The Maria James Murder: Answers to Unasked Questions

The previous instalment in this series, The Cover-Up” can be read here
For those wishing to read the series from the beginning, you can go to The Maria James Murder: the curious case of the still unsolved murder that has been solved


    The “who” of who murdered Maria James has been answered together with how and why. It is fairly straight forward once the nature of the priests involved has been faced squarely and some logic is brought to bear on the evidence that is now in the public sphere.

    The reason it has taken 37 years to solve this case, a police cover-up, is also straight forward once it is known that Maria was murdered by two Catholic priests and that a section of Victoria Police known as ‘The Catholic Mafia’ existed (and still exists) to cover-up, in collusion with the Church hierarchy, the many serious crimes of the Catholic clergy.

    The nonsense spouted by police spokesmen at recent press conferences in 2017, the leads not followed, the known lies accepted (such as Bongiorno’s alibi), bogus police reports (Operation Plangere) and the many obvious questions not asked, all confirm the cover-up by Victoria Police.

  • The Great Unasked Question

    But there still remain some puzzling aspects to the case. One of the most puzzling is the failure of the media to ask some obvious questions regarding the friend of the James family who alerted Mark James to the possibility that Adam James had been ‘touched’ by Anthony Bongiorno.

    The obvious question is-
    “How did she know that this molestation of Adam James by Bongiorno might have happened?”

    Apparently, the Trace program in 2017 did not ask the question nor follow up this lead (3:15min). Was this family friend interviewed by the ABC?
    The ABC in a television report in 2014 did not ask this question nor follow it up when the subject arose in an interview with Mark James.
    Nor was this question asked when this family friend went to the media years earlier in 2007.

  • The Invisible Witness

    It would seem that this family friend has tried to get her information taken seriously at least three times since the murder of her friend, Maria James. In view of the police cover-up, we can guess as to why the police did not follow up on her testimony. But why has the media not followed up and pursued her story?

    In the few days between when Adam James informed his mother about Bongiorno molesting him and the day she died, Maria will have talked to someone about this. She obviously did not talk to her ex-husband about it so it is reasonable to speculate that Maria talked to this family friend who finally suggested to Mark James in 2013 that he ask Adam about being ‘touched’ by Bongiorno. No one else has come forward saying they spoke with Maria about Adam’s molestation by Bongiorno. If this speculation is correct, then the family friend has quite a valuable story to tell. But no one wants to hear it, it seems.

  • The Overlooked Article

    In 2007, Keith Moor, the crime writer for the Herald-Sun newspaper in Melbourne, wrote the following article which included information from the family friend mentioned above. There is a lot of information in this article that has not been mentioned elsewhere or followed up on. The information also prompts more questions.

    Police Reopen Murder Case That Stunned Melbourne
    By Keith Moor
    Herald Sun
    August 30, 2007,21985,22330913-2862,00.html
    An accused pedophile priest has emerged as a suspect in the 1980 killing of Thornbury bookshop owner Maria James.
    Homicide squad detective Ron Iddles yesterday confirmed dead Catholic priest the Rev Father Anthony Bongiorno was one of several “persons of interest” being examined during a review of the case.
    Mrs James, 38, died after being stabbed 68 times on June 17, 1980.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles recently received new information that suggests Father Bongiorno, who died in 2002, could be the murderer.
    DNA is expected to be used to either clear Father Bongiorno or confirm the theory that he killed Mrs James.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles said he was having a fresh look at the Maria James case in light of several new persons of interest being identified, including Father Bongiorno.
    He was recently told Mrs James may have confronted Father Bongiorno about his alleged pedophilia on the day she was stabbed to death.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles has also been told Father Bongiorno may have killed her in anger or to prevent being exposed as a child molester.
    The Herald Sun this week received the new information about Father Bongiorno from Mrs James’s son Mark and a female family friend of Maria James.
    The information was passed on to Det Sen-Sgt Iddles, who has been involved in the Maria James case for 27 years.
    A Herald Sun Insight investigation has also discovered:
    FATHER Bongiorno is one of several persons of interest whose DNA is being sought by police for comparison with the killer’s DNA.
    IF police can’t get DNA from a sibling of Father Bongiorno, then if the material provided to the Herald Sun indicated he was a relevant suspect his body could possibly be exhumed and DNA obtained from it.
    DNA has already cleared convicted killer Peter Raymond Keogh, who for years was the prime suspect in the Maria James case.
    A MENTALLY handicapped teenager told police in 1986 that Father Bongiorno indecently assaulted him, but no charges were laid.
    VICTORIA Police’s child exploitation squad charged Father Bongiorno in 1995 with seven counts of indecent assault against three boys aged 8 to 10 and one count of unlawful intercourse. He was acquitted on all charges.
    FORMER premier Jeff Kennett received written information in 1998 that nominated Father Bongiorno as a child molester. He gave the letter, which contained a photo of Father Bongiorno, to police.
    Mark James this week told the Herald Sun his mother had several heated arguments with Father Bongiorno in the months before her murder.
    He said Father Bongiorno humiliated his mother in Thornbury’s St Mary’s Church by berating her in front of the congregation for selling mild pornographic magazines in her nearby bookshop.
    Mr James, who was 13 at the time of the murder, said he told his mother that Father Bongiorno used Mars Bars to try to entice him into his home.
    He said he believed his mother confronted Father Bongiorno about what she considered was his inappropriate behaviour.
    Mr James said as a teenager at the time of the murder he had not thought to tell police of his suspicions.
    It was only after the Herald Sun this week alerted him to the theory of his mother’s friend that Father Bongiorno was involved that he started thinking back to the actions of the priest.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles obtained the unknown killer’s DNA in 2001 after deciding to send exhibits from the Maria James crime scene to be tested on the off chance advances in technology would enable scientists to identify and extract DNA.
    Mr James yesterday appealed to police to get Father Bongiorno’s DNA so it could be compared with the killer’s.
    “At least then we would know one way or the other whether he was responsible for killing my mother,” he said.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles yesterday confirmed three suspects have been eliminated in the Maria James case since the killer’s DNA was obtained in 2001.
    He said a recent review of the case had identified several other persons of interest.
    Homicide squad detectives are in the process of tracking down those people so their DNA can be taken and compared with the killer’s DNA.
    Father Bongiorno died in 2002 at the age of 67.

    The article is no longer available at the above link though it can be found archived here –,21985,22330913-2862,00.html

    From this article above, we learn that the friend of the Maria James not only contacted the journalist, Keith Moor, about Bongiorno’s paedophilia and the paedophilic connection to Maria’s murder but that she had contacted the Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett, nine years earlier via a letter alleging the same thing. (Though missing from Moor’s article, Bongiorno must have been implicated in Maria’s murder in the letter to Kennett. This aspect was covered in the previous article The Cover-Up )

    So how did Maria’s friend know about Bongiorno’s paedophilia involving Adam James?
    Did Keith Moor ask her? Did he relay this information to Ron Iddles?
    If yes, did Ron Iddles follow it up with Maria’s friend?
    If no, then did Iddles think to ask the friend simply from his own reasoning?

  • More Unasked Questions

    The article states that Maria had accused Bongiorno of ‘grooming’ her son Mark and this information was passed along to the police. Yet, as in 1998, Mark’s brother, Adam James, was not asked by police if he had been molested by this known paedophile even though, it would seem, that this is exactly what Maria’s friend was trying to alert the media and the police to.

    We obviously do not have all the information concerning this strange situation but the questions need to be asked and answered.

    Following on from the question posed earlier –
    “How did she (Maria’s friend) know that this molestation of Adam by Bongiorno might have happened?”
    – we can now ask another question-
    “How did she know that Maria might have confronted Bongiorno that morning?”

    While the article does not say that the letter to Kennett was written by Maria’s friend, logic says it was. Why would the letter be mentioned in the article unless it is connected to the friend’s story? How would Keith Moor know of the letter’s existence unless he was told about it by either author of the letter, Jeff Kennett or the police?

    Given the existence of the cover-up, the police are highly unlikely to be telling Moor about the letter. Why would they? El Jefe is not about to ring Moor up out of the blue and tell him he received the letter either (though Moor certainly would have confirmed its existence with Kennett before publishing). So that leaves the letter writer as the source and that person is the subject of the article – Maria’s friend.

    And why is Maria’s friend telling Moor about the letter to Kennett? Because she is telling Moor the exact same thing she told Kennett nine years before.

    So we have now established that the friend has tried to get her information about Bongiorno being the likely killer taken seriously and acted upon at least three times.
    – Firstly in 1998 when she wrote to Jeff Kennett,
    – secondly when she contacted Keith Moor in 2007,
    – and lastly when she contacted Mark James in 2013.

    It is very likely that there was a fourth and perhaps even a fifth time that Maria’s friend has come forward.

    Question: Why would you write to the Premier of Victoria to say that you think that Bongiorno is not only a paedophile but the murderer of Maria James and include evidence (the photograph of Bongiorno) in the letter? Why not contact the police directly?
    Answer: Because you have already done so previously (in 1980?) to no avail.

    Question: If you got nowhere the first time with police, why not try again?
    Answer: Because you have already done that, too, to no avail.

    Question: Why write to the Premier then?
    Answer: Because you need someone in authority over the police to make sure they follow up on the lead.

    Question: Why would you think to write to a superior – the Premier, in this case?
    Answer: Perhaps you know Kennett or because you think like a bureaucrat. Maybe you work in a bureaucracy; maybe a teacher, for instance; maybe even a teacher at St Marys Thornbury.

  • The Allegation – lucky guess or first hand knowledge?

    Let us look a little more closely at what Maria’s friend is saying; that Anthony Bongiorno killed Maria James because Maria confronted him that morning about his sexual assault on her son. Is it a lucky guess or did she have first-hand knowledge?

    From Keith Moor’s article-

  • FORMER premier Jeff Kennett received written information in 1998 that nominated Father Bongiorno as a child molester. He gave the letter, which contained a photo of Father Bongiorno, to police.
    He (RI) was recently told Mrs James may have confronted Father Bongiorno about his alleged pedophilia on the day she was stabbed to death.
    Det Sen-Sgt Iddles has also been told Father Bongiorno may have killed her in anger or to prevent being exposed as a child molester.

    If the allegation is a guess, Maria’s friend would have to guess (prior to 1996, firstly, that Bongiorno was a paedophile.

    Next, she would have had to guess that Bongiorno molested one of Maria’s sons.

    Next, she would have had to guess that this son told Maria about the molestation.

    Next, she would have had to guess that Maria would confront Bongiorno about it.

    And perhaps that Maria would confront him that morning.

    Lining up all those guesses gives us a million to one chance of guessing correctly. Was Maria’s friend right? Absolutely! When she finally gets to talk directly with Mark James, she asks him to ask Adam if he was abused by Bongiorno – and he was!

    She was right and the almost certain reason why is because Maria talked to her friend about Adam telling her that Bongiorno had molested Adam and that she was going to confront Bongiorno that morning.
    Quite apart from the astronomical odds, a lucky guess would not account for Maria’s friend persisting in coming forward these many times over three decades.

    Why haven’t the media put it all together? Why haven’t they followed up with Maria’s friend and asked her how she knew that Bongiorno had molested Adam James? Keith Moor knows who she is and the ABC have only to ask Mark James if they don’t know who she is already.

    While they are at it, the media could ask her why Maria was afraid for her life in confronting Bongiorno. It will be remembered that Maria said to Mark James twice in the days before she was killed including that very morning to look after Adam if anything happened to her. Maria may very well have talked to her friend about what she was afraid of. Perhaps Maria’s friend is afraid of the same thing.

    The answer to that question could very well open yet another can of worms. It would certainly be in keeping with the rest of this case. The ‘rabbit holes’ are seemingly endless.

    Why The Humiliation?

    A more minor question perhaps concerns Maria’s fractious relationship with Bongiorno. The Trace program brought attention to the fact that Bongiorno humiliated Maria in public at Mass by accusing her of selling (mildly) pornographic magazines in her shop. But we are left in the dark as to why he needed to do that in public. The answer is in Keith Moor’s article included above. It is a little unclear because of the way that Moor has organised the information. So here are the relevant paragraphs put into an order that makes the situation clearer-

  • The Herald Sun this week received the new information about Father Bongiorno from Mrs James’s son Mark and a female family friend of Maria James.
    Mr James, who was 13 at the time of the murder, said he told his mother that Father Bongiorno used Mars Bars to try to entice him into his home.
    He said he believed his mother confronted Father Bongiorno about what she considered was his inappropriate behaviour.
    He said Father Bongiorno humiliated his mother in Thornbury’s St Mary’s Church by berating her in front of the congregation for selling mild pornographic magazines in her nearby bookshop.
    Mark James this week told the Herald Sun his mother had several heated arguments with Father Bongiorno in the months before her murder.

    So Maria confronts Bongiorno about ‘grooming’ Mark in anticipation of molesting him and Bongiorno calculates that he has to ruin Maria’s reputation in the parish so that no one will believe her if she talks about this grooming of her son Mark to others. Maria is alert to what Bongiorno is doing and confronts him about that, too. Hence the heated arguments. We saw this behaviour of Bongiorno’s repeated when he tried to destroy her reputation and therefore her credibility when he was questioned as a suspect in 1998. He accused Maria of being a prostitute.

    There are many clues in that 2007 article that have not been followed up on.

  • The Woman Angered by The Sight of Blood

    Returning to the Trace program, there is also still the more central question of who the woman was that Alan Hircoe (the electrician who saw Bongiorno covered in blood) heard yelling at Bongiorno within the presbytery directly after the murder. The answer to that is rather obvious to anyone raised a Catholic and of reasonable intelligence.

    What sort of relationship would you, particularly as a woman, have to have with a Catholic priest in the 1970’s/80’s to yell at him AND get away with it? I will leave that question unanswered because of what follows, but the astute reader who has been following this series should be able to identify her. And if you, the astute reader, can identify her, why haven’t the police or the media?

    A second question is why would someone yell at a priest whom they suddenly saw covered in blood? If the woman in the presbytery did not know where Bongiorno had been, who he was meeting with and the purpose of that meeting, she would hardly react with anger. But this person did react with anger, so she knew exactly what had happened. She knew that was Maria’s blood on Bongiorno’s hands. How did she know? She knew that Bongiorno had been to see Maria to bully her into silence over his paedophilia and this murder was not what was supposed to have been the outcome.

    In other words, she had been party to the plan that morning to confront and bully Maria into silence and she was now berating Bongiorno for his stupidity. It was not horror that Alan Hircoe heard; it was anger. Alan Hircoe remarked to Rachael Brown regarding the reception Bongiorno received from the woman inside the presbytery, “Fancy getting into that much trouble for getting a bit of blood on your shirt”. So she knew.

    Though no one has said so publicly, I think it is reasonable to assume that Bongiorno, like O’Keeffe, the other murderer and fellow priest in residence at the presbytery, was a member of a murderous satanic cult. And so was the woman. She was not horrified, but angry.

    Before we leave the answers to questions part, we have come across the answer posed to a question in an earlier instalment of this series and that is – who decided that the investigating police team would work out of the murder scene? From Justine Ford’s book, The Good Cop (p102), a biography of ex Snr-Sgt Ron Iddles, we find the answer. It was Snr-Sgt Brian McCarthy, who was the head of the four man investigating team assigned to Maria’s murder.

    There are two odd things about this. McCarthy’s name has not surfaced previously in all the reading I have done regarding this murder investigation. Why is that? Another invisible character. Another odd thing about Brian McCarthy is that apparently Ron Iddles used to call him “Father McCarthy”! (The Good Cop p85)

    Also from Ford’s book we learn that the head of the Homicide Squad, Paul Delianis, spent as much time as he could at the murder scene – a ‘hands-on’ bloke, it seems. Delianis was promoted a few months later to Detective Superintendent and again a few months after that to Assistant Commissioner. This curious pattern of promotions for officers following failure to solve cases or uncover wrong-doing in internal investigations (such as Operation Achilles) has been noted before.

