to general relief, was claimed by cancer; another died by the bullet, a malaise of his trade. It was poetic justice.
Ironically, considering the inhumanity of their calling, both had Christian burials, something poor Juanita will never have. Those who know the details of her awful death still shudder as they recall the final appalling moments of her life.
The date: Friday, July 4, 1975; the time, a few minutes after 1pm. The place, a sleazy motel only a short walk from her home at 202 Victoria Street, Kings Cross, Sydney's Soho. How that came to be the setting for her cruel demise is part of a squalid litany of corruption and betrayal.
The 37 year old newspaper publisher, heiress to a department store fortune, had been campaigning against high rise development in Victoria Street, Kings Cross, a development that was to make hundreds homeless and change forever the character of the once-gracious street where she lived and worked.
Her community newspaper became the rallying point in the front line of the battle. She inspired activists, publicised their cause and coaxed union chiefs into flexing their industrial muscle to block the development when the evictions began.
Juanita was plainly a thorn in the side of the developer. Frank Theeman, founder of Victoria Point Pty Ltd., admitted that the delays were costing his company $16,800 in interest each week. He ostensibly had most to gain when Juanita disappeared but, as Tony Reeves and I were to discover in our long journalistic investigation, while this was a contributing factor it was one of a shoal of red herrings released in the wake of the murder.
The first batch came with the Police version of Juanita's disappearance, an unlikely scenario that, almost 25 years later, is still the cornerstone of the conspiracy and the cover-up.
It told of Juanita leaving home that morning to keep a 10.30 advertising appointment, ostensibly made for her by David Farrell, her business partner, photographer and former lover, with one Eddie Trigg. He was the night manager of The Carousel Cabaret, a Roslyn Street night club owned by Abraham Gilbert Saffron, known to headline writers as Mr Sin, and managed by James MacCartney Anderson, late of Glasgow and the Royal Marines.
According to detectives of the Serious Crimes Squad, Trigg said they had agreed a deal to publicise a proposed business lunch facility; he had given Juanita $130 cash in return for a receipt scribbled on a page torn from her notebook. They were together for ten minutes or so. Juanita spoke of a busy day ahead and a lunch appointment she wasn't keen on keeping. Then she left.
Minutes later she was reportedly seen climbing into the back of a yellow Ford Mustang, the passenger door held open by a man she seemed to know. The car was driven off and Juanita was never seen again.
This last information came from a man said to have known Juanita. He described her as wearing a red leather coat over a tangerine top, dark-coloured slacks and with her hair at shoulder length under a floppy beret. Police were later to release a photograph to comply with this description.
Juanita's friends had feared the worst from the outset, that the threats she'd received in recent weeks had been realised.
And so no one believed a word of the official story.
"Juanita wouldn't stoop to deal with Saffron or his ilk," said Mick Fowler, echoing the disbelief of his fellow resident activists. "She loathed him and all he stood for. If she's gone they cornered her somewhere else, not the Carousel."
David Farrell was quoted at length in the police story released to the press. He said he'd been in the office at 202 Victoria Street a few days earlier when Trigg had telephoned for an appointment to discuss advertising. But on the morning of that “appointment” and Juanita's disappearance Farrell had been sick at home and thus didn't see her that day.
No, Farrell couldn't say why Juanita had changed her policy on the Saffron organisation, he told me at a brief meeting shortly after the murder. Nor, equally incongruously in the light of previous attempts to lure Juanita to suspicious appointments, did he know about the lunch Juanita had told Trigg about. That, too, sent eyebrows skywards in Victoria Street.
"He didn't know?" Mick Fowler was incredulous. "A Saffron hireling knew about it but her business partner didn't?"
The published photograph, supplied by Farrell, also raised the collective blood pressure, in Victoria Street and elsewhere. Juanita, fashionable and meticulous about her appearance, always wore her hair up-swept, bouffant-style. Only very rarely, when modelling clothes for a fashion spread in her newspaper, would she wear it shoulder length, purely for contrast. But certainly never in public.
"Even I didn't recognise her," said Mrs Billie Smith, Juanita's mother, "and she would never go out in public looking like that. It was a hideous outfit. Apart from which I've never seen or heard of the red leather coat." Nor, Farrell excepted, had anyone else.
Farrell had taken literally thousands of photographs of Juanita over their five years together and we had to ask why police would go to such lengths – it transpired that the photo was of a model with Juanita's head superimposed -- to release one which could only mislead the public.
