Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Juanita Nielsen murder





THE scene: a deserted street in Kings Cross, Sydney's red light playground of the Mob; the date: 15 September 1975; the time is shortly after midnight when two journalists are beaten up and abducted while investigating the murder of campaigning colleague Juanita Nielsen. The abductors, employees of the crime lord Juanita was investigating, force the pair into a limousine and drive away at high speed.

   They fear they are about to join Juanita but the car slams to a halt outside the infamous Darlinghurst police station. The driver runs inside and quickly reappears with three cops. Within seconds the two have been arrested and jailed.

So began a life-changing journalistic investigation that eventually resolved the murder and proved that the most protracted police investigation in Australian criminal history was a cover-up of historic proportions. Devised by the killer, a corrupt former cop, and activated by his mates of the Serious Crimes Squad of the state police, the official version of events was a total fabrication that almost fifty years later is still broadcast as the truth.

The real truth is that on that fateful day, Friday 4 July 1975, Juanita was seen by a friend on her final walk and was only a few yards away from where her three killers were waiting.  Any claim to the contrary, official or otherwise, will join the cascade of lies scattered through this bloody scenario like confetti at a wedding. What happened has been an open secret in the corridors of power from the start but here, publicly for the first time, is the unvarnished truth, warts and all.

Juanita's days were numbered from the moment she drew a journalistic bead on Abe Saffron, aka Mr Sin, the late and unlamented crime lord who pulled all the important strings in Sydney's Establishment, the big money world of law enforcement, organised crime and mass corruption.

Predictably in the village that is Kings Cross where Juanita lived and published her local newspaper, the news of her discoveries was leaked and it soon reached the wrong ears. Equally inevitably, re-action was swift, retribution was ruthless and final. Within days she had vanished, never to be seen again. That's what happened whenever Fred Krahe became involved. To this psychopathic ex-cop, murder was a hobby; he killed for fun.

Juanita had long been familiar with danger. Anticipating it was second nature to a campaigning journalist in Sydney but the threat that brought death to her door slipped under her radar. She didn't spot it until it was too late, by which time the needle was about to stifle her screams; her life was in its last hours and death would bring sweet relief.

      A missing person the cops declared, but they knew what their old mate Krahe had devised for this one and what most folk feared, that Juanita was dead and her remains gone to only God knows where. It was Sydney's crime of the century, fuelled by a conspiracy of arrogant audacity, one redolent of a police state where innocent people can be plucked off the street and simply disappear.

At its centre was the police version of events released piecemeal to the compliant media over several weeks. It detailed Juanita keeping an incongruous advertising appointment that produced an implausible receipt, followed by a luncheon date with an unidentified partner at an equally untraceable venue; a final sighting that strained credulity, an outlandish description of her clothing that defied credibility, and a mysterious yellow car with untraced occupants, all embellished by an inconsistent time scale and a trio of witnesses with connections to the perpetrators. 

It was a convoluted scenario that had all the substance of a stripper's veil, one that would be replicated for a second murder two years later. By the time anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay had disappeared, presumed dead, somewhere near the country town of Griffith, the Nielsen case was nearing resolution, the plotters identified but inviolable.                                                                  

Fred Krahe, feared cop turned contract killer, was immune to arrest or even questioning. He knew where the skeletons lay and the bodies were hidden, even those he hadn't personally buried. In short, he knew too much. He was impregnable as well as feared.


This is an excerpt from Ward's book, A Requiem for Juanita, now available on Amazon



The author is a former British police officer turned journalist who became the London-based European Sports Editor for The Sydney Daily Telegraph in 1960. He migrated to Australia in 1963 and worked for several Sydney newspapers until a protracted press strike forced him into magazine publishing.

       In the course of this he met Juanita Nielsen professionally and, along with the late Tony Reeves, was compelled to launch an investigation into her disappearance when it was announced on 8 July 1975.  Death threats forced him to leave Australia for the safety of his loved ones in 1979. He returned to London journalism but persisted with his investigation via the internet and twice flew to Sydney to pursue major leads.

      The recent 46th anniversary of the murder coincided with his discovery of the corrupt machinations which he believes have invalidated the 1983 Nielsen inquest. Now aged 89, this completes his investigation into Australia's most protracted murder conspiracy.


"There's very little I don't now know about this case," he says. "The only unanswered question I have is, why does no one want to know the truth, or more pointedly, why will no one admit to knowing the truth?  This most specifically includes my erstwhile colleagues of the Sydney press, a fact which leaves me baffled and dismayed. It's plain that a story of this magnitude can't be explored within the confines of a community such as Sydney. There, fear is all-encompassing, corruption reigns supreme and the truth is a distant country."


1 comment:

Alison said...

Excellent journalistic work. Vale Juanita, a beautiful, brave and principled woman. Sad to hear the writer was threatened and had to leave the country. We need more brave reporters not less. Sad also that the NSW Police did not do their job to protect and serve the citizens. One wonders why to this day justice has not been done and why NSW Police and ASIO would protect murdering criminals for so many years when they most likely have access to the truth.