  • The Course Ahead

    We can expect continued stonewalling from the government, the police and the legal fraternity. In July last year (2017), we were told by the police that all the exhibits from the Maria James murder case would be retested for DNA that might belong to the killer. Results would be available by October. It is now, at time of writing, May 2018 and we haven’t heard a peep about it. Quelle surprise!

    The Victorian Coroner has ruled that she cannot re-open the Maria James Coronial Inquiry because the rewritten law in 2008 covering coronial inquiries does not allow her to. It seems the legislation is ambiguous on that point. If it is ambiguous and it has become a point of disputation, then this disputation can only arise if someone raises it. No? So someone in power does not want the inquiry re-opened. It is rather simple. Stonewalling.

    The matter has now gone before the Supreme Court to rule on and we can expect more of the same stonewalling. But something will have to be seen to be done for the public (who do not understand how our society really works and must be kept that way).

    Predicting the future is a dodgy pastime but we do know the goals and the patterns of thinking of the psychopaths in charge behind the scenes from past behaviour. So here goes-

    I think the public will be offered a special inquiry to deal with “these special issues”. The point being that this new style of inquiry will have new rules which will preclude much information and evidence being available to the public i.e. it will be done largely behind closed doors as opposed to the normal practice with coronial inquiries. ‘The Powers That Be’ and their ‘damage control operation’ will not be subject to the existing rules of coronial inquiries which are well known and allow for public scrutiny.

    We saw this exact scenario with the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Assaults. Though it was still called a “Royal Commission” it operated under new and very different rules to previous Royal Commissions. For a start, and most importantly, it was not conducted in public but behind closed doors and what was presented to the public was highly choreographed. It was a piece of theatre.

    We can expect something similar will happen with the Maria James inquiry.

    Then again, the government could simply appoint Coroner Peter White who conducted the coronial inquiry into the death of Phoebe Handsjuk.


    In Two Murderers Part 1, I wrote the following under the sub-heading “Epilogue and Author’s Note”. It bears repeating as we wind up this series. It still applies, more than ever-

    This investigation into the murder of Maria James is far more than a “whodunnit”. Her murder provides the starting point for a whole network of connections between what would, at first, appear very unlikely people. We found a cast of priests, satanists, criminals, judges, politicians and police connected in ways you would not expect.

    Let us start from the outer edges with the innocent but remarkable picture seen above of former detective Ron Iddles with Mark “Chopper” Read. Read was a colourful figure, to say the least. He was sentenced to 14 yrs in prison for mounting a judicial bench while court was in session and holding a shotgun to the head of the presiding judge in an effort to have his friend Jimmy Loughnan released. The judge, Bill Martin, was heard to utter, “Won’t someone get this bastard off me?” Loughnan repaid the gesture later by stabbing Read. Nice.

    Loughnan leapt over the wall of Pentridge Prison in 1977 and into the yard of Catholic priest, Sean O’Connell, who helped him to escape. This is the same priest who gave Anthony Bongiorno a false alibi and had personal connections to current church leaders.

    Loughnan moved in the same milieu as Peter Keogh, another local criminal. Keogh was found guilty of stabbing to death another woman in 1987. He was also a suspect in the murder of Maria James at one point and was being questioned again about his alibi when he died apparently of suicide (unusual for a psychopath) in 2001 on Mansfield St; the street between where Maria lived and where Bongiorno and O’Keeffe lived.

    The link goes from Keogh to judges and their criminal offspring, to a coroner and then on to another policeman uttering strange platitudes that circles back to Maria’s murder. Two of the judges have links to Bongiorno’s court cases in 1995 and one of these also has a connection to his funeral.

    There are connections to two currently alive and very public priests – one very much loved and one very much hated.
    There is a connection to a priest and satanist currently sitting in jail. Victoria Police know all about him. He and his history are in their files, too.

    There are connections to some very dead priests. As well as Thomas O’Keeffe and Anthony Bongiorno, we have convicted paedophiles, Kevin O’Donnell, Victor Rubeo and Peter Searson for starters. These men were also satanists and police have received statements attesting to their violent behaviour and satanic practices. It’s all in the files.

    O’Keeffe and Rubeo have connections to a satanic cult in Ballarat. And it circles back again. Before his death in 2011 on the eve of another court appearance, Victor Rubeo worked part-time (unofficially after having been convicted of paedophilia) at St Paul’s parish in Coburg . Sean O’Connell (close friend of Church figures in high places, Bongiorno and other criminals) was still the parish priest at St Paul’s in Coburg and officiated at Rubeo’s funeral there.

    There are connections with Monsignor Day (serial paedophile) in Mildura and Bishop Mulkearns in Ballarat and the persecution of former policeman, Denis Ryan. Ryan was hounded out of the police force by a group within the Victoria Police back in the 1970’s that he called, “The Catholic Mafia”. All this was officially recognised by former Police Commissioner, Mick Miller, and current Police Commissioner Graham Ashton in 2016.

    Denis Ryan wrote a book detailing corruption surrounding the paedophilia within the Catholic Church and the roles of the police and the legal system in allowing it to continue. His book is called, “Unholy Trinity”.

    If this “Catholic Mafia” was still in existence in 1980 and is still in existence in 2017 (and why wouldn’t it be?), wouldn’t it be a fair question to ask, “Did they compromise the original Maria James investigation and would they have an interest in continuing to compromise the investigation now?”

    (I wish to stress that I have had NO indication that former homicide detective, Ron Iddles, has done or said anything improper at any time over the years of this investigation. Rather, it is other police officers that have come to our attention).

    There are also senior Victorian politicians, past and present, who have inserted themselves in odd ways into this murder investigation of Maria James.

    The connections seem to spread out forever and then repeatedly circle back again. Not all the connections involve illegal behaviour, of course, but much of it is very odd and often very questionable.

    And at the centre of this extensive and complex maze of corruption is Maria James, a mother who wanted nothing more than to protect her sons and had the courage to do so in the face of great danger.

    By asking her elder son, Mark, to look after his younger brother, Adam, should anything happen to her, did Maria sense that she was up against much more than one short, fat paedophile priest? That she was up against something far larger and far more sinister?

    At the beginning of the TRACE series, journalist Rachael Brown said she had found the case involved far more than police realised. That was certainly true for some police but it seems that this case involves far more than Rachael realised, even then. And much of it was already “in the files” of Victoria Police and had been for many years.

    The story of what actually happened regarding the murder itself is simple enough, but how it has remained officially unsolved for 37 years and counting, is even more labyrinthine, if anything, than before now that we come to the end of the series. There is much information that has not been included in this series of articles in the interests of keeping a sharp focus on the murder and on information that directly pertains to the cover-up.

    What is clear to the writers is that, with the exception of only one person, none of the people connected with this story in any way come out of it smelling like a rose. Even the best have withheld information, which is not a crime but it does affect credibility. As for the rest, their behaviour has at times ranged from mildly misleading to flat out lying.

    The history of Victoria Police corruption, which is extraordinary in scope and consistency over many decades, is just mind-boggling. Co-writer of this series, McJ, did an outstanding job of researching and summarising it in this episode. We have only been able to include a fraction of what was involved and the Byzantine connections. We can say, though, that much of it revolved around the Police Association.

    There is much information about the satanic cult connection to the murder and the Catholic Church that has not been included in this series. Though much is known to this writer and to the police, we have tried to keep our reporting to include only publicly available information in the interests of credibility and to show that an absolutely solid case can be made against O’Keeffe and Bongiorno from publicly available information and regardless of any DNA information. Even though Maria James was killed ritually, the satanism has much more to do with the cover-up than with the reasons leading to her death.

    There is something about Thomas O’Keeffe, Catholic priest, paedophile, satanist and very dead, that scares the hell out of people in high places. Why? The imminent public inclusion of O’Keeffe in the Trace investigation somehow forced Victoria Police out of their obstructionist passive behaviour regarding the ABC investigation into hyper activity. They took over the story with their ridiculous claim of the wrong DNA sample and risking the cover-up becoming a public display.

    The point of that risk being that O’Keeffe’s DNA couldn’t now be compared to the sample from the crime scene (which is almost certainly O’Keeffe’s). Should a future researcher come along with the resources to take this investigation further, this is where I suggest you start, with O’Keeffe and why he scares ‘the powers that be’. My guess is that O’Keeffe is some kind of corruption Rosetta Stone. Anyway, that is another story for another time.

    This murder is never going to be publicly acknowledged in all its evil machinations because it goes to the satanic heart of the corrupt system that rules Victoria. This system involves the police, the government, the legal system and that puppet-master hiding in the shadows, the Catholic Church. These groups will be in charge of any future investigation.

    Few working within this nasty system understand it in its totality, I’m sure, but they all do their little bit because it is perceived as all too big and too unbeatable. Or so it appears . . . until the day that it is all exposed – for those that wish to see, that is.

    In the meantime, the stonewalling and the bumbling ad-hoc cover-up will continue.

  • Acknowledgements

    I would like to pay tribute to Mark and Adam James for your courage and tenacity in continuing to push for an answer to your mother’s death. Time and again you have upended your lives over the years in the quest to have some sort of justice for your mother. You have both been so badly betrayed and short-changed by these institutions. May you have your answers officially acknowledged and achieve some measure of peace.

    To Margaret, may you find a way through your dilemmas in a way that brings you peace as well.

    I would like to acknowledge my fellow blogger here at Winter Patriot, McJ, for all her work with this series. Though I have done much of the writing, McJ has put in months of research and contributed many hours of discussion into the meaning and ramifications of the many facts and connections that she has unearthed. This discussion has not only kept my thinking straight but has supported me in just being able to continue to think at all about this appalling crime.

    It has been soul-crushing work for both of us. But there have been some lighter moments such as the more ridiculous announcements of current and ex officials.

    Remembering Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana’s look of ‘who me?’ at his press conference always brings a smile to my face. Actually, I’m undecided as to whether the look is ‘who me?’ or whether it is more ‘rabbit in the headlights’. Let’s hope you don’t get run over, Steve.

    And, of course, there is Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton’s knee-jerk response to being asked by ABC Radio’s Jon Faine about the possibility that the Catholic Church had something to do with The Great DNA Bungle and the missing evidence. “No, it’s got nothing to do with the Catholic Church”, he instantly fired back, giving the game away! Of course, how could he know given that they hadn’t conducted an internal investigation into the Great DNA Bungle as yet. Funny.

    It has also been amusing to watch as some dutiful little apparatchik, who had obviously hacked our communications, was following our searches around the interwebs. Whoever it was, was deleting information and putting up firewalls (all too late!) between us and interesting information we had discovered about the Police Association, the Catholic Mafia and its subset, the now defunct Victoria Police Special Branch.

    And to our anonymous commenter/apparatchik who travelled to different public parks in Canberra to transmit his clever comments, it was fun following you around and we will miss you!

  • Recommended Reading/Listening

    Unholy Trinity – The hunt for the paedophile priest Monsignor John Day” (also available on Kindle)
    by Denis Ryan and Peter Hoysted

    “Ballarat’s Children” – a podcast series by Peter Hoysted

    Cardinal – The Rise and Fall of George Pell” by Louise Milligan

    Background reading and ancient history but excellent resources-

    Phoebe’s Fall – a podcast series into the strange death of Phoebe Handsjuk and the bizarre police/legal investigation of it by Richard Baker and Michael Bachelard. Same state, same police force, same legal system, same Coroners Court, same same.

    Any of the books and articles by Evan Whitton. These expose the legal system – how it works and for whom. They are available free at the link.

    Unholy Trinity (yes, another one!) – The Vatican, The Nazis and The Swiss Banks” by Mark Aarons and John Loftus

    “The Decline and Fall of The Roman Church” by Fr Malachi Martin

  • The Maria James Murder: The Cover-Up

    The Maria James Murder – The Cover-Up.

    The previous instalment in this series, The Catholic Mafia” can be viewed by clicking on this live link.

    Maria James’ Bookshop circa 1980


    It is often the case in history that the crime that brings an institution down is not the original transgression but the subsequent cover-up. The initial crime is often perpetrated by one or more individual members of an organisation but the cover-up, usually rushed and ad hoc, exposes the whole hierarchy as complicit in criminal activity.

    Over the last twenty or so years, we have been watching the ongoing exposure of the cover-ups engaged in by that slow-motion-train-wreck otherwise known as the Catholic Church. The Church’s co-conspirator organisation in what has become known as The Catholic Mafia, Victoria Police, is now undergoing its own not-so-slow-motion-train-wreck.

    The Maria James murder has remained unsolved for nearly 38 years now because of police cover-ups on at least three occasions starting in 1980, then again in 1998 and finally in 2017. It might be argued that all the evidence pointing to multiple cover-ups could be due to incompetence but the incompetence would be so spectacular and so consistent that the odds of it being so approach impossibility.

    We will cover only some of the peculiar events and failures that point to a massive cover-up . There are so many things wrong with this investigation that it would take a book to list and explain them all.

    We will also briefly look at what the point of all this cover up is: the clear and obvious guilt of two Melbourne Catholic priests of murder.

    All the following information comes from the Trace podcasts except in a couple of instances where links are given. It is presumed that the reader has listened to the podcast series and has read the previous instalments of the Maria James Murder on this blog. (Start here)

    The ABC’s Rachael Brown has done an excellent job of digging up and bringing together a lot of valuable information. The opinions and conclusions from that now publicly available information in the following article are those of this writer.

    1980 – Murder Investigation 101

  • The Urgent Confessant

    John James arrived at Maria’s shop minutes after she had been murdered and called the police. The homicide squad duly arrived and one of the first things that happened is that Sen-Sgt Rowland Legg took himself off to interview the assistant parish priest, Anthony Bongiorno, at the presbytery around the corner from the shop.

    This is the strangest thing. No explanation for this has ever been offered except that Legg thought that the priest might know something about the murder from a confession from Maria or another parishioner. But that does not explain why it was the first thing Rowland Legg thought to do. Did he know Maria was a Catholic? You might think to do that days or weeks after if you have no leads but to seek out a priest straight away, as the Trace program remarked on, is very odd indeed.

  • Open House

    Next we have the information that the Homicide Squad set up their investigation centre in the middle of the crime scene. This is unheard of. It is just not done! If the then head of the Squad, Paul “the Golden Greek” Delianis, didn’t order it, he was quite satisfied with that move because he didn’t countermand that decision.

    There would have been blood from one end of the residence to the other from the murderers’ shoes because the bedroom carpet was soaked in blood and from doorknobs and perhaps other things because of blood on the hands of the murderers. Anthony Bongiorno still had blood on his hands when the electrician, Allan Hircoe, saw him some minutes later at the presbytery around the corner from Maria’s shop.

    Yet, there seems to have been no fingerprints recovered from the murder scene. And we have the curious situation whereby the coffee cups, which police are convinced were used by Maria and her murderer, have NO prints at all. Were they wiped clean by someone on the scene or did one of the murderers in their haste take the time to wipe them clean?

    Mark James, 13 years old at the time, was not permitted to retrieve a few of his favourite things from the residence. Yet anyone who wanted to talk to the police was ushered into the shop and through the residence to sit down at the table at the rear of the building! This is peculiar behaviour to say the least. If someone wanted to contaminate the murder scene, I can’t imagine a better way to do it.


  • The Family Priest

    Bongiorno was, at the time and on every occasion since, referred to as “the family priest”. Catholics do not have “family priests”. They never refer to priests as such. They have parish priests and assistant parish priests. And priests have parishioners not “families”. Calling Bongiorno “the family priest” is a convenient way of avoiding calling him “the assistant parish priest” or “curate”, which he was. If he is referred to as the ‘assistant parish priest’, that immediately implies there was another priest, the parish priest. And there was another priest – Bongiorno’s boss, the invisible Fr Thomas O’Keeffe.