"I picked out that frame myself," Farrell told me. "I didn't notice at the time that it showed her hair down. When it was published I spoke to the police and suggested they change it for one with the hair up. But they said they wouldn't bother, that it wasn't all that important...."
Despite the front page headlines and newspaper posters it had taken the witness to the yellow Mustang two weeks to come forward and a further eight days had elapsed before the police released his information to the public.
It was to be another 13 months before Tony Reeves and I were able to establish the significance of the date, July 25, and what had happened the day before the description became public. When we did we had the first evidence to substantiate our claims of a major conspiracy.
As a freelance editor I had met Juanita in the course of my professional rounds, hence my involvement in the inquiry. Tony Reeves, offended by the implications of the case, had started from the other edge of the periphery, via the building unions with which he was in sympathy.
Within two days of the story breaking I'd visited 20 or so of the likely restaurants where Juanita's lunch appointment might have taken place. She was known at most of them but no, she hadn't been there on the day in question. What was interesting, though, was that the police hadn't been there either. If they're going to follow the obvious trail, I thought, it will be cold by the time they arrive....
After joining forces, Tony and I deduced, in view of the blaze of publicity on the case, that if the lunch had taken place the restaurateur or one of his staff would have come forward to say so. Even those who didn't know Juanita would have remembered a lady of such distinctive appearance.
More, Juanita must have known and trusted the lunch partner or she wouldn't have agreed to meet him without telling Farrell. Thus, he too would have come forward, to clear himself and to assist the investigation. Even if the lunch had been aborted he couldn't help but become involved.
So the conclusion was that both the lunch date and the mysterious partner were fictitious.
Similarly with the yellow car: such was her security awareness that Juanita wouldn't get into a vehicle with people she didn't know well. So the two men also would have come forward to help, to tell where they had dropped her off, where she'd last been seen.
To raise further doubts about the part played by the yellow car and its occupants, the witness who took 13 days to report his sighting proved to be a business associate of James MacCartney Anderson, he of Carousel Cabaret fame. This witness proved to be a man who had met Juanita only once, about two years previously.
The lunch appointment put Trigg in the hot seat. He was the only person to know of it. This confirmed the view that it was a fabrication, aimed at diverting attention from the Carousel and elevating the mysterious lunch partner into the prime suspect.
The equally fictitious advertising appointment, the first act in the plot, raised serious questions about the only other person to know of it. David Farrell, Juanita's colleague, eventually consented to an interview but we were left with more questions than answers and ultimately he severed all connection with us when we pressed him on a crucial issue.
Two other points: the proposed luncheon facility the advertising meeting was meant to promote was never advertised elsewhere, not even in the two newspapers the Carousel management regularly used for this purpose. Furthermore, the facility was never launched and staff told us that because of limited facilities they couldn't have accommodated it.
As late as June 13 Juanita had refused to attend a Press night opening for a new show at the Carousel Cabaret so if she'd had a change of policy it had been a late one she'd kept secret.
It seemed odd that anyone with anything to offer the investigation had a connection with the Saffron-owned night club: Eddie Trigg, Loretta Crawford, also known as Lawrence Dudley Rollo, a transvestite receptionist at the Carousel who had confirmed Juanita's description, and Glenn Andrew Williams, the witness to the yellow car, who was an associate of Jim Anderson, the night club's manager and Abe Saffron's right hand man.
It was almost as if the objective was to draw attention to the place once known as Les Girls, the heart of Sydney's drag show scene.
So Reeves and I deduced that the Carousel, too, was a red herring floated to lead the trail away from the real scene of the crime, perhaps nearby and with common ownership or similar connections. Before long we discovered two other people with links to the Carousel who helped prove that analysis. As a cover-up this had all the substance of a stripper's veil.
First, though, came a witness who totally disproved the police version of events. Intransigent and convincing, Helen Crowley knew Juanita well and told of standing beside her more than an hour after the last official sighting.
"I've told the police everything," she said. "But they've ignored my story. It seems they don't want to know."
Every major investigation requires a modicum of luck. Our break came following the church service to mark the first anniversary of Juanita's murder. Ironically, it arrived courtesy of the Crime Squad.
Detective Sergeant Dennis Gilligan told Shane Johnson, Juanita's cousin and one of our staunch allies, that there had been a second witness to the yellow car, an un-named assistant in a dress shop.
No, she said, when we traced her, she didn't see the yellow car. She did, though, see Juanita at 9.30 on the morning she vanished. She couldn't tell us any more than that, but there was a customer around the corner who could.
This was Helen Crowley, one of Juanita's regular advertisers and like her a member of the Kings Cross Chamber of Commerce, who saw Juanita most days of her life.
And Helen had very good reasons for remembering the precise date and timing of the sighting that was to change her life and ours.
"I was going to a friend's wedding that night," said this vibrant, King's Cross business woman. "When I saw Juanita I was on my way to the dress shop to pick up a shawl to wear that evening. Then I had a noon hairdressing appointment just down the street.
"I was in the dress shop for only a moment or two and I arrived at the hairdresser's right on time. So there's no doubt in my mind that I saw Juanita only a minute before noon on Friday 4 July."
Helen said she saw Juanita near the dress shop, waiting for a break in the traffic before crossing the road.
"For a few seconds I was standing just to her rear, close enough to see her false eye lashes. I didn't speak to her because I didn't feel well or look good.
"Juanita on the other hand was as elegant as usual. But she wasn't wearing the red leather coat the police said she had on when last seen.
"She wasn't wearing anything tangerine and her hair wasn't shoulder length, as in the police photo. I've never seen her wear it down and I've known her for several years. It was in her usual style and looked as though it had just come out of rollers.
"She was wearing a dark brown coat with black flecks -- the material is known as boucle -- black slacks and a fur hat. I have often seen the hat and always admired it. After a few seconds the traffic slowed and she crossed the road in front of me. I went into the dress shop and Juanita went on down the hill, in the direction of the Carousel. That's the last time I saw her."
When Helen read in the following Tuesday papers about Juanita's disappearance she immediately telephoned the police to give them her information. The date was July 8.
The police made three appointments to see her but broke them all. Two women detectives finally arrived on July 24. And, among other things, they disclosed that Juanita had had an appointment at 12 noon at the Carousel.
Helen realised this contradicted press reports of the 10.30 appointment. In fact: "There's something very strange about the police investigation," she told me. "The day after I'd given them my information they published something totally different. They said she was wearing the red leather coat. They totally ignored what I'd said, about both the time and the outfit."
Helen had unknowingly confirmed our belief that the Carousel appointment was a red herring. When Juanita walked down Roslyn Street she had by-passed the Carousel, going on to the venue for her noon appointment, the one the female detectives had let slip and which confirmed other information we had. She was en route to her date with death.
The NSW Police went to inordinate lengths to persuade several witnesses that they couldn't have seen Juanita on the Friday because their descriptions didn't tally. Which in our view rationalised the need for the garish and unmistakable red leather outfit and the eight day delay in publicising it. Because of the delay, those who had seen Juanita in her final hours could not, more than two weeks later, be specific about the day.
Most witnesses we traced had agreed with detectives that, yes, then it must have been the Thursday because Juanita wasn't wearing anything red or tangerine; it was a dark coat and dark slacks...
But Helen wouldn't be deflected from what she knew was the truth, try as the detectives did to dissuade her. Hence the police statement later that Helen "lacked credibility", that she knew Juanita only by sight. Strange that instead they would prefer the evidence of Williams, the yellow car witness, who barely knew Juanita and couldn't give a precise description of his last sighting of her....
Some days later, when she'd realised the implications of the situation, when fear then terror followed each other into the corners of her mind, Helen
asked us not to involve her further. With no lessening of our gratitude, we agreed.
Then I returned to the hairdressing salon she patronised. I'd already inspected the appointments book and had seen Helen's name with the crucial time and date but I had a hunch that the police were about to paint themselves into a corner. I was right.
"No, I'm sorry," said the equally frightened young man, all aflutter. "I'm afraid I've misplaced the appointments book. I can't help you any further."
"Can't or won't? Have the coppers been to see you?"
His eyes were pleading, his face pained and pale. "You must know that people like me are very vulnerable. Please don't come again. And please, please, don't write or say you've seen me."
My hunch confirmed, I thanked him and left, wondering as I did if I was being watched. The police were doing a pretty sloppy paint job, I thought, and their cover-up was coming unstuck. I wondered how long they'd let Tony and I continue; when they'd advise their friends that they'd better activate the red alert button. We were soon to find out.