  • The Missing Priest

    Now when you hear that Det Snr-Sgt Rowland Legg and his superior, Inspector Brian Ritchie, were unsuccessful in teasing any information about possible confessions out of Bongiorno, the astute listener/reader will wonder why on earth didn’t they go and ask O’Keeffe the same questions. Well, why didn’t they?

    Their failure to interview O’Keeffe calls into question the rationale for Legg immediately going to interview Bongiorno. If it was such a good idea to talk to the assistant parish priest about what he might know from any confessions, then surely it was an equally good idea to question the parish priest, Bongiorno’s boss Fr Thomas O’Keeffe, about the same thing. No? Did Rowland Legg have another reason to talk to Bongiorno?

    Seasoned homicide squad officers may be detectives but they are also experienced bureaucrats. When a bureaucrat strikes resistance from someone in an organisation, the reflex thing to do is to go over their head to their boss. But this didn’t happen. Why not? Bongiorno was even described as “offensive” yet Legg did not go over his head to interview O’Keeffe that day or any day after. He was never interviewed. It seems that nobody in the police wanted to know about Thomas O’Keeffe. And, as you will see, they still don’t! Why is that?

  • The Social Butterfly

    If O’Keeffe is invisible, then Bongiorno is the centre stage attraction – he is everywhere. He is photographed outside Maria’s shop talking to police and his picture is in the newspapers the following morning. He is enlisted by the police (or volunteered) to go to Mark James’ school, Parade College, to collect Mark, inform him of the death of his mother and bring him home to his father and the police.

    Why was Bongiorno sent to collect and inform Mark? Why not his father who was on the scene? That would have been far more appropriate, surely. If not Mark’s father, then why not one or more of the policewomen who were at the scene. Indeed, all three policewomen went to collect Adam James a little later from his school. If Mark’s father, John James, couldn’t go for some reason, why didn’t at least one of the policewomen accompany Bongiorno? Who made that decision and did anyone else suggest it? Did Bongiorno have another reason to go to Parade College that afternoon?

    The astute reader may deduce some answers to these questions posed above from a re-reading of “Two Murderers – Part 2”

    The above information, on its own, doesn’t prove a cover-up happened but it will make a strong case for it when combined with Bongiorno’s conspicuousness at the murder scene on that day and once the following shenanigans have been digested.

    1998 – Bongiorno’s “Less Than Watertight Alibi”

  • Divide and Conquer

    In 1995, Bongiorno was acquitted of charges of the sexual abuse of three boys largely because the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) decided to take each allegation separately to trial in spite of the obvious added expense that this would entail and the reduced likelihood of a conviction. Each jury was only aware of one complainant which increased the chances of Bongiorno being acquitted. So it was the word of one against one each time rather than the word of three against one.

    The previous year, when this decision for separate trials most likely would have been taken, the OPP was headed up by Bernard Bongiorno QC. During his tenure as Director of Public Prosecutions, Bernard Bongiorno had a very public spat with the then Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett, over Kennett’s possible contempt of court – a jailable offence.

    This might explain Kennett’s action in handing over a letter to Victoria Police that he received concerning the criminal behaviour of one Fr Anthony Bongiorno and why he might also follow up on it. Readers of previous instalments will know Kennett had shown great reluctance to have the legal system deal with serious crimes committed by Catholic priests in the past, preferring that the Church deal with their crimes themselves.

    Jeff Kennett obviously had a different attitude when it came to Fr Anthony Bongiorno, though. This may have prompted homicide squad detectives to expect that ‘El Jefe’ may follow up on this letter, its allegations and outcome, with the squad. So something would need to be done and something regarding their investigation would need to be put into the file.

  • The Letter

    So what was the letter and what was its effect?

    In 1998, there was a television program that publicised the Maria James murder again and called for information from the public. Premier Jeff Kennett received a letter from a friend of Maria James. We learn of this in a 2007 newspaper article written by crime writer, Keith Moor. The letter contained a photograph of Fr Anthony Bongiorno together with, we are told, information that he was a paedophile. But there must have been more to it because by 1998 it was common knowledge that Bongiorno was a paedophile despite his skating on the charges.

    The letter ended up with the Homicide Squad and not the Sexual Crimes Squad. So the information in the letter must have implicated him in the murder of Maria James. Why else would the homicide squad be dealing with it? Why else would Maria’s friend bother to send the letter?

    Indeed, we have been informed that Bongiorno was summoned to the offices of the homicide squad where he was questioned as a suspect in the murder of Maria James. But he was dismissed as a suspect with a detective volunteering to the press that Bongiorno was not able to name the murderer from any confessional information because no-one had confessed to the murder in the confessional.

    Hold on! What’s wrong with this picture? That is the answer one might expect from someone being questioned as a witness. Bongiorno was being questioned as a suspect, not a witness, so the answer provided by the detective is therefore highly misleading and has nothing to do with Bongiorno being a suspect. The effect was to cover for Bongiorno. The Catholic Mafia strikes again?

    We have further confirmation that Bongiorno was being questioned as a suspect in Maria James’ murder because Mark James arrived at the homicide squad offices straight after Bongiorno was there and was told of Bongiorno’s questioning.

  • Ask the Question

    Mark was later to reflect that it was really strange that the homicide cops did not ask him if he or Adam had ever been molested by Bongiorno. It is the obvious question to ask given that a letter from Maria’s friend sent to the Premier had claimed that Bongiorno was a paedophile and we know it must have also implicated him in Maria’s murder.

    In episode 5 of the Trace series, Mark James said, “I just can’t understand why back then Adam or myself, but particularly Adam, weren’t asked if we were his victims because that would provide a potential motive”. Exactly!

    Bongiorno molesting Adam and/or Mark James is the missing bit of information that must have been in the letter to explain the passing of this letter to homicide and their subsequent questioning of Bongiorno in connection with Maria’s murder. Given that, it must have been a deliberate choice on the part of one or more detectives to not ask Mark the obvious and crucial question. This kept that question together with the answer and the subject of Bongiorno’s motivation for murder out of the file and saved Bongiorno from being more thoroughly investigated.

    Is this more spectacular incompetence or were the police covering for Bongiorno again? Given the circumstances and in the absence of any alternative explanation of this massive failure, a cover-up is the far more likely answer.

  • The Alibi

    But there’s more. Further proof that Bongiorno was being questioned as a suspect is that he provided an alibi for his whereabouts on the day of the murder. Apparently, according to Bongiorno, he spent that day with fellow priest, Sean O’Connell, at a meeting at Coburg well into the late afternoon. This alibi was accepted by the police without question, it seems, even though had the police dug into their own files they would have known that O’Connell had a record of lying to police in criminal matters. (see Two Murderers – Part 2)

    But there is something that is far worse about this alibi from two lying priests that almost defies comprehension. It never ends. You will remember further up in this article that Bongiorno was interviewed by the police in Thornbury in the early afternoon straight after the police arrived at the murder scene. He was also despatched to Mark James’ school to collect him and returned to the murder scene with him.

    There were pictures taken of Bongiorno outside the murder scene that afternoon and published in the press the next morning. Bongiorno was at the scene of the crime that afternoon and we have the photos to prove it! It was simply impossible for Bongiorno to have been at Coburg all that afternoon. And the police absolutely knew that because they were dealing with him, on and off, all afternoon! How could this not be a cover-up?

  • Been Here Before

    It was reported in the press at the time that the policeman who interviewed Bongiorno on that occasion in 1998 said that he was much more co-operative this time. It would seem that this policeman also interviewed him in 1980 or was present at that interview. Either way, his comment betrays the fact that he knew Bongiorno was interviewed on the afternoon of the murder in Thornbury! So there is absolutely no excuse for not knowing that Bongiorno was straight out lying to him regarding his alibi of being in Coburg. This is a cover-up. And a very clumsy one at that! Not surprisingly, this homicide detective can’t remember that interview in 1998 now.

    Who could this cop be? His name was redacted from the Trace program dealing with this incident.

    Though the alibi is false to the point of being stupid, whoever this detective was could reason that this entry in the file would not come to light later on. But why put such a transparent lie in there?

  • The Long Shadow of El Jefe

    If this is part of the Catholic Mafia at work, then it becomes obvious that Bongiorno has to be eliminated quickly as a suspect of Maria’s murder. Also, it was probably reasoned, the only person who is likely to follow it up is Jeff Kennett given the involvement of the Bongiorno family name and his personal interest (can we say ‘vendetta’?) at the time against Bernard Bongiorno. Jeff could be told Anthony Bongiorno had a watertight alibi and that would be the end of it . . . hopefully.

    That last paragraph is speculation, sure, but what else to make of it? Whatever the case, someone was telling a huge lie that was high risk for the police and greatly benefited Bongiorno and the Church. And quite a few people who should have known better have swallowed that lie whole.

  • “It’s In The File”

    Bongiorno’s ludicrous alibi has been described as “less than watertight” by both retired detective Snr-Sgt Ron Iddles and the ABC Trace team. Quite an understatement. The directly contradicting information is in plain view and is a central part of the Trace program itself and a major part in the police investigation that Ron Iddles has been investigating for 37 years. Indeed, as Ron is fond of saying, “the answer is in the file” and that particular answer has been in there for 18 years, staring up at anyone who cared to take a look.

    Needless to say, this covering for Bongiorno by the police who interviewed him in ’98 and accepted the false alibi is a further indication, should we need it, of Bongiorno’s guilt.

    Meanwhile, there’s an unidentified ex homicide policeman out there who has a lot to answer for and little wonder he is having trouble remembering.

    2017 – Human Error: You can’t help bad luck. Or can you?

  • Tight Lips

    For over a year, Victoria Police were unco-operative with the ABC Trace program providing no comment to repeated questions and requests for information put to them by the ABC’s Rachael Brown. They were deathly quiet, that is, until episode 4 was about to go to air.

    Episode 3 had introduced Fr Thomas O’Keeffe into the story and into the public’s awareness for the first time. He was the parish priest at Thornbury and Anthony Bongiorno’s boss. Yet his name had not surfaced in any of the newspaper reports or television documentaries that has been produced over the many years. But now he was a potential suspect as he had been identified as a paedophile, an abuser of Adam James and as a member of a satanic cult that had ritually murdered victims with knives amongst other implements.

    During the week between the airing of episodes 3 and 4, Rachael Brown was busy making inquiries into the whereabouts of O’Keeffe’s body and what would be involved in getting a DNA sample from it. As it turns out, it would be very simple to get a DNA sample from his body because it is interred in a mausoleum rather than buried.

  • Loose Lips

    But suddenly, with the introduction of O’Keeffe’s name into the murder investigation, Victoria Police are all over the story. Indeed, they not only hijacked the headlines, they hijacked the whole story as you will read below with their hastily cobbled together and ever-changing story of the ‘Great DNA Bungle’. We even had the Police Minister, Lisa Neville, on the phone to Ron Iddles to find out how the James brothers were taking the news of the bungle.

    Source Police Minister Lisa Neville with Ron Iddles

    It seems that the DNA sample that police had in their custody and that was used to clear Bongiorno somehow of the murder, was now the subject of a big mistake. It was the wrong sample and from another murder, police said. It was “human error”, they said. In fact, as it turned out, there was a whole string of “human errors” and all to do with this one DNA sample: this one DNA sample that could answer so many questions. Conveniently, there would now be no DNA sample with which to compare O’Keeffe’s DNA sample should one be obtained. What rotten luck! Or was it?

    Luck, good or bad, is random. A whole series of events which all display ‘bad luck’ characteristics tend not to be bad luck at all when they are consistently bad. We are outside the realm of chance then and the cascading run of bad luck involved in the “Great DNA Bungle” seems to be beyond that realm of chance.

  • The Shifting Story

    First, the public is told that the pillow slip from the murder scene that the DNA sample was taken from was the wrong pillow slip. We are not told what happened to the ‘right’ pillow slip but the one tested for DNA was from another cold case murder whose exhibits were stored next to those of the Maria James case. Police were very sorry and very embarrassed, they said, but all the rest of the exhibits were present and accounted for.

    Well almost. The wrong pillow slip is now a pillow. Another “error”: human error, it seems, because we are all human. Or so we are reminded by the police. That’s mighty understanding of them.

    Despite Mark James being assured that all the other exhibits are present and accounted for, a few days later we are informed that a quilt from Maria James’ bed has gone missing. Police gave this information to Mark James who informed Channel 9 News who, in turn, informed the public. Another human error. More bad luck.

    Next we have the police, in the person of Steve Fontana, Assistant Police Commissioner, holding a press conference to announce that the quilt had been replaced in its bag by a pillow from another crime investigation and we are told again that this is still “human error”. Steve looked particularly uncomfortable at that press conference.

    Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana announcing the ‘DNA Bungle’
    Photo: Joe Armao
    13 July 2017 The Age

    How Steve Fontana arrived at the conclusion it was human error and not foul play, we are not told. We are not told how a quilt could be removed from its bag and be replaced with a pillow from another crime’s exhibits and still be human error. Where’s the quilt now? Presumably not in the police’s possession or we wouldn’t be hearing about this. Someone’s nicked it. Another error, Steve? More bad luck?

    A far more likely explanation would be that someone wanted the quilt removed from police custody and so they replaced it in the bag with a nearby pillow to make it look like the quilt was still in the bag and so hide the timing of its removal. There was blood on this quilt. The murderer’s blood? O’Keeffe’s blood? Why else would someone remove it?

    Next we had the Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton standing in for the vacationing Chief Commissioner, Graham Ashton, asserting likewise that it was all “human error”. But, again, not elaborating on how that might be even possible. Is this assertion being repeated because its implausibility is obvious?

    Graham Ashton returns from holidays a week or so later and he also asserts the same thing – it’s human error! He is asked on ABC radio by John Fain how he knows it is ‘human error’. “Because we don’t have any evidence that it is not (human error)” is the answer from Victoria’s top policeman. And, no, it has nothing to do with the Catholic Church (the primary beneficiary), he assures us.

    Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton flanked by Ron Iddles and Police Minister Lisa Neville

  • “Alas, Poor Logic …”

    What’s wrong with those answers? A whole lot if you know the elementary basics of logic. How can you arrive at a conclusion when you don’t have any information to support that conclusion? You can’t. Unless, of course, you are a police commissioner, it would seem: or the Premier of Victoria. Premier Daniel Andrews, a self described practising Catholic and who consults with the Catholic hierarchy over political/social issues, subsequently made the exact same implausible claim that it was “human error”. No evidence, no explanation and certainly no logic offered by the Premier. It’s all just bad luck.

    Police tell us that they knew from April, three months before, of the ‘DNA Bungle’ but have seemingly done nothing with that time regarding the ‘bungle’ including finding out what happened, who did it and, most importantly, getting their story straight!

  • Three Strikes …

    There are three ways we can tell that this story from the police is not true. The first way is the simple fact that the story keeps changing. This tells us that the story is a ‘work in progress’ and has been hastily put together. It’s not true, in other words. It is a cover-up.

    The final version (so far) from Victoria Police maintains that a quilt was removed from a bag marked “Maria James’ blood-stained quilt” and replaced by a pillow from another exhibit box through “human error”. The quilt has subsequently gone missing. It is simply not possible for this deliberate act to be a mistake or ‘human error’. Too many deliberate decisions were made in this switch of exhibits for it to be a mistake or the product carelessness. That’s the second way we can tell the story is not true.

    A third way we can know that it is not true is that VicPol say that the substitution of a foreign pillow for the quilt happened prior to the exhibits being tested for DNA in 2001.