We quickly established that our inquiries were irritating certain denizens of Kings Cross not to mention the police, with whom they were obviously on very close terms. Their increasing annoyance manifested itself when, three months after joining forces, Tony and I were beaten up, abducted and handed over to the cops who promptly threw us into the slammer for the night, just for asking a couple of questions. Things were hotting up.
The investigating detectives then compounded those errors by lying about us to State Premier Neville Wran, saying that they had interviewed us and that we had nothing to contribute to their inquiry, and generally advising all who would listen that we were a couple of unsavoury characters and not worth a candle.
The fact was that Tony and I soon realised our initial suspicions, that the investigating detectives were up to their arm pits in a major conspiracy. We wouldn't have given them the time of day let alone the names of our informants, most of whom, fearful of the repercussions of talking to us, were insistent upon anonymity anyway. As Helen Crowley was to discover, if you can't trust the police, then who?
We knew that Juanita had met her fate through being too secretive about her activities; she had no fall-back defence. We were not about to replicate that error, so we took out a little insurance. We swore regular statutory declarations listing our latest information, lodged copies with various friends and legal colleagues and then, in the face of considered disinterest in our story by Sydney’s print media, went on radio to tell the world.
Our rationalisation was that they wouldn't eliminate two reporters being very public about their investigation. Would they? We amended that view as we delved deeper into the mire. And on the night of 29 September 1975, we thought our time had come, that we were about to follow Juanita.
We'd tried several times to find Eddie Trigg. Like Farrell, he'd disappeared for several weeks after the murder. But finally we tracked him down in the small hours of the morning at The Laramie, yet another Saffron-owned joint in Kings Cross. We identified ourselves and began a conversation which lasted barely seconds before Juanita's name was mentioned. It was the trigger that caused him to explode.
"I'm sick and tired of being hassled about this," he snarled, his face on fire with rage. He stormed away, snatched up a 'phone and began dialing.
It was, we opined, a propitious moment to withdraw. We didn't want to be there when the cavalry arrived so we high-tailed it for the door and the street. A taxi would have been a welcome sight but there was none to be seen, so we set off on foot at a brisk pace, heading for Reeves' home nearby. It was about 2 a.m.
We had just turned into Bourke Street, off William Street, the main road, when it happened. A big American sedan slammed over the kerb in front of us, braking violently at an angle, its nose in to the wall. The interior lights flicked on as the doors opened.
"Christ," I thought, engulfed by terror. "A shot gun job. What a way to go." But it wasn't. Within seconds, allowing only an ineffectual attempt at self defence, a giant Maori has us both off the ground, one in each hand, as Trigg watched. Two more seconds and we'd been thrown into the back of the car. We were about to be taken for a ride and our adrenalin was pumping fit to burst. We knew there was worse to come as Trigg gunned the car away at what seemed like eighty miles an hour.
"Where the hell do you think you're taking us?" I considered valor the better part of discretion. The Maori turned from his front passenger seat and in one flowing motion handed me another left hook to the head for my valor. Trigg screamed an obscenity, his face hateful as he turned momentarily and looked between the two front seats.
Reeves recalls thinking that "if they go straight on, along Anzac Parade, we are done for, dead. They've probably got a boat out that way somewhere."
But seconds later Trigg braked the car violently in front of Darlinghurst police station. He leapt out and hurried inside. Within a minute he reappeared with a uniformed police sergeant and a constable. The former peered into the back of the car as he opened the door.
"Get out," he barked. "You're under arrest."
We commented later that if events had gone another way that night, if Trigg hadn't panicked, we may never have solved the Nielsen Conspiracy. Our abduction was in reality a favour, though at the time we didn't fully appreciate it.
And the time by the station wall clock was minutes before 2.30 in the morning as we sat shivering in the dock, wondering what next was going to happen.
Once inside the station we let it be known that we took considerable exception to thugs abducting innocent people and handing them over to the police for arrest. And would Mr Trigg's name appear on the charge sheet? We could see a bit of mileage in that scenario.
Mr Trigg, we were advised, was a figment of our imagination. We had been brought to Darlinghurst by the police and would have to ***** wear it. That's when we realised that Mr Trigg had friends in very influential places indeed, that the police plan was to deny his existence and with a farrago of "evidence" discredit us as run of the mill drunks.
But during our night in the cells we were to forge the first links in the chain that shackled the police to a story we were to turn against them.