  • The Chain That Explains

    There is a legal requirement called Chain of Custody. It is a bureaucratic process whereby the custody of an exhibit from a crime is recorded as being in someone’s possession at all times. It is critical that this record is maintained as the evidence becomes useless in a court case without that continuous record otherwise it may have been tampered with.

    So the forensics lab would have had to mark accepting the quilt and the bag it was in (labelled “Maria James’ blood-stained quilt”) and mark it out when they returned it to the warehouse. It is not possible for the forensics lab in 2001 to open the quilt bag, notice that there was a pillow and not a quilt in there and then not make a note of that nor inform anyone especially Ron Iddles, the then head of Homicide, of the break in the Chain of Custody of Evidence.

    They couldn’t simply ignore it either. They would have had to actively falsify the chain of evidence and there would have been no reason to do that. The fact that the forensics lab did not sound the alarm tells us that when they opened the quilt bag there was a quilt inside it and not a pillow. So, again, the police story is not true. That is three ways the police story is not true.

    If it did happen the way the police say it did, Ron Iddles would have been informed by the forensics lab in 2001 that the quilt was missing and that there was a pillow in its place. If Ron had known that, he wouldn’t have been testing all those suspects for DNA afterwards. But he did test those people. So he was unaware of the switch at the time which means he wasn’t informed of it by forensics which means that the switch didn’t take place until after the DNA testing was done by forensics and the exhibits returned to wherever the police were warehousing them.

    It follows then that the DNA that came from the pillow slip tested in 2001 is correct and belongs to the murderer. That pillow slip that did come from Maria’s bedroom should still be in the Maria James evidence box. If it is not, then we have a further cover-up on our hands.

  • Singing From The Same Song Sheet

    Clearly, the officials who have claimed in public that the substitution of a foreign pillow for the quilt was human error together with the ‘fact’ that the substitution happened prior to the testing in 2001 are all repeating a story that is clearly not true. These officials, the Assistant Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner, the Chief Commissioner and the Victorian Premier are knowingly or unknowingly telling falsehoods. If it is unknowingly, they should all be sharp enough, in any case, to know that what they are saying doesn’t make any sense. If they can’t see that, then they clearly don’t have the brains to do their jobs. The other options are even less flattering.

    Every way you look at it, the story coming from Victoria Police is not only wrong and but very obviously wrong. The only explanation that makes any sense is that there is yet another cover-up in progress and it is being conducted by someone from behind the scenes: someone who has the power to push all these officials out into the spotlight to tell the same nonsense story; to sing the same song. Either that or we have here an example of spontaneous group stupidity that flies in the face of a primary rule of senior bureaucrats: ‘You always push your underlings out to announce the bad news – to take the risks’ a.k.a. CYA

    The Trace program has opened a can of worms. Just how big a can it actually is, we are slowly beginning to see.

    Now let us look again briefly at who and what is being hidden or distracted from to get a sense of the scale of this cover-up.

    Thomas O’Keeffe: The Amazing Invisible and ‘Radioactive’ Priest

    Thomas O’Keeffe had not figured at all in the Maria James case in 37 years until the third episode of the Trace podcast series. But at the mention of his name, the police do all sorts of strange things. They really do not want to know about him. It is like he is radioactive.

    As noted earlier in this article, O’Keeffe was curiously invisible at the time of the murder. Police were keen to interview Bongiorno, the assistant parish priest, as to any information he could give them that he might have obtained from the Confessional. Yet they weren’t keen at all to interview the parish priest, Thomas O’Keeffe, even though the same reason should apply to him, too.

  • It’s Not In The File

    Mark James has remarked how helpful and understanding the police had been over the many years until Mark informed them that Thomas O’Keeffe had also abused his brother Adam. Then he was shocked to be suddenly confronted by rudeness and dismissal from the police: a complete 180 degree change of attitude. Police did not take a statement in spite of being told of another perpetrator with a motive to kill and dismissed the claim. So, there is no entry regarding O’Keeffe put in the file. As with Bongiorno in 1998, there would be nothing in the police file for a later investigator to link either paedophile to Maria and provide a clear motive for murder.

    Police had stonewalled the Trace investigation from the start refusing to answer questions or be interviewed. But at the mention of O’Keeffe being involved and his DNA being sought, Victoria Police suddenly burst into action and take control of the story.

    Even now with all the evidence against him, as outlined in Two Murderers Part 1 and Part 2, O’Keeffe is still not in the top 5 suspects of the police! The police just do not want to go near O’Keeffe. Why is that?

    Let us run through his qualifications as a suspect again:-

    Motivation – O’Keeffe also abused Adam James along with Bongiorno and would want Maria silenced.
    Opportunity – he lived around the corner from Maria’s shop and would have known Bongiorno was meeting with Maria that morning about Adam’s abuse.
    Ability – he has been identified as being a member of a satanic cult that ritually killed victims with knives.
    Modus Operandi – he had attacked another victim in his home years prior to Maria’s murder in exactly the same way that Maria was killed i.e. with a kitchen knife from the victims own home.
    Alibi – O’Keeffe’s ‘invisibility’ means he has no alibi.
    Accomplice – We know from previous instalments that there were two murderers and Bongiorno was one of them. Bongiorno’s only possible accomplice is O’Keeffe, given the short time frame involved (half a day) between Maria’s early morning call to Bongiorno and her death.

  • The Connection

    Still, Ron Iddles thinks O’Keeffe is not a suspect but rather only “a person or interest”. When questioned in episode 4 of Trace about exhuming O’Keeffe for a DNA sample, the former head of Homicide is reticent,
    “You would have to have some evidence other than the fact that O’Keeffe is a paedophile or is a sexual deviate and all the rest of it. So there has to be a stronger connection between O’Keeffe and Maria. Some evidence that he frequented the shop or, you know, was a regular or he spoke to Maria just before the murder. There’s got to be something else to connect the two.”

    Well, O’Keeffe was Maria’s parish priest and there would have been regular contact because of that. But there is something far more compelling that connects O’Keeffe to Maria and it is something that provides O’Keeffe with a very clear motive for silencing her. It is the very reason that O’Keeffe is now part of the story. O’Keeffe had sexually abused Maria’s son! And she is blowing the whistle on Bongiorno abusing her son. O’Keeffe knows he’s next. That is quite a telling connection.

  • It’s The Flowers

    Ron continues, “The question would be ‘who sent the flowers’? Can you eliminate that person? No, I can’t because I don’t know who it is.”

    There is a little bit of ‘bait and switch’ going on here. Even Ron Iddles doesn’t want to know about Thomas O’Keeffe.

    So what Ron is saying is that all the other suspects would need to be eliminated first apparently before O’Keeffe can be considered for exhumation for a DNA sample or even being a suspect! There is so much wrong with that. Firstly, why is a higher standard for becoming a suspect being applied to O’Keeffe and not the other “Top 5 suspects”? The others, apart from Bongiorno, do not have motivation, but O’Keeffe has.

    Secondly, the flower sender cannot be regarded as a reason not to open O’Keefe’s mausoleum because he is not even a bone fide suspect. There is simply no additional information on the ‘flower sender’. The only thing that is known about him is that he sent some flowers to Maria. There’s no motivation, opportunity, ability or any connection established with him to Maria. Nothing!

    With all the damning evidence, including clear motivation, opportunity and ability pointing to O’Keeffe, he is only a ‘person of interest’. Yet some guy no one knows anything about is a ‘suspect’ because he bought some flowers! That’s the only thing we know about him and he is the reason we can’t get a DNA sample from O’Keeffe’s bones? This is getting more than a little bizarre.

  • Loners and Red Herrings

    All the other suspects that police are looking into (apart from Bongiorno) are loners and are Red Herrings. Motivation, opportunity or ability has not been established for any of them. There is no suggestion that any of them had a partner for this crime as would be necessary because one murderer left by the front door and ran away from the church presbytery while the other covered in blood left by the back door and ran towards the presbytery.

    One can only conclude that these non-suspects are being included in the investigation and in the public discourse as distractions.

    With all the damning evidence pointing to him, the invisible O’Keeffe is now (still) being treated like he is radioactive by the police because they don’t want to go anywhere near him. This is the same Victoria Police that has an admitted and acknowledged history of covering up serious crimes committed by Catholic priests.

    Anthony Bongiorno – The highly visible priest no one wants to look at

    We’ve looked at the evidence against O’Keeffe, so for completeness, now let us recap on the evidence against Bongiorno.

    Motivation – Bongiorno was a paedophile and he abused Adam James and he wanted to silence Maria James
    Opportunity – We know Maria rang him that morning and arranged a meeting with him. He was seen waiting outside Maria’s shop that morning.
    He was seen minutes after the murder with blood on his hands, arm and face a hundred metres or so from the murder scene
    Ability – It is very possible that he, too, was in a satanic cult. His immediate boss and house-mate, O’Keeffe, was in a satanic cult as were other priests that Victoria Police are well aware of. So why not Bongiorno? He was a paedophile and exhibited psychopathic traits, after all.
    Alibi – He provided an impossible alternative alibi to the police. We know, and the police know, he was in the vicinity of the murder when it took place.
    Accomplice – The circumstances that we know of require that there were two murderers. Bongiorno and O’Keeffe are the only two suspects that even knew each other.

    There is more than enough evidence in the public realm for any jury in Australia to convict both of these priests. People have been convicted on far less. Yet the police still will not make the case against either of them.

  • The Inconvenient DNA

    The DNA nonsense started with Anthony Bongiorno. Police have turned themselves into pretzels over the years to avoid exhuming him from his curiously unmarked grave. After stalling Mark James for years over this issue, they finally admitted to Alan Hircoe after he told them in 2014 that he saw Bongiorno immediately after the murder with blood on his hands: that they now had enough to have him exhumed. But, inexplicably (but maybe not), that didn’t happen. Unsurprisingly, Mark James was kept in ignorance regarding Alan Hircoe’s testimony.

    The DNA nonsense turns into a public spectacle, though, when it becomes known that Rachael Brown is looking for a DNA sample for O’Keeffe. The police could not reasonably resist calls to disinter O’Keeffe’s bones to get a sample from so the next best thing is for the standard with which it would be tested against (the pillowslip) to go missing. And what luck (good or bad depending on where you stand), there’s a mix up. As I explained in Two Murderers Part 2, the killer’s blood that is on the exhibits in police custody is almost certainly that of Thomas O’Keeffe.

    Police said in July 2017 that all the exhibits would be tested again for DNA and the results would be known by October. It is now the end of March 2018 and we have heard nothing regarding those tests. But who could trust what Victoria Police say now, anyway?

    But for all that, the DNA kerfuffle is another red herring. Plenty of murderers were convicted before the advent of DNA evidence. Whilst people are focussing on DNA samples, no one is looking at all the other evidence that points to O’Keeffe and Bongiorno as being the killers. And as stated above, there’s more than enough evidence already known to rule that Maria James was murdered by two Catholic priests, Thomas O’Keeffe and Anthony Bongiorno.

  • Taking The Expensive Way Out

    But DNA samples certainly have their uses. Given that the public is facing the huge expense with another Coronial Inquiry into Maria’s death and lots of other costly legal manoeuvrings, why not simply disinter both Bongiorno and O’Keeffe and take DNA samples? And given that the original DNA sample/samples that Victoria Police still have is/are most likely that of one of the killers, why not compare the priests’ DNA with it/them? It would be simple, quick, relatively cost effective (forensic scientists are a whole lot cheaper than a bunch lawyers at a government funded, open-ended inquiry) and answer a lot of questions. That this has not been done already raises its own set of questions. How extensive is this cover-up?


    The only plausible explanation for all of the above failures, falsehoods and contradictions over 37 years that has left the murder of Maria James officially unsolved is that the ‘Catholic Mafia’ within Victoria Police is still operating, still being protected, still responding to the needs of the Catholic Church hierarchy by still covering up for criminal priests, even dead ones. This ‘Catholic Mafia’ is also covering for its own 37 years of criminal complicity in the murder of the innocent, determined and entirely brave Maria James.

    And almost everybody in authority knows it.

    Maria James – may you Rest In Peace

  • The Maria James Murder: The Catholic Mafia

    THE CATHOLIC MAFIA – The Honourable Society (with apologies to ‘Ndrangheta)

    The previous instalment in this series, “Paul Delianis – The Golden Greek”, can be read here


    Denis Ryan was a detective at Mildura in Victoria in 1972 when he was forced through circumstances contrived by Victoria Police leadership to resign. He had the temerity to want to charge and prosecute serial child rapist, Monsignor John Day, Catholic parish priest for Mildura, for his many offences over many years.

    Ryan first came across Day when he was a Constable at St Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne known widely as the ‘red light district’ of Melbourne. Day was found in his car in the company of two prostitutes with his pants around his ankles and paralytic drunk. Constable Ryan took Day to the police station and was shocked when he was not charged and was instead released into the company of two young priests who came from the Cathedral after Day managed to make a call to the Cathedral for help. Ryan thought that priests should be held to a higher standard rather than a lower one.

    Later that evening, when Ryan approached the senior officer in charge, Tom Jenkins, saying, “Tell me, what’s the drill when we lock up priests?”
    Tom replied somewhat chillingly, “We don’t lock them up. We let them go. Once you’ve been around for a while, you’ll start to learn that the Catholic Church carries a good deal more clout than the local church on the corner.
    It’s a political organisation. It has wrapped itself around every layer of government. This happens everywhere. All across Australia and probably all over the world. But nowhere does the Catholic Church have more power than it does in the Victorian police force. Short of a murder blue, he’ll walk every time.
    Nothing would happen to Day. This goes all the way to the top. It’s just not the police. It’s the judges, lawyers, politicians. I don’t agree with it but there are forces at work here that are stronger than you or me. I learnt early on in the job, don’t pick fights you can’t win.” (05:50min)

    This is in 1956. Welcome to the Catholic Mafia, a group within Victoria Police that would keep the priests immune from being charged for any crime. The priests had carte blanche.

    The next time Denis Ryan would knowingly come into contact with the Catholic Mafia was after he had became a detective in 1958. Det Sgt Fred Russell approached him to join their ranks saying, “There is a group of us who at the request of the Cathedral look into instances where priests have been charged with offences to see if we can have these matters dropped or dismissed so the church’s good name will not be brought into disrepute. We know your strong belief. We’d like to invite you to join us.”
    A group of police keeping a look out for and protecting priests; the Catholic Mafia. (08:30min)
    Ryan declined to join.

    This group claimed to be protecting the ‘good name’ of the Church. But who or what is “the Church”? The word ‘church’ can refer to many things:-
    – a building;
    – the world-wide body of Christians throughout time;
    – an esoteric group of people;
    – the Catholic laity in general, perhaps church attending or not;
    – the Catholic Church diocesan hierarchy with or without the religious orders;
    – the Vatican, when referring to edicts from on high.

    ‘Church’ has multiple meanings and politicians, theologians, church officials and other apologists will often use the word to refer to different meanings (different groups of people) within the one statement or argument. This is the “Fallacy of Equivocation” and is used consciously to confuse and deceive.

    (Whenever I refer to ‘the church’ without qualifying it in this essay, I will be referring to the priests and their clerical superiors.)

    So Fred Russell may have hoped Ryan would interpret the word ‘church’ to include himself; as if the crimes and attendant shame were collective. But who exactly were Russell and his fellow conspirators protecting? The punters in the pews? Hardly.

    “Criminal priests”, is the answer and at the request of the Catholic Church hierarchy – the bishops and higher. Every time a priest committed a prosecutable offence and was let go without charge, in doing so, further crimes were being committed by members of the Victoria Police and the senior members of the Catholic hierarchy. This is a criminal conspiracy being perpetrated against the public and, more specifically, against the Catholic community because it was their children who were continuing to be raped and destroyed.