On the day of our abduction the NSW Government had announced a $10,000 reward "for information leading to the location" of Juanita. In making the announcement John Boddy, the then Police Minister, said that anyone with information should contact any police station, day or night. Coupled with this was an edict from the Serious Crimes Squad to all stations that anyone approaching police on the Nielsen case should be referred to them immediately.
By their own evidence later the Darlinghurst police knew we had been inquiring about Juanita, and they had heard of the Crimes Squad edict. And even though Trigg was to testify that he took us to Darlinghurst "to talk to detectives about Juanita" we had never at any time been approached by the Crimes Squad. It was a nice point, one we raised in the court hearing and which registered with the magistrate en route to our acquittal on charges of "being drunk in a public place."
Neither of us slept that night. Nursing our bruises, we took turns to pace the dank cell, debating our likely fate. Our guess was that the heavies were probably contemplating how to fix the cock-up Trigg had perpetrated. I said I wouldn't be surprised if they came back and picked us up again. The coppers, after all, had gone this far. It would be a simple matter for them to cook the books, as we were to prove in court.
And another thing: they'd kept us in the dock for thirty minutes before trundling us down to the cells. Why?
"You know what I reckon?" said Reeves. "I reckon they called the Crimes Squad, to tell 'em about us, and the Crimes Squad didn't want to know. They wouldn't know how to handle it without making matters worse. Think about it: how could they reconcile Trigg abducting us in the light of the Nielsen inquiry? It would bust the case wide open."
I couldn't disagree. It had been a terrifying, painful night. But that was a small price to pay. We quietly thanked Eddie Trigg and looked forward to allowing him an encore in court.
Slowly, achingly, the night passed. At 7.30 we walked into the pale wintry sunshine. Only when we reached Oxford Street, already streaming with early morning traffic, did we feel safe.
We hurried to Reeves' home. Coffee was urgently required. And the 'phone. The longest night of our lives had ended. The longest year was about to begin.
The first threat came within days. Reeves and I were enjoying a traditional Friday lunch in Chinatown when the messenger, a third rate hack, approached the table and said: "Jimmy Anderson says to tell you you're playing with fire, that anybody poking his head into the Juanita thing will get it blown off."
Our response was concise and colourful and the hack slunk away. But here, we realised, was another piece of the jig-saw.
Why would Anderson opine that we were playing with fire when we had simply attempted to engage Trigg, his acolyte, in a normal journalistic exercise, a brief interview?
What was Anderson afraid of, we wondered, if Juanita had been engaged in a normal publishing exercise, the sale of advertising space? Things were looking up.
They continued to improve for many months. We posed the right questions to Edwin John Middleton, for instance, and his answers stopped us in our tracks: he knew all about the killing.
Ted Middleton is, or was, a Melbourne-born accountant who liked life in the fast lane. So he went to Sydney to work with Jimmy Anderson and Eddie Trigg at Abe Saffron's Carousel Cabaret. He supervised the books, there and at the Venus Room and the nearby Lido Motel and other Saffron-owned joints, and was doing nicely until he had a contretemps with Anderson, one which made Ted most unpopular.
So unpopular that he was "fitted" for a Sydney robbery committed while he was out of town. Whereupon, with police connivance, he languished for some time in Long Bay Jail and, somewhat chagrined, began to tell anyone who'd listen about the facts of life in Kings Cross, not least about a particular murder...
Among those he told was a visitor, Francis Foy, a former colleague of his who, at Ted's request, relayed to us certain information he'd gathered as insurance.
The most interesting bit was that Juanita was killed because of what she was about to publish on illegal gambling.
"She'd already written about prostitution and said she was going to name names in big time gambling," Middleton said. "This is what brought her undone. They took her to the Lido, drugged her, killed her and fed her to the sharks."
A link to the gambling Establishment was one of the three killers, he said, a heavy-set Yugoslav bouncer at The Palace, a Kings Cross casino. A second man was also a bouncer, at a nearby Saffron-owned strip club.
Their names were new to us but the third, that of the ringleader, was very familiar. He was Fred Krahe, an ex-detective sergeant who still wielded heavy influence among his former colleagues and was the "security adviser" to Frank Theeman's Victoria Point Pty Ltd.
All three names were confirmed by a second source close to the heart of the Cross and that of Krahe by a third, although this was later denied.
The latter was Lennie McPherson, an independent operator in the small arms trade, who told a contact in the Commonwealth Police that he had been offered the Nielsen murder contract but had refused on the grounds that "I don't waste sheilas, and anyway I could see this one was a heap of strife."
Yes, he knew who'd picked up the contract. "That bastard Krahe would kill his mother for a hundred grand. There's no educating mugs, is there?"
Our Commonwealth Police contact was convinced of the authenticity of the remark. "Lennie had no reason to lie about it. It was unsolicited. He wanted a favour and he got it in return for certain information of which this was part. He does it all the time.”
Interviewed later by the NSW Crimes Squad, McPherson recanted, saying that naming Krahe had been supposition on his part. No, the Crimes Squad detectives didn't think to ask who had offered him the contract to kill Juanita. Nor did they interview Krahe. We toyed with the idea of doing both but, after Trigg, we thought we'd be pushing our luck.
But yet another pieces of the jig saw had been slotted home. It wouldn't be long, we reckoned, before we had the whole picture laid out before us.
It happened sooner than we'd dared to hope.
In the face of studied disinterest on the part of Sydney's newspapers, their crime reporters orchestrated by Police HQ Press Office, the corner-stone of our defence had been continuing publicity through Sydney's commercial radio network.
One of our interviews reached into Paramatta jail, then the temporary home of Allan William Honeysett, a private detective serving 20 years for attempting to withdraw certain documents from a bank after business hours.
Honeysett knew a lot about documents: he'd lent a few to Juanita, he told us, 16 personal dossiers on Sydney high rollers of a most unsavoury species.
"She was going to publish them for me," he said, "in return for some of the information they contained. I warned her she would start something bigger than Watergate or wind up dead. I was right: she ended up dead."
He gave us a précis of what the dossiers contained, details of some incongruous liaisons and family connections, obtuse business and political associations and all manner of detail that would stretch credulity in a normal, law-abiding community. Pushing our luck, we tried to get our hands on the dossiers. No joy. But a solicitor named by Honeysett had read them and largely endorsed his claims.
"It's breathtaking stuff," he told us. "And yes, they have a certain credibility. Much of the content is believable.
Suddenly another chicken had come home to roost. For now we recalled the early story of Juanita being killed "because she was black-mailing Abe Saffron."
That notion was too far-fetched to contemplate: Juanita's morality and background, the danger and sheer improbability of such a scenario all combined to suggest a wild rumour.
But Honeysett, and the solicitor, spoke of 16 people, not one. And Middleton, among others, had referred to Juanita treading on some sensitive toes in vice and gambling. Now it seemed likely that an imminent expose, be it on big time gambling or something on a larger stage, had triggered her murder.
We needed one more link in the chain, the final verification. It was to come from a most unlikely source.
The camp scene is an integral if incongruous part of the Sydney underworld. Many a pseudo-masculine gunman has a transvestite for a girl friend -- Eddie Trigg, for instance, lived with one.
And in a world where there are no secrets, as Big Jim Anderson said, and where gossip oils the ever-spinning carousel, there's not much the drag queens don't hear about as they flit from stage to bar to bedroom.
Two of them, both show girls at the Carousel, had a fearful story to tell, said a mutual friend in the catering business. To protect them, if they're still alive, I'll call them Lorraine and Samantha.
"We know what happened to Juanita," Lorraine said at our first meeting, "because the silly bastards have been skiting (boasting) about it."
Everyone in the Cross was running scared, she added. Lots of people had been given big cheques to leave town. The grapevine said others had been killed.
"Juanita was warned that the mob had discovered she had important information she was going to publish. She wasn't scared, poor cow. They stopped her blowing what she knew but you two guys are getting too close now. If this thing breaks it will bust the Syndicate wide open. They've got heaps of dollars tied up in potential casinos. Bloody millions. It would rip the guts out of the Cross. It would expose everybody."
Lorraine told how she'd been in a coffee bar with Samantha when the latter's boyfriend joined them, followed a few minutes later by another heavy. Juanita’s name had been in the news again that day and it was no surprise when it popped into the conversation. But suddenly it became frighteningly clear to Lorraine and Samantha that they were sitting with the killers.
"The bastards were actually joking about it, laughing. There were three of them and they'd conned Juanita into going to the Lido Motel. She was expecting to meet somebody friendly but they were waiting at a side door. Then they dragged her upstairs.