    So it cannot be it argued that this criminal conspiracy of police and priests were protecting the wider Catholic community. The conspirators were directly protecting criminal paedophile priests at the direct cost of the Catholic laity. Who protects paedophiles? Fellow paedophiles and psychopaths and those who are compromised and ensnared by these fellow paedophiles and psychopaths. Paedophilia is anathema to everyone else.

    Denis Ryan has stated that had Monsignor John Day been charged with his crimes at the time, hundreds of children would have been spared. Hundreds of families would have been spared problems that became generational. Every policeman who conspired in this travesty is guilty of the most horrendous of crimes. During this time in the ’70’s and before, Victoria Police functioned as a criminal organisation. Not all police were criminals, of course, but it is a matter of record that the criminals were not held to account – and still aren’t. Many looked the other way – and still do. Why?


    The other organisation involved in this criminal conspiracy was the Catholic Church; meaning the priests and their superiors. In the face of the aggrieved parents who came to them detailing the paedophilic crimes of their fellow priests, the bishops also appealed to the abstraction of preserving the ‘good name of the church’. But that ‘church’ most definitely did not include the parents or their children in the parishes that the paedophile priests were subsequently sent to.

    The ‘good name’ that the bishops wanted to preserve was the good name of the paedophiles and their fellow paedophile friendly bishops, archbishops and perhaps now cardinal.

    In the typical case, when the aggrieved parents met with the bishop, they wanted something done about the paedophile. They did not want his crimes to continue. They wanted him removed from the parish and removed from further contact with children.

    The paedophile in question also wants to be removed from the parish as he does not want to be confronted by angry parents, wider exposure and perhaps even receive a beating. He does not want to be removed from access to children, however. He wants to be sent to another parish that does not know of his crimes so he can continue to rape and ruin.

    If the bishop was truly concerned with the interests of the wider Catholic laity and wanted to avoid any chance of further scandal (and threat to the ‘good name’), he would agree with the parents and remove the offending paedophile from ministry and from further contact with children.

    But what did the bishops do in every case? They did what the paedophiles wanted. They moved them to fresh and greener pastures. By their actions, the bishops sided with the interests of the paedophiles and against the interests of the children and their families. “By their deeds ye shall know them”

    The bishops facilitated the paedophile priests in committing more horrendous crimes against Catholic children and by extension, Catholic families. The same families that the Church itself said (and says) that God has charged them to protect. This charge from God to protect is the basis of their authority and they have trampled on it.

    Again, who protects paedophiles? It would be instructive that whenever the words, “protecting the good name of the Church” are written or spoken, to think instead, “protecting the good name of the paedophiles”. That is a far more accurate description of what was actually happening.


    Back to Denis Ryan. He would be forced out of the police force by the Catholic Mafia within the police force in 1972. His ‘sin’?; trying to enforce the law that is supposed to apply to everybody. By this time (if not before), the Catholic Mafia included the Chief Commissioner of Police, Reg jackson. This was acknowledged by the Victoria Police force itself in 2015 in the personage of the current Chief Commissioner, Graeme Ashton.

    Mick Miller, Chief Commissioner at the time of Maria James’ death (L), Denis Ryan (C), Graeme Ashton, current Chief Commissioner (R)

    Was the Catholic Mafia in place eight years later in 1980 when Maria James was killed by two Catholic priests? Denis Ryan and journalist, Peter Hoysted were able to establish that it was still in operation in 1976. I think we can say with confidence that the Catholic Mafia was still in place because corrupt criminal networks do not suddenly dissolve or reform themselves. That is not their nature. They can only get worse absent some catastrophic event (for them) such as a genuine public inquiry followed by multiple sackings and convictions. That hasn’t happened.

    So the Catholic Mafia was still in place at the time of Maria James’ murder and the signs are that it still is to this day.

    In 2012, the Age newspaper in Melbourne ran a front page story about suicides in Ballarat amongst men who had been abused as children by priests and Christian Brothers in Ballarat. The story quoted a leaked report compiled by Ballarat policeman, Sgt Kevin Carson, who detailed 40 suicides amongst that population of survivors in that town. One of the survivors of that campaign of abuse was later to show the Royal Commission into this sexual abuse a class photo of his from the 1970’s. Half of his fellow students in the photo were now dead. Half!

    Kevin Carson compiled his list after being approached by Robert Walsh who lost two of his brothers and one of his cousins to suicide. All had been abused at Catholic schools in Ballarat.

    The real cost of this abuse was now before the public. The Victorian Government in the face of the horrified reaction of the public, instituted a Victorian Parliament Inquiry. The Inquiry had all the hallmarks of a “set-up to fail sham” but, in fact, it started to do a better than average job of it complete with better than average press coverage. The Catholic Church was not looking good.

    In the face of this, Victoria Police decided to do their own little inquiry into Sgt Kevin Carson’s report which had caused the parliamentary inquiry to be called. This internal reactive inquiry was call “Operation Plangere”.

    ‘Plangere’ is an unusual word. It is Latin and means to strike or beat as in striking one’s chest similar to the “Mea Culpa” practice employed in the Catholic Mass. Or perhaps as in what happened to Peter Curran detailed below. The other, but related meaning, is to wail/lament or mourn. Latin is more commonly associated with the Catholic Church rather than Victoria Police. Was someone in the Church together with someone in the police mocking the survivors and those that suicided?

    According to Louise Milligan’s book, “Cardinal – The Rise And Fall Of George Pell”, Operation Plangere concluded that only one of the suicides could be substantiated as linked to sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy. A remarkable finding especially in light of the fact that the detectives running Operation Plangere did not talk to Rob Walsh or any of his family.

    Indeed, the police did not talk to even one of the family members of any of the men who suicided. The investigating police were ordered not to approach the families. You can’t investigate a crime without talking with the people with the most information. Unless . . . your aim is not to investigate and your conclusion is pre-ordained.

    The police officers who wrote up the Operation Plangere report were also obstructed by other police officers from interviewing Sgt Kevin Carson, the author of the initial report that they were investigating. Carson was unaware that he was being sought out and it has to be said that the Operation Plangere officers did not try too hard to circumvent the obstacles in their path. I mean, the man had a phone, for goodness sake!

    The Operation Plangere report was an obvious political whitewash attempting to discredit Sgt Kevin Carson and the Victorian Government for calling the Inquiry and to discredit the remaining survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Ballarat. The police who ordered the report and the police who carried it out could not have been ignorant of the fact that the risk that this nonsense conclusion could cause yet more suicides.

    Who stood to benefit from this bogus report? It is not clear that Victoria Police or any specific members of the force would benefit directly from this false and potentially fatal report. In fact, it reflects poorly on them. The Catholic Church, on the other hand stood to benefit very directly. Indeed, the Church, upon the release of the Operation Plangere report and citing it, predictably claimed that it had been unduly and falsely criticised by Carson’s report. And perhaps if the bogus report caused the death of a few more survivors, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing from the perspective of the church –

    From an ABC report in 2015 A Ballarat survivor of clerical sexual abuse has told the royal commission today that ten local victims have committed suicide in the last year.

    This is three years after Sgt Kevin Carson’s report of 40 suicides was leaked to the media.

    Also from that same ABC News report – Bishop Bird told us if the church had to pay that amount to every survivor (a modest supplement to their government disability pension) the church would go bankrupt. Bishop Bird told us that we were in danger of destroying his church. He said, “Andrew, you need to understand something, the church has endured for thousands of years, and in another 40 years or so, you people will all be dead and this will be forgotten about and the church will endure for thousands of years more”.

    Note the ‘Us and Them’ attitude evident in Bishop Bird’s words; never mind the evident stinginess and rejection of responsibility for the damage directly resulting from their crimes.

    Some attitudes never change, it seems.

    Louise Milligan concludes her chapter on Operation Plangere with the apparent acceptance of Victoria Police’s narrative explaining away their nonsense report as ineptness-

    “What in reality, Victoria Police tells me it was, was an attempt to not upset families of a bunch of guys who died a long time ago when it would be very difficult to establish on any measure exactly what caused them to take their lives. It seemed like a pointless and unnecessarily distressing exercise. But in the process, the report unwittingly undermined the forces new commissioner and the police case against Pell.”

    Nowhere is the purpose of Operation Plangere explained. The motivation is missing. The reasons for the totally unprofessional manner in which it was investigated are plainly ridiculous and does not account for not interviewing Sgt Kevin Carson. There is nothing “unwitting” about the report’s result of weakening the police’s own case against Pell. Anyone with a modicum of reasoning ability could tell the outcome of the report in advance. ‘By their deeds (and not their narrative) shall ye know them’.

    The only way to make sense of all this is if we assume that the outcome of weakening the case against Pell was the motivation for Operation Plangere to begin with. Everything then falls into place.

    A secondary benefit is that the bogus report undermined the position of Graeme Ashton who had championed Sgt Kevin Carson. (Ashton did not rise up through the ranks of Victoria Police. He was recruited from the Federal Police).

    Here again we have what appears to be Victoria Police using its power to cover for the criminal behaviour of the Catholic Church. Remember back in 1956, Constable Denis Ryan’s superior, Tom Jenkins said of the Catholic Church,
    “It’s a political organisation. It has wrapped itself around every layer of government. This happens everywhere. All across Australia and probably all over the world. But nowhere does the Catholic Church have more power than it does in the Victorian police force.”

    Some behaviours never change, it seems.

    If the Catholic Mafia was still operating within Victoria Police today, Operation Plangere is exactly what it would look like.


    Perhaps we should not leave the subject of Operation Plangere before looking at a specific example. Let us look at the death of Peter Curran of whom it was noted in the report as dying from “natural causes”. The following factual details also come from Louise Milligan’s book, “Cardinal” though the opinions below deriving from these facts belong to this author.

    Peter answered the repeated knocking on his door at about 3am one night. Upon opening the door, he was stabbed in the chest by an unknown assailant. The assailant removed his knife from Peter’s chest and said, “Sorry, mate, wrong house”!

    Peter Curran was by this stage in his life an alcoholic and was reportedly very drunk that night. He waited four days, hoping the wound would heal, before going to hospital. He died several weeks later while still in hospital. The death certificate noted that he died from complications from the (one) stab wound to his chest. There was no inquest into his death as there should have been.

    During his stay in hospital, Peter’s story changed a little but it was also noted that he was becoming increasingly delirious. Apparently, there were now two men at his door when he answered it and that they were wearing balaclavas. Frankly, these additional details would be completely in keeping with a murder attempt as initially described. But the police seized on these additions to claim that Peter stabbed himself multiple times in an attempted suicide.

    This suicide conclusion beggars belief. There is at least enough circumstances indicating a possible murder and to also hold an inquiry into his death. But it gets worse. When Peter’s ‘suicide’ becomes embarrassing to the Catholic Church (as a finding of murder would have previously been), Victoria Police attribute his death to “natural causes” in the Operation Plangere Report. One has to wonder if the police officers writing and signing off on this report are either spectacularly incompetent or massively corrupt or both? How else do you explain this?

    How do you explain the police dismissing the possibility that Peter Curran could have been murdered and finding instead that he committed suicide and then turn around and overrule their previous opinion of suicide to say he died of “natural causes”? I guess getting stabbed by someone who knocked on the wrong door is natural enough. I mean, it’s “human error” which could happen to anyone and therefore is natural enough according to Victoria Police’s Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner AND Chief Commissioner. But more on that later.

    Oh, did I mention that Peter Curran had told many people shortly before he was stabbed that he was going to the press about Cardinal George Pell walking in on him being abused by Fr Gerald Ridsdale at the presbytery where Ridsdale and Pell both lived? Well, he did.

    Ridsdale had left the door to his room open while he was abusing Peter Curran (Milligan p229). It seems he was not concerned about being seen by other residents at the presbytery. If that’s the case (and it would seem so), why not?

    Source Ridsdale (L) and Pell (R) outside the court

    There’s a rule for whistleblowers; do not tell people you are going to the media or about the information that you are going public with before it is published.

    While the perpetrators think you will remain silent, you are not such a threat to them and relatively safe.

    Once they find out that you intend to go public, then you become a massive threat to them and this time is the most dangerous for the whistleblower. This is the time between when the perps find out you are going public and when the information actually is aired publicly. This is the period when the perps have the most to gain from your death.

    After you have publicly announced your abuse and identified your abusers, it is too late for the perpetrators to gain anything from your death. All your death would do then is validate your accusations. You are then relatively safe again . There is certainly no guarantees, of course, and you can expect character assassination instead. Just ask Phil Scott, a previous accuser of Pell.

    Peter Curran did, in fact, go to the media, specifically Channel Nine, but they did not air the recorded segment he made with them. This decision on the part of Channel Nine left Peter in a very dangerous situation that soon proved fatal.

    So who suffered from the writing and publication of Operation Plangere?
    – The victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church hierarchy.
    – The families of those who had suicided also suffered.
    – Survivors who have subsequently suicided and their families.

    Who benefited from the writing and publication of Operation Plangere? – The Catholic Church hierarchy.

    Who facilitated and wrote this fantastical report? – Victoria Police. This report would never reflect well on them so I don’t see any internal motivation on the part of police. But external motivation is a distinct possibility given the criminal collusion between the police and the Catholic Church in the past.

    This is the pattern that stretches from the present day back to at least the 1950’s.


    Of course, this apparent close collusion between the Catholic Church and Victoria Police could not continue over the decades without the support of the government and the legal fraternity.

    In 1996, the newly crowned archbishop of Melbourne, George Pell, announced his way of dealing with the growing tide of abuse allegations against his fellow priests calling it “The Melbourne Response”.

    It would be an ‘in-house’ attempt to deal with criminal behaviour of the members of his organisation without involving police or the courts. Pell was supported in this extra-judicial cover-up by none other than the then Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett. From Louise Milligan again (p64) ‘Kennett told Pell at a meeting that something must be done about this abuse issue . . . . “and I said to him if he doesn’t fix it, I will” ‘

    Kennett, in saying this to Pell, was abrogating his responsibility as head of the State Government to enforce the law. He instead passed that responsibility over to the offending organisation to investigate their own crimes. And these aren’t petty matters, either. These are high crimes; crimes that little more than forty years previously in Victoria carried the death penalty!

    Kennett was not the only high official to approve of this avoidance of the law by the perpetrating organisation. The Governor of Victoria, Richard McGarvie (a former judge, no less) told Pell in 1996, “You are going to have to deal with this problem resolutely. If you don’t, it will bleed you dry for years – emotionally and more importantly than that, it will bleed away the good standing of the Church”.

    Governor McGarvie’s level of concern for the law being upheld and for justice for the victims of these high crimes is obvious. It would seem that these aren’t crimes to be prosecuted. They are instead a “problem” to be dealt with in such a way to preserve the image (and power) of the Church. But who is the “Church” in this case? Clearly it is the priests that are raping children and fellow priests that are covering for them – the perpetrators – and not the laity.

    Following Pell’s announcement of the “Melbourne Response”, Victoria Police, in a media release, also welcomed this bypassing of the law by saying it was, “a positive step in tackling this very sensitive community issue” (Cardinal – Milligan). So Victoria’s police force described the raping of children by priests as a “sensitive community issue” rather than horrendous crimes that should be prosecuted by the institutions that the Victorian public paid for to do their job.

    It seems that all the institutions were committed to preserving the ‘good name’ of the paedophiles. The children were first betrayed by the priests individually and then subsequently by ‘the Church’ collectively, the Victorian State Government and, finally, Victoria Police. These are the same institutions that were unable to find the killers of Maria James in 1980 and are now claiming incompetence and calling it “human error” instead of corruption in fumbling this case for 37 years.


    Mr Peter O’Callaghan QC was appointed by the Catholic Church to head up the Melbourne Response in 1996. Mr O’Callaghan was at retiring age in his mid sixties at the time. He is still heading up this organisation twenty years later which is rather odd, to say the least.

    Another oddity is that he is called by the Catholic Church its “Independent Commissioner”. When he was challenged by this writer as to how he could be independent of the organisation that appointed him and pays him, he replied that he is paid by the church’s law firm and that makes him ‘independent’. How is this marvel of logical reasoning possible from a barrister . . . . and QC, no less?

    The media repeatedly refers to O’Callaghan as “the Church’s Independent Commissioner” seemingly blind to the obvious oxymoron. If he is the Church’s Commissioner, how can he be independent of the Church at the same time?

    The title ‘Commissioner’ implies a government appointment; an appointment that has legal standing. Mr O’Callaghan has no legal standing, nor does his office, and therefore the title is very misleading. But this is another example of how the Church establishes its own pseudo-legal bodies to inquire into itself and presumes authority over people especially survivors of criminal behaviour from their own priests. And the police, the legal system and the governments play along . . . every time.

    The Melbourne Response included a ‘Compensation Panel’. They dispensed amounts to survivors that averaged $35,000 in exchange for a legal waiver to their right to sue the Church in civil court. The survivors were being bought off for pennies on the dollar. The Church then turned around in public and presented these insurance payments against being sued as “compensation” for the sexual abuse. It was no such thing. And still isn’t, because the practice continues.

    This so-called “Compensation Panel” was headed up initially by Mr Alex Chernov, QC. Mr Chernov had to resign his position on the Panel to take up a judgeship on the Victorian Supreme Court. He was later to become the Governor of Victoria as Richard McGarvie was some years before him.

    Mr Chernov’s successor on the ‘Compensation Panel’ was Mr David Habersberger QC. He also resigned from the panel to take up a position as a judge with the Supreme Court of Victoria.

    Mr Habersberger was replaced by Ms Susan Crennan QC who likewise had to resign her position on the Panel to take up a position as judge on the Federal Court.

    The fourth and current incumbent is Mr David Curtain QC. Will Dave make it four out of four?


    We shall end this article how we started it by revisiting a quote from Denis Ryan who in turn was quoting his one time superior, Tom Jenkins, on how ‘the system’ works –

    “We don’t lock them (priests – ed.) up. We let them go. Once you’ve been around for a while, you’ll start to learn that the Catholic Church carries a good deal more clout than the local church on the corner.

    It’s a political organisation. It has wrapped itself around every layer of government. This happens everywhere. All across Australia and probably all over the world. But nowhere does the Catholic Church have more power than it does in the Victorian police force. Short of a murder blue, he’ll walk every time.

    Nothing would happen to Day. This goes all the way to the top. It’s just not the police. It’s the judges, lawyers, politicians. I don’t agree with it but there are forces at work here that are stronger than you or me. I learnt early on in the job, don’t pick fights you can’t win.” (05:50min)

    The statement from Tom Jenkins that short of murder, priests will walk every time, appears not to have held true in the case of Maria James’ Murder

    Cardinal – The Rise And Fall Of George Pell by Louise Milligan
    Unholy Trinity: The Hunt for the Paedophile Priest Monsignor John Day
    by Denis Ryan
    Casefile 34 – podcast
    Ballarat’s Children – podcast
    Catholic Cops Involved in Cover- up of Child Abuse by Priests

    The Maria James Murder: The Golden Greek – Paul Delianis

    If you haven’t already, go read the three excellent posts in our ‘The Maria James Murder’ series. Author and WPC Blogger, James, presents proof based on the readily known facts of this case that Thomas O’Keeffe and Anthony Bongiorno brutally committed the murder of Maria James. He introduces the crime, analyzes and solves it and recreates the logistics of a likely crime scene – here, here and here.

    After having read these posts you may find it puzzling that in 37 years, the investigation of this murder by Victoria Police has produced little to no results. And you may find it even more than suspicious that the investigation was recently sent back to square one after revelations of a missing bloodied quilt and a ‘DNA bungle’ involving a bloody pillowslip used as DNA evidence that police say was only recently discovered to be from a different crime scene. How could this be?

    Early police reports described the brutal murder as ritualistic. It was reported to Victoria police in 1997 that the pedophile priest Fr Thomas O’Keefe was a member of a satanic cult and that he had been witnessed participating in four ritual murders. At the time of the Maria James’ murder, he was the Parish Priest at St. Mary’s and Fr Anthony Bongiorno’s boss. O’Keeffe was never considered a suspect by police nor even a person of interest. He should have been when Bongiorno was questioned as a suspect in 1998. By then, evidence of O’Keeffe’s murderous past was in police files. As far as we know, he was not even on their radar until after the ABC Trace broadcasts in 2017 – and notably, just before the official announcement of their missing evidence and incorrect DNA sample. [In a later instalment, we will show how this ‘DNA Bungle’ could not be the result of “human error” as the heads of Victoria Police have asserted at every opportunity. The latest example is here.]

    Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana announcing the ‘DNA Bungle’
    Photo: Joe Armao
    13 July 2017 The Age

    This post is being included in our series to lay out the background to the Victorian police investigation at the time of the murder. It is a brief look into allegations of crimes and improprieties surrounding the force and specifically the questionable behaviours of Paul Delianis, then chief of the Homicide Squad, in the years around the time of the murder. Delianis was known amongst his colleagues as ‘The Golden Greek’.

    It follows on from James’ bonus post on the role that psychopathy played in the murder of Maria James as well as the role it played in the institutionalized corruption surrounding the crime.

    As you will read below, corruption was endemic within the Victorian Police in 1980. Indeed, corruption within institutional environments was rampant Australia wide. Not only was it endemic in law enforcement but within government itself and within religious, educational and governmental institutions. It is not possible to convey in this short blog post it’s breadth and scope but as an example I was able to find 22 official investigations into crime and corruption that were held in Australia between 1970 – 1989 [see the table at the end of this post]. These included, Royal Commissions, Boards of Inquiry, Ombudsman’s Inquiries, Police Task Forces and Internal Police Investigations into institutional corruption as well as organized crime. And yet, for all these inquiries, nothing seemed to have been achieved in terms of reforming corruption within the Victorian Police. The most notable achievement during this time may well have been the strengthening of the power of the Police Association to protect and support officers charged with crimes or corruption and in the association’s ability to put pressure on government NOT to institute reforms.

    In further posts, we will show how the widespread corruption within the Victorian police force provided a fertile ground for a group of corrupt catholic policemen, known as the Catholic Mafia, to flourish and how this, in turn, allowed criminal behaviour within the Catholic Church clergy to flourish. The church hierarchy and their Catholic Mafia within the police protected pedophilic priests including Anthony Bongiorno and Thomas O’Keeffe.

    [Note: You can view several photos of Victoria Police outside Maria’s Thornbury bookshop here.

    All emphasis in bold is mine and where page numbers have been added in ( )’s at the end of a “quote” the relevant document can be found at the link in it’s preceding subsection title. For example: The subsection THE BEACH INQUIRY – 1975 contains the link to Beach’s 1978 REPORT OF THE BOARD OF INQUIRY INTO ALLEGATIONS AGAINST MEMBERS OF THE VICTORIA POLICE FORCE.]

    Head of the 1980 Victorian Police’s Homicide Squad

    ‘Delianis doesn’t like to talk about himself. He won’t reveal his age and won’t buy into why his colleagues nicknamed him “The Golden Greek” perhaps it was partly his surname, partly his reputation for always being immaculately dressed.” ~ Barry Beach, Victorian QC

    In 1970, the Victorian government’s Kaye inquiry into it’s police force discovered corruption was rampant in the force and had been dating back to the 1950’s. Three high ranking police officers, the then chief of the homicide squad, Inspector Jack Ford, the head of the traffic branch, Superintendent Jack Mathews, and a former detective constable, Martin Jacobson were subsequently charged, convicted and sentenced to lengthy jail terms in Pentridge Prison for having run an abortion clinic protection racket. Another ten police and former policemen were also charged but escaped prosecution.

    By the mid 1970’s, the public had been led to believe the Victorian force was ‘clean’ after the Kaye Inquiry having been purged and then restructured following recommendations by the St. Johnson Report that followed it in 1971. However, Dr Ian Freckleton, who served on the short-lived Police Complaints Authority (PCA) was to later say with regard to the then Victorian police force, “The truth was that Victoria was no cleaner than any other state in Australia. The fact is, there is endemic corruption in the force that is long-standing and exists at disturbing levels…”</strong”.

    Board Of Inquiry Into Allegations Against Members Of The Victoria Police Force

    1975 allegations of police corruption revealed to the solicitor general by a St Kilda physician, Dr Bertram Wainer, forced the Victorian government to convene yet another inquiry into corruption in the force. It was headed by Barry Beach, QC. The Beach Inquiry looked into “a litany of complaints about assaults, verballing, bending the rules and stitching up suspects on false charges”. Beach narrowed submissions of one hundred thirty-one complaints from the public into an investigation of just twenty-one cases. Paul Delianis, chief of the Victorian homicide division at the time of Maria James’ murder, was mentioned in relation to three of the matters investigated.

    Paul Delianis 1980 Source

    At the time of the complaints investigated by Beach, Delianis had been the chief of Victoria’s notoriously corrupt Armed Robbery Squad. Beach wrote in his 1978 report to the Victorian Government that, ”…whilst it is virtually impossible on the material placed before the Board to attach percentage figures to Police involved in malpractice, evils have been uncovered which demonstrably require remedy. Indeed some of the abuses exposed in relation to one particular “elite” Squad, namely the Armed Robbery Squad, (or more accurately the members of that Squad at the relevant time), are of themselves so grave as to warrant the most prompt institution of safeguarding reforms.” (60)

    In one case, Beach found that then Inspector Delianis along with a Senior Constable David Barry Newton, had meted out treatment to ”a perfectly respectable woman” innocent of any crime ”that was clear harassment and intimidation…” (46). Further, ”in complete disregard of the provisions of the Standing Orders” (99) they had photographed and finger printed her. The woman’s lawyer subsequently sent a letter of complaint to Chief Inspector Paul Delianis but she ”had the greatest difficulty in securing the destruction of the photographs (and negatives of those photographs), and her fingerprint card” (99).

    Beach concluded:

  • ”(1) On the 12th September, 1974, at Russell Street Police Headquarters, Inspector Delianis harassed and intimidated Erika Stupak
  • (2) On the 12th September, 1974, Inspector Delianis was guilty of failing to observe or comply with the provisions of the Chief Commissioner’s Standing Orders relating to the investigation and obtaining of evidence from suspected persons, viz. Standing Orders…” (51)
  • In a second instance, Delainis was found to have produced internal documentation in support of the coverup and lies of fellow officers. One complainant, a Mr Sellers, had been pushed out of a window as a police team from the Armed Robbery Squad forcefully broke into his flat. He fell 30 feet to a concrete driveway thereby sustaining 10 serious skeletal injuries. He was further abused by police who pointed a gun at his head while he was lying helpless on the ground. They allegedly jeered at him and took photographs. ”His fractured right wrist was handcuffed then tugged causing him such pain that he spat blood over the Officer responsible.” (43)

    Later, while in hospital, one officer pointed an empty pistol at Seller’s head and from time to time pulled the trigger. Although Sellers was branded a liar by the police he produced a tape recording secretly made of the police constable concerned doing that very thing.

    Beach wrote that, “If ever a matter demonstrated the propensity of Police to “close the ranks when they felt trouble was brewing”, it was this matter. From Senior Sergeant Leo Adrian Lalor (the officer in charge of the raid) down, those men concerned with the entry to the flat that day conspired to give false evidence before this Board and did so.”

    “In much the same vein was Inspector Delianis’ assertion expressed in internal documentation, that because Sellers played unusual music and burnt incense he was not of sound mind. Here however, one suspects there may have been a deal of motive behind an apparent non-sequitor.“ (44)

    In his third mention, Delianis along with then Assistant Commissioner William Desmond Crowley, was suspected of being involved in and/or covering up for, the tip off of Senior Sergeant Leo Adrian Lalor of an undercover operation set up to expose Lalor’s alleged corruption.

    W. Crowley Circa 1944 Source

    Crowley tasked Delianis with looking into the allegations that Lalor had been tipped off. Crowley told Delainis to tell him the truth, “as Counsel assisting put it ‘Scouts Honour’, rather than lie if he thought it was good for him.” (47) Delianis reported back to Crowley that he had investigated and found Lalor had not been tipped off.

    Lalor had indeed been tipped off by a ”high ranking Police Officer” and the report Delianis gave Crowley was based on lies. Beach questioned, “Who, then, lied to who, and why? Did Lalor lie to Delianis, and Delianis innocently pass it on to Crowley?, or was that lie one originating from Delianis?” (48)

    Crowley was found by Beach to have lied to the commission about other events surrounding the case. And further, he swore that Inspector Delianis had been an independent choice to investigate Lalor when in fact, ”Delianis had been closely associated with Lalor for some months”. (48)

    About Lalor, Beach noted, “Senior Sergeant Leo Adrian Lalor was one of the most unimpressive of the Police Officers who gave evidence before the Board. He is clearly a man who will give false evidence whenever the occasion suits him, and I would place no reliance on anything he swore unless it was adequately corroborated. So disturbed was I by the allegations made against him in this matter, that my recommendation is that the matter be placed in the hands of Bll [Bureau of Internal Investigation], and resolved once and for all. If Lalor has received money from Grant as alleged, let the appropriate charges be laid against him.” (48)

    Beach’s Findings And Recommendations Are Ignored, Delianis Is Promoted

    The Police Association reacted to the Beach Inquiry with a preemptive outrage well before his report was published in 1978 and before any of his findings or recommendations were known. Esprit de Corps was the order of the day and the association made radical changes transforming itself ”into a militant group with significant political clout”.(49). They organized a meeting at Festival Hall in Melbourne on 18 October 1976 where 4,200 men and women from a Force of 6,400 met to formulate a plan of resistance. They instituted a ‘work to rule’ campaign, threatened strike and made a series of demands of the government most significant of which was that any change to police procedures must be the result of a conference between the Police Association and the government. ”The Age described the behaviour as a ‘gross over-reaction’ that displayed a ‘collective assumption’ they were ‘beyond reproach and above the law’.(49)

    In the wake of the Police Association’s militant fury, the government backed down. Although Beach made extensive recommendations for much needed reform, none were implemented. He had made adverse findings against fifty-five officers. Of those thirty-two were charged and thirteen faced disciplinary offences. None were convicted and none of the offences were proven.

    While most members of the corrupt armed robbery division of the Victorian police had been dispersed throughout the force by the time of Beach’s report ”Delianis and one or two others remained” (14)* with the squad. Notably, Beach’s 1978 adverse findings did not slow down Delianis’ career. By 1980, he had been made head of the homicide division. In 1981, he was promoted to assistant commissioner for crime and then in 1986 to deputy commissioner. He retired sometime around 1987.

    * “…it was again of interest to note that almost without exception, the members of the Armed Robbery Squad against whom complaints were made to the Board, were no longer members of the Squad at the time they gave evidence before the Board. With the exception of Inspector Delianis and one or two other members, they had of recent times been dispersed throughout the Force and throughout the State.” The Beach Inquiry – 1975 (14)

    Why wasn’t Delianis, at the very least, found to have been incompetent to lead and control a squad of investigators after so many of his staff were found to have been corrupt? So much so that it appears the squad was broken up and reassigned throughout the force and the state.

    How is it that any functioning police force could then place him in charge of the Homicide Squad a couple of years later and then on to Assistant Commissioner in 1981 and finally Deputy Commissioner by 1986?

    Unless, of course, these various inquiries were correct in their conclusions that corruption reached the highest levels. In which case, we must question if the Victoria Police were a functioning police force at the time of Maria James’ murder. Certainly, the Police Association had been highly effective in impeding any meaningful reform in the demonstrably corrupt institution.