"The pigs rammed a fix into her to keep her quiet; then they stripped her and had some fun with her for an hour, doing all sorts of vile things. When they'd all finished they killed her. While the others watched one of them slit her throat and murdered her."
Then I discovered why the body had not been found: an hour later it had ceased to exist.
“You won't believe what happened next," said Lorraine, her hands trembling. "They bundled her body into the lift and took her downstairs to the kitchen. And they cut her up. They chopped her to bits and stuffed her down the garbage disposal unit in the sink. She was ground into paste, even the head."
Not for the first time, Lorraine was close to tears, but the obvious questions had to be asked.
"Was Samantha's boyfriend named Jim Miller or Mueller?"
“Yes. Miller. How did you know that?"
"And was the other man named Voigt, a Yugoslav gunnie?"
She just nodded, wide-eyed now.
"And was Fred Krahe the third man?"
She nodded again.
There was silence for almost a minute, then: "Do you want to tell me who actually killed Juanita?"
Lorraine paused and shook her head.
"I daren't," she said.
We had by now accumulated a huge dossier of information and while much of it was legally inadmissible we could soon convert it into evidence if only we could get it, and our witnesses, into a court.
To this end we approached Frank Walker, the NSW Attorney General, with a view to requesting the recently elected NSW Labor Government to appoint a commission of inquiry.
Walker agreed that we had a strong case, that we weren't required to prove the detail of the murder if we could establish a police cover-up, which he believed we had.
But Premier Wran, also the Minister for Police, was the only one who could issue such an order and while he was sympathetic he was also cautious about authorising a step which could have such wide-ranging political implications.
The Attorney was in no doubt that a commission should be held and when
Wran refused Walker had insisted that something must be seen to be done. So Wran had called in Police Commissioner Mervyn Wood and told him he'd better get the case resolved in a satisfactory manner or that there would indeed be a commission of inquiry.
We had by this stage taken a step we had long considered anathema: we had approached a senior NSW Police officer of unimpeachable reputation at the suggestion of a political contact who trusted him implicitly
When he'd heard our story, Det. Insp. Stan Walden said we had solid grounds for our demands. As a man well-versed in police internal investigations he agreed to take it on, to get some action on our behalf at Police HQ. We should have known it was too good to be true.
Being based in the far western suburbs of the city, he said, Kings Cross was outside his sphere of operations: he'd need a locally-based assistant. He offered the names of several detectives, all unacceptable to us, until finally we agreed to co-operate with one Det. Sgt. Karl Arkins.
Arkins and Walden spent three days interviewing us, compiling copious statements which Arkins was meant to follow up. But he immediately began leaking our findings, at Police HQ and elsewhere, and interviewing those witnesses we'd been free to name.
Only when we complained to Walden did he reveal he too had just learned that Arkins had been on the Nielsen inquiry at the outset, a point Arkins had not thought to mention during the interview. It came as no surprise when Walden, with a pre-arranged phrase, told us by 'phone that he'd been ordered to drop his internal inquiries.
Nor were we surprised when Premier Wran's request for action brought forth Arkins' report on his interview with us. His summary: that our allegations and claims lacked any substance, that we and our witnesses were unreliable informants. Frank Wallker was not best pleased by the turn of events. After months of police procrastination he called in his marker, pressing Wran on their agreement to take the case to a proper conclusion.
And so Karl Arkins, now apparently leading the Nielsen inquiry team, popped down to Melbourne and arrested Eddie Trigg, preparatory to charging him and two others with "conspiracy to abduct Juanita Nielsen."
The case had turned full circle. Trigg, still the fall guy, was in the barrel again. Found guilty, he was sentenced to three years: one of his "accomplices" to two years, as the official version of Juanita's last hours was trundled out once more. Meanwhile their mentors, secure and inviolable in their corruption, looked on.
Almost 35 years later nothing has changed. Juanita is still officially a missing person, although for reasons of her estate she has been declared legally dead. She has become just another statistic, one of several victims to litter our long investigation into death and duplicity in the place they call the Lucky Country....
* The above article first appeared in Sydney’s Bulletin Newsweek magazine on the 25th anniversary of Juanita’s murder. There was no response, legal or otherwise….
* For the safety of his family and after threats on his life, Barry returned to England and became Travel Editor of Golf Monthly, Britain's leading golf magazine. He may now be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org