    Dr “Freckleton, who has written books on policing, sees the [police] association as a dangerous, reactionary force that has impeded reform and indirectly allowed corruption to flourish. “It ran a high-profile campaign against the police complaints board [which existed for a short time during the 1980’s], objecting to almost everything we did. In those days, the role of the Police Association was more unhealthy than it is currently, in that every member of the police force, save for a handful, were members. It was the most unique fusing of management and rank-and-file. It was a powerful political lobby group that has held politicians captive.”

    Robert Richter, QC, agrees that the association is a negative force, suggesting the Bracks Government’s recent refusal to set up an independent police integrity commission to investigate corrupt police was made out of fear of the association. “I suspect, even though I hate to say this, that the only reason we are not getting a police integrity commission is because the Police Association has enormous clout in Victoria and they resist it.

    After Beach, there was no let-up in the incidents of corruption or their level of seriousness. The Myth of a Clean Police Force – 2004

    Interim Report On Allegations Concerning The Activities Of The Operations Intelligence Unit And Related Matters

    There is yet more controversy that swirls around Delianis’ actions in the years surrounding the Maria James murder in 1980. A series of reports published in The Age beginning in Oct 1997 about the activities of the Victorian Police’s Operations Intelligence Unit (OIU) in the 1980’s triggered an investigation in 1998 by Ombudsman, Barry W Perry.

    He reported that in 1977 enquiries were completed by SA Supreme Court Justice White into the record keeping activities of the Special Branch of the police. Among other vaguely defined duties, the Special Branch was an intelligence gathering unit within the force. As a consequence of White’s enquiries, guidelines were established to define the activities of the branch.

    It wasn’t evident from this research what exactly the Special Branch did beyond spying on the public.

    Coincidentally and as a matter of interest, the Special Branch of the Victorian Police operated out of the Fitzroy Town Hall where Maria’s husband John James worked.

    In 1982, knowing the newly elected Cain Labor government opposed the continued existence of the Special Branch, then Chief Commissioner S I Miller directed his Superintendent R Anstee to conduct a review. The review resulted in the Special Branch being officially abolished on 5 July 1983 with two new units being formed in it’s place, the OIU and the Counter Terrorist and Explosives Information Section (CTEIS). In addition, it was announced that all the Special Branch files, with the exception of those which were of continuing operational relevance, would be destroyed.

    The government engaged the services of a Mr F Nelson, QC to oversee the destruction of files and monitor compliance with guidelines in regards to Record Keeping, Operational Relevance and the newly enacted Freedom of Information (FOI) act.

    Delianis, Assistant Commissioner at the time, was the supervisor in charge of the sorting and destruction of the files. Most of the information to be destroyed was on index cards, additional documentation was stored in files in filing cabinets. To facilitate proper FOI processes, it was decided that all the index cards would be photocopied.

    In Aug 1983, Mr C Hurley, Keeper of the Public Record and Paul Delianis signed a six page Destruction Authority of Records document in which it appeared that 6000 index cards along with related files were to be destroyed by Delianis. The reported number of files that were destroyed was 8,370. A total of 918 files were retained, 346 went to OIU and 572 were transferred to CTEIS. These files were uncatalogued and bore no signs of Nelson’s approval for retention.

    The Age reported that the Special Branch Records had not been destroyed in 1983 and were still being used by police. It was alleged that although a photocopy of the index cards had been destroyed along with the original cards and files, a second photocopy had secretly been made and retained. Additionally, it was discovered that in 1989 members of the OIU had allegedly twice moved files to other locations when they knew a ombudsman investigating the allegations was scheduled to attend at their office.

    In a Jan 1998 article by investigative reporters Gary Hughes and Gerard Ryle titled, ‘Ombudsman misled on burning of papers’, they wrote “The person who conducted the 1989 inquiry, the former ombudsman, Mr Norman Geschke, said it now appeared he was misled. He said the files obtained by The Age were “clearly in that category” that should have been destroyed. “I appear to have been misled by the police over the destruction of the files,” he said. “Clearly, this is a case where the police said a file didn’t exist when it did. ” I have to accept that files existed that shouldn’t have and were conceivably moved (in 1989) to avoid me finding them. [Note: Click through the link above to get to the archived paper.]

    The Age Newspaper Jan 27, 1998 Page 6

    In 1988, a Mr Selby had been dismissed as head of the PCA following it’s abolition. He came forward in 1997 to say that at a lunch in 1987 with then Deputy Commissioner Paul Delianis and Assistant Commissioner Ron Anstee, “Delianis told him that he had defied orders to destroy the files and instead had them loaded into cars and taken them to suburban police stations where they could be accessed at any times.”.

    “I got this phone call from two very senior officers…I was asked if they could pick me up and take me to lunch,” Mr Selby told The Age. “I was picked up in a special police vehicle and taken out to some very nice golf club somewhere out in the northern suburbs. “At lunch they ran all the conversation. They then decided to show me who really ran the Victoria Police force. “Given who those two people were and what they had to say, they weren’t joking. [Note: Click through the link above to get to the archived paper.]

    Ombudsman Perry’s report questioned the allegations, writing that Selby was using them ”to pursue some private agenda” – presumably revenge. Delianis and Anstee denied the conversation took place although Anstee remembered the lunch.

    Perry ultimately dismissed Selby’s allegations. He reasoned that neither Delianis nor Anstee would have been so cocky as to risk revealing incriminating information to the then head of the PCA. He wrote that it was against their self interest and they would have been fired had Commissioner Miller found out about it. In fact, he even noted that Delianis, Anstee and Miller had all made that point to his investigators!

    Perry entertained the idea there could have been collusion between Miller, Anstee and Delianis. A journalist had even given sworn evidence to Perry’s investigators that Miller was complicit in saving the Special Branch files. Perry dismissed it as unlikely citing Miller’s ”unblemished reputation” (50) and explained how it would have been too big a risk for Miller for too little rewards. Miller along with other police witnesses had described the Special Branch records as ”rubbish”. (50) A bit of, “Nothing to see here folks, move along.” Perry, having seen samples of the records during the course of his investigation, concurred.

    Keep in mind that it was Miller, Anstee and Delianis who were involved in the decision to disband the Special Branch and in the destruction of it’s files. It is reasonable to conjecture that it was the impending enactment of the FOI act that prompted Miller through Anstee’s reccomendation to disband the Special Branch and have the original files destroyed by Delianis. The public would be unable to gain access to them through the FOI act thereby discovering the extent to which the police had been collecting information on them. Delianis would ensure a secret copy of the files was made and kept for their further use.</font]

    Perry also questioned why Selby waited until 1997 to pursue his ”startling allegations”. Why if he was the head of the PCA in 1987 when Delianis told him about saving the records, he didn’t take action. Or why he didn’t come forward in 1989 when the matter was being investigated. He wrote, ”To my mind, Mr. Selby’s prolonged silence is a powerful reason for doubting the accuracy of his claims.” (51)

    Perhaps, it’s hard to know from this distance. However, there are legitimate reasons Selby might have been reluctant to come forward or investigate particularily considering, the scope and level of corruption ongoing in the force at the time. He would have been up against some very powerful members of the force had he pursued it. [See my comment above regarding the militancy of the police association and the high-profile campaign that it ran against the short lived Police Complaints Board (PCA).] Notably Selby, according to him, was run out of his position as head of the PCA in May 1988 the year after the alleged conversation with Delianis and Anstee.

    In his book, ‘Victoria Police Corruption 2’, author Raymond Hoser includes in Chapter 3 a document tendered before a Senate inquiry on 14th October 1997 in Melbourne which puts Mr Perry’s neutrality in question saying in part, “In Victoria there is no anti-corruption watchdog as such. The State Ombudsman’s office alone allegedly fits that role, and as a department they are demonstrably corrupt. In opposition, the now State Government stated that they had no confidence in Mr. Barry Perry, State Ombudsman (then Deputy Ombudsman). Since assuming office in 1992, the Liberal Party have not sacked him, but instead chosen to maintain the status quo.”

    A RASH OF INQUIRIES DURING THE 1970’s and 80’s
    Beyond Delianis, Decades Of Crime And Corruption

    Beyond allegations concerning Homicide Chief Paul Delianis, during the two decades surrounding the 1980 murder of Maria James, there were serious concerns to do with the level of crime in Australia as well as with corruption within the various Australian police forces. The following table contains a list of some of the inquiries, commissions, internal investigations and task forces I was able to find that took place from 1970 to 1989. Only some of the investigations were into police corruption within the Victorian Police. There were investigations into organized crime, drug trafficking and other vice crimes such as prostitution and gambling as well as internal police inquiries. It beggars belief that this level and degree of corruption and organized crime or otherwise, was taking place without the collusion of some, if not many of the senior officers within the upper echelons of the forces.

    1970 The Kay Inquiry– Corruption within Victorian Police Force
    1971 The St. Johnson Report
    – Corruption within Victoria Police Force
    1973 – 1974 The Moffitt Royal Commission
    – Organized Crime in NSW
    1975 The Beach Inquiry
    – Corruption within Victorian Police Force
    1977 – 1979 The Woodward Royal Commission
    – Drug Trafficking and organized crime -NSW MP Mackay’s murder and organized crime centre in Griffiths, NSW
    1977 -1979 The Williams Royal Commission
    – Drug trade in Australia, Qld
    1977 The Justice White Enquiry into the Special Branch of SA Police
    1979 – 1980 The Norris Committee
    – Inquiry into the Ownership and Control of Newspapers in Victoria
    1979 – 1981 The Lusher Inquiry– Police Administration and Gambling, NSW
    1980 – 1984 The Costigan Royal Commission
    – Investigated drug trafficking and organized crime activity, including violence, associated with the Painters and Dockers Union Australia wide
    1981 – 1983 The Stewart Royal Commission
    – Drug Trafficking, NSW
    1981 The Zebra Task Force
    – Internal Police Investigation, Victoria
    Post 1981 The Zulu Task Force – formed after the Zebra Task Force, Victoria
    1982 – 1983 The Neesham Inquiry – Report on policing in Victoria
    1982 – 1983 Board of Inquiry into Casinos – Victoria
    1982 Operation Rock Drug Importation Scandal
    – Internal Investigation, Victoria
    1982 The Caulfield Crime Cars and the Brothel Internal Investigation,
    1982 Operation Achilles *
    – Secret Internal Police Inquiry, Victoria
    1985 Continental Airlines Internal Inquiry
    – Asst Commiss Stewart and others accused of taking graft, Victoria
    1986 Operation Cobra (formed after Achilles)
    – Secret Internal Police Inquiry, Victoria
    1987 – 1989 The Fitzgerald Inquiry
    – Corruption within the Qld Police Force
    1989 The Geschke Preliminary Inquiry into the Special Branch files
    – SA

    * “In 1983, a secret inquiry, Operation Achilles, was begun. Soon details were leaked to the press. An article claimed that a group of high-ranking detectives were probing claims of police corruption in the massage parlour and escort service industry, including payments to police for protection and immunity from prosecution. The Force made no official comment.
    The article was based on fact. The ‘Achilles’ investigation team – which reported to Assistant Commissioner Paul Delianis – included Bernice Masterson, John Frame and Bob Falconer, each destined to reach Commissioner rank within the organisation. After fourteen months, their efforts still fell short of a prosecution case.”

    Again, we see this continuing pattern of the apparently incompetent being promoted into the upper echelons of an organisation besieged with allegations of systemic corruption. The failure to bring charges or secure a conviction seems to have been a prerequisite for advancement. It appears that ‘failure’ is viewed by superiors as actually a ‘job well done’. Could this have been a factor in Paul Delianis’ promotion to Assistant Commissioner for Criminal Investigations the year after the failed investigation into the murder of Maria James?

    The next instalment in this series, “The Catholic Mafia”, can be read

    The Maria James Murder: the role of psychopathy

  • For the reader who has been following this series of articles on the Maria James murder, and whom I would not expect to know much about psychopathy, I will briefly outline some major points of this condition.

    My intention is that this “Bonus episode” will help in understanding the brutal murder itself and in understanding the systemically corrupt institutional environment (subject of the next instalment) in which it happened and facilitated the covered up.

  • Dealing with professionals who have no clue
  • For the last year or so, I have been dealing with professionals whom, in turn, deal with corruption in varying ways and in varying occupations. I have been staggered at their lack of knowledge of psychopathy and their disinterest in the subject. A knowledge of psychopathy is essential to understand the corruption, the criminals and their networks. It is also essential to know about to guard against being continually ‘blind-sided’.

    “Know your enemy” is the first rule in any contest.

    Understanding psychopathic prevalence is also necessary to understanding our society and its institutions and to have a chance at successfully navigating your way through them. The estimates of the prevalence of psychopaths vary depending on the researcher and their criteria, but there is a consensus around 5% of the adult population. 1 in 20 will be a psychopath of one sort or another.

    The odds shorten considerably from there when dealing with a power organisation and shorten further still when dealing with a person high up in that same organisation. So you are going to meet and deal with them whether you know it or not and whether you like it or not.

    It is this 5% that creates 95% of societies’ problems. They are our only true enemy. Therefore, it is essential to know and understand them.

  • How to understand psychopaths?
  • It is often pointed out that psychopaths (and I include sociopaths, narcissists and Machiavellians) have no conscience, no empathy, no shame and no guilt, but how do you understand that? The key, I believe, is to realise they do not have the same level of self-awareness or the same level of free will that ordinary humans have. Once armed with this knowledge, psychopaths begin to become predictable. You then have a chance to defeat them.

  • Limited self awareness
  • Few people are consciously aware of it (because it is all around us all the time) but our connection to others not only gives us feedback on our behaviour but also adds another level to our self-awareness. It sounds paradoxical but being aware of others and how life is for them extends our own self-awareness to a wider world – to another level. We become aware that we are important in our own world but also that we are just one person in a sea of other people whom we are dependent upon to varying degrees and who, in turn, have their own worlds. Our world becomes larger and richer and we can see how the consequences of our actions will ripple out into this more expansive world.

    Psychopaths do not have this ability and so their self-awareness is compromised, hence their narcissism. They live in a very much smaller world so they cannot see the ongoing consequences of their actions outside of their own small narcissistic world. This is not to excuse them but to explain their sometimes very stupid and self defeating behaviour. In their world, no-one has legitimate interests except them.

    Maria would have had no interests in the eyes of Bongiorno or O’Keeffe. If she will not serve their interests, then she has no value and is to be disposed of.

    Physically, we need a mirror to see parts of ourselves that we cannot see by ourselves ordinarily. Psychologically, the people around us provide this same ‘mirror’ for us so that we can better see and know ourselves. But, if you have no connection to that ‘mirror’, you cannot take on-board any information it is providing you. This is why it is a waste of time trying to reason with a psychopath. They are anti-social.

    Our sense of shame and our conscience comes from this added level of self-awareness that society provides us with (and that we participate in) and this is why psychopaths have none of these attributes. So psychopaths do not know themselves as we know ourselves. It has been said that psychopaths do not know who they are; they only know what they want.

  • Natural Law and free will
  • Natural Law is the recognition of the laws that govern our world. They are universal, constant and immutable. More specifically, they govern the consequences of actions. These laws apply to such things as gravity, thermo and electro dynamics and they also apply to such things as human behaviour. If Natural Law did not govern the consequences of human behaviour, study in the field of psychology would yield no applicable results: the words of Jesus would contain no wisdom or guidance; and without a consistency of cause and effect, conscience could not be a guide nor could we have a consistent sense of right and wrong and therefore there could be no such thing as common sense.

    We have free will so each of us is autonomous and we have authority over ourselves, yet we are social beings. This is how we are designed. We have free will, autonomy, self-authority, yet are social.

    To preserve our self-authority and our social responsibility/dependence simultaneously, Natural Law says that all interactions need to be voluntary. Causing harm or imposing coercion on another is a transgression of Natural Law. The individual suffers and so does the social group because it is now dysfunctional and there will be adverse consequences.

    The remedy for a transgression against a person under Natural Law is Restitution. But our Legal System does not do that so our legal system also acts against Natural Law as do all institutions that employ coercion against the innocent and ride roughshod over people’s free will. This is the Corporate/Legal dysfunctional world we live in and that further harms our society.

  • No free will to do good
  • Animals have free will. Anyone who has been around animals knows this as you can watch them making choices. But they have no free will to act maliciously. They act always in accordance with Natural Law; in accordance with their design.

    Human beings have the free will to act in accordance with Natural Law and also to act against it. We can do good or we can be malicious causing harm deliberately and gratuitously. There will be consequences from going against Natural Law; that is its nature! It is also called the Law of Consequences. We can exercise our free will to jump off a cliff but we cannot exercise our free will over the consequences of that choice.

    Psychopaths are distinguished by their complete inability to do good for the sake of doing good. They always act directly or indirectly against Natural Law to cause gratuitous harm. They cannot do otherwise because that is their design. The consequences of their harmful actions cause further harm to the society.

    They are bereft of true creativity and revel in destruction instead. In the final analysis, they are anti-life.

    This is what we saw in Maria’s brutal death. She fostered and protected life. O’Keeffe and Bongiorno sought destruction and death to prove their superior power to themselves. Psychopaths are anti-life and this is what is at the core of their being. Those who sought to interfere with the investigation have brought further harm to Maria’s family and to society. The consequences continue onward.

  • Will always seek to do harm
  • Psychopaths are driven to cause harm at every opportunity. That is not to say they do not do things that appear good and may even be good initially but these acts of philanthropy and charity (in its original sense) are enacted only to foster a position from which greater harm can be done.

    Even common or garden variety bullies will engage in alternating good and bad behaviour but the good behaviour is only there to continue to ensnare and confuse the victim. Alternating behaviour, especially if it is grossly conflicting behaviour, is a major warning sign of psychopathy.

  • Psychopaths cannot experience joy
  • Joy is something that is shared with others or with the creation of others which may include God, as in Nature. Psychopaths cannot do this because they cannot emotionally share with another human, never mind God. In their own (superior) mind, they are set apart from everyone.

    They can experience pleasure, though, and that is what they focus on and what they try to get us to focus on. They are driven by sex, drugs, food and dominance over others; sensual and cerebral pleasures. Notice how teevee programming is dominated by food and sex?

  • Driven by the need for power
  • If you have no connection to others, you are necessarily the centre of your world. The world revolves around you. You are therefore the power at the centre of this world. And how do you know that? Because you can manipulate and have power over others; power to harm them. By doing so, you affirm your position in the centre of your world which is the only world to a psychopath.

    So you are God, effectively. Being affirmed in your own mind as being God is quite a rush. In the mind of a psychopath, harming someone is demonstrating their power. To stop exercising that power over others is to stop existing. This is just not going to happen. A king without entitlements is not a king.

  • Excellent at climbing hierarchies
  • Hierarchies concentrate power at the top and distribute it downwards. So, as a psychopath, you co-operate with those in power over you and you compete with those whom you are level with or can overtake easily and you dominate those under you; kiss up, kick down. All attention is focused on climbing the hierarchy because it offers more power.

    With no inhibitions and the ability to shamelessly lie and manipulate others, climbing the hierarchy over normal people becomes a relative doddle.

  • They promote each other
  • Psychopaths spend their days looking for suckers, the people with lower IQ and/or higher empathy. The people they avoid are those that are intelligent, compassionate and are ‘results based’ in their thinking. These high functioning people follow Jesus’ dictum, “By their fruits, ye shall know them”.

    These insightful people are based in reality, the objective world. They are looking for the contradictions, the inconsistencies, the lies in others’ words and behaviours. These are the people who can ‘put two and two together’. As such, they are a major threat to the psychopaths who deal in illusions constantly.

    Are the psychopaths going to promote someone with these abilities? Not if they can help it. Quite the opposite actually. The safest person for a psychopath to promote is a fellow psychopath. The radar they employ to seek out suckers and threats also identifies fellow psychopaths for them.

    So any hierarchy, given enough time, will become stacked with psychopaths at the top with a chain all the way down. They will form a hidden hierarchy of their own; a hidden chain of command with an entirely different and hidden agenda. This hierarchy will inevitably act against Natural Law, harming people both inside and outside the organisation and offering no restitution. Further harm will follow. This is the Corporate/Legal world we live in.

  • They promote incompetence (same thing)
  • A psychopathic candidate for promotion need only display a certain level of discreetness to qualify. Competence does not factor into the selection process. You can see this time and again when people survive investigations into corruption, found to be deficient, and promptly get promoted anyway. Therefore, a corrupt hierarchy will be incompetent by definition. And you can tell the level of corruption in an institution by the level of its incompetence.

    Many people do not overly concern themselves with the exploitation of children thinking it does not concern them. But it does, profoundly. This is because the corruption in ‘high places’ is controlled through paedophilia and these paedophiles that are in control of our society are not only corrupt but incompetent and it can only get worse.

    The Maria James Murder podcast series is beginning to shine a light for many listeners on the systemic corruption within the Catholic Church and Victoria Police. This systemic corruption could only persist with support from a corrupt government and a corrupt legal system. Once a society’s institutions are corrupted, that society is headed for the rocks in all sorts of ways.

  • Listening for truth
  • Psychopaths have no way of really understanding other people. When they are talking about someone else, they can only draw upon their own consciousness to describe them. So when a psychopath is describing someone else, they are (truthfully) describing themselves. They always ‘project’ their own state of mind.

    Whenever a psychopath is describing him or herself, they are lying. They live in a fantasy world where they are supremely competent and never make mistakes (it’s always someone else’s fault). So their words can only describe this fantasy world and they are driven to shore up the fantasy at every opportunity. ‘Every opportunity’ means every time they open their mouths. Reverse everything they say about themselves and you will be very close to the truth. ‘Virtue signalling’ is pretty constant, too.

    Those wishing to know more about this subject and how to identify most psychopaths can read more here –

    Here is a very good book on psychopathy that is free and in the public domain (generously donated by the family of the late author)-
    The Mask Of Sanity by Dr Hervey Cleckley M.D.

    Below is a long two and a half hour discussion related to a lot of the issues of psychopathy and systemic corruption globally. If you are short on time, the first 30 minutes are particularly worth listening to-

    View on YouTube

    The Maria James Murder: Two Murderers – Part 2 UPDATED with Epilogue and Addendum

    “The rules of logic are like the rules of mathematics. They are an inherent and immutable property of existence, not opinions.” The Rules of Logic


    That headline should read “Police Centimeters Away From Murderer

    Yes, that is one of the murderers talking to police within a couple of hours of murdering Maria James inside. He got away with it through a cover-up and an extraordinary run of luck.
    The article below from The Age June 18th 1980 accompanied the photograph above-

    In Part 1, we introduced the fact that Allan Hircoe’s testimony to Victoria Police in 2014 made 3 conclusions logically clear:

    1. Fr Anthony Bongiorno was guilty of the murder of Maria James.
    2. There were two murderers.
    3. Given the first two facts, Fr Thomas O’Keeffe was far and away Bongiorno’s most likely accomplice.

    The fact that Victoria Police since 2014 could not or would not put these conclusions together and present them to the public raises some important questions. We will be addressing these questions in the following instalments.

    This instalment will look further into the logistics of how the murder took place and the movements of the principal characters before and after the murder and what these movements mean. The logistics and the logic behind them will also shore up the case for the three conclusions listed immediately above and that were established in Part 1

    What is publicly known about the case is written in ordinary black text.
    Where the authors have inserted likely suppositions from the known facts, you will read this in italics.
    The italicised text in boxes are explanations using abductive, inductive and/or deductive logic.

    For those interested, it might be valuable to read the story through the first time without reading what is in the boxes. This will give you a fairly quick overview which will be helpful. Then go through it again reading it all. The story is quite simple but because there are multiple things happening at once, the choreography and their implications takes some time to master. So take your time!


  • 8:00-8:30 am Maria phones the Thornbury Presbytery
    We know that Maria phoned the Thornbury presbytery where Bongiorno and O’Keeffe were living that morning and it was probably around the time of 8:30am as it was before she put Adam on his school bus. She arranged to meet Bongiorno that morning to discuss his molestation of Adam. We know this from Adam’s testimony (Trace ep2).

    10:00 am Maria returns home
    Maria bought a cake on the way back from seeing Adam off to school saying to someone in the bakery that she was expecting a visitor that morning. Maria went to the bank and was seen returning home around 10 am.

    11:00 am Bongiorno is identified standing in front of the bookshop
    In the Trace Bonus episode, we hear witness (Louise) say that she saw Bongiorno lingering outside the bookshop at around 11am. Bongiorno walked off towards the city (and St Mary’s) to the south.

    Bongiorno was outside Maria’s bookshop waiting for O’Keeffe to show up.

    They had to go into the bookshop together because they needed to lock the door behind them as they would not want their conversation with Maria overheard by a customer. If Bongiorno went in and locked the door behind him, O’Keeffe would not be able to enter the bookshop. If Bongiorno went in and left the door open, a customer may have entered the shop before O’Keeffe arrived. So they needed to go into the shop together while the shop was empty of customers and lock the door behind them.

    11:55 am John James returns Maria’s call
    Maria phoned her ex-husband, John James, just before Bongiorno and O’Keeffe arrived. She hangs up after asking John’s secretary to ask him to call her back. The priests promptly arrive and by the time John James returns her call, she is engaged in conversation with Bongiorno.

    O’Keeffe had a long standing habit of sneaking around and ‘eaves-dropping’ on people. It is likely that he hid within the shop at first and then entered the residence without Maria’s awareness once Bongiorno had engaged Maria in conversation. O’Keeffe would have been keen to not remain in the shop as he might be seen from the street through the front door. He would also be keen to hear how the conversation was going. Remember he was very adept at moving around without people’s awareness.

    Maria asked her ex-husband to hold the line. She placed the telephone on the table and returned to her conversation. This is odd behaviour to leave a caller on the line unless she wanted John James to hear what was being said without Bongiorno knowing he was being listened to. Unfortunately, their conversation was too far away from the telephone receiver for John James to distinguish the words being spoken. John did, however, hear Maria, give a startled yelp.

    This could be explained by O’Keeffe startling her by sneaking up behind her, as was his habit. John shortly afterwards heard a second cry and then silence. He realised something was very wrong. So wrong, in fact, that he left his work immediately to drive to Maria’s shop.

  • Maria was found to have three injuries to her head. The second yelp then silence could be explained by Maria being struck from behind on the head.

    She was struck twice more, perhaps before she was then dragged down the hall to her bedroom away from the window at the rear of the residence. Or she may have ran down the hallway. The door into the shop, which opened inwards into the hallway, would likely to have been closed by O’Keeffe when he moved into the residence. (We know it was closed immediately after the murder because John James and the customer saw the curtains move on the closed door.) If this was the case then it is likely she was caught and was then struck twice more on the head rendering her unconscious or semi-conscious. A third option is that Maria, seeing the door into the shop was closed, opted to run into her bedroom hoping to lock the bedroom door behind her. This is Ron Iddles’ preferred option.

    Whichever way it happened, Maria ended up on her bedroom floor with her hands tied together in front of her and dead from 68 stab wounds. There were wounds to her back and from her upper chest to her groin area. There was blood on her bed and two pillows were on the floor; one by her head and one by her feet. They may have been used to cushion the killers’ knees as they knelt beside her systematically stabbing her front and back. While the number of stab wounds indicate a rage on the part of the killers, there is also a cold calculatedness about the scene, too; a familiarity with what they were doing.

    The killers would have been covered in blood. Indeed, Bongiorno was seen with blood on his hands, on an arm and on his face. But O’Keeffe was seen fleeing the shop by a few people and none of them noticed any blood on him. He was seen wearing a white shirt and as he was described as having hairy arms; his shirt sleeves were obviously rolled up. He did not have blood on his white shirt. How could he manage this? There is a possible explanation.


    Maria’s bedroom, where her body was found, is the (only) bedroom to the right of the central passage. The large room marked “living” nearest the street at the bottom of the diagram was the bookshop at the time of the murder. The door between the shop/living room and the passageway into the residence had a glass panel and a covering curtain over the glass.

    The french doors opening from the now ‘living’ room onto a walkway and the gate from the walkway to the street were not there when it was a shop. The front door opened directly from the center of the shop onto the street. The “Decking” at the rear of the shop was not there either. The window at the rear of the residence was much less in area than shown in the diagram. The smaller window at the time was roughly in line with the passageway. Otherwise, I am reliably informed, the layout of rooms is as it was at the time of the murder.

    Note: The toilet and the bath are separate rooms.The bathroom opens onto the hallway and the toilet opens onto the dining area towards the back of the residence.

  • NOTE: The following is speculative but it fits with the information that we have. Conclusions are arrived at logically and the reasoning is demonstrated. The authors are unaware of any evidence pointing to an alternative scenario but this is not to say there might be other possible scenarios. But what we propose fits logically with the confirmed information plus it is in accordance with what we know about the character and behaviour of the murderers.

    12:00 pm – 12:30 pm (est.) Bongiorno and O’Keeffe clean up after the murder and John James breaks in through the back window
    O’Keeffe and Bongiorno move from the bedroom to the bathroom to clean themselves up before leaving the premises. This may have occurred before or after John James first arrived. One of them, O’Keeffe, is cut and needs to dress his wound. O’Keeffe goes into the bathroom, removes his coat, rolls up his shirt sleeves and begins to clean himself up. Bongiorno, depending on whether John has arrived or not, either waits outside the bathroom door (it is a small room) or finds some place to stay out of sight of the back window.

    The Murder Weapon

    Ron Iddles says that it is most often the case in multiple stabbings that the killer will cut himself because his bloody hand will slip down the knife and onto the blade. If you look at the murder weapon, you can see how this is very likely to have happened. The knife is designed for slicing and not piercing so the point is not sharpened to easily facilitate this. Pushing this knife through clothing will take some force. There is no hilt or guard to prevent the hand from slipping down on to the blade

    We can deduce quite a bit from the fact that O’Keeffe was seen by witnesses as he fled the scene of the murder without having blood over him. And also the fact that Bongiorno was seen at the presbytery covered in blood.
    O’Keeffe must have cleaned himself up after the murder. To do that he would have had to go to the bathroom. Bongiorno was still covered in blood so we can say he did not go to the bathroom. He, of course, like O’Keeffe would have preferred not to go out into the street covered in blood and so attract attention to himself. It proved critical not to do so, in fact.
    The only reason he would not have cleaned himself up in the bathroom before John James arrived would be because O’Keeffe was still in there. So we now know where O’Keeffe was hiding when John James entered the residence.
    Why did O’Keeffe go first in the bathroom and not Bongiorno? The reason is because O’Keeffe had cut himself during the stabbing of Maria and so he had a bleeding wound which would take priority. It needed to be bandaged.
    Leaving aside the recent story from the police about the ‘bungled DNA sample’ because it is highly questionable and going back to the original and most probably correct story that they had the blood of a male from the murder scene, we can say that one of the murderers cut himself. That being the case, then the one with the bleeding wound would be the one to enter the bathroom first to clean himself up and bandage the cut.
    O’Keeffe left the shop without blood on him while Bongiorno left covered in blood.
    So we know that O’Keeffe was the one who used the bathroom. Therefore he is the one with the wound and therefore the blood sample the police have/had is O’Keeffe’s.

    It was only after the Trace Podcast’s Rachael Brown started looking for ways to secure a DNA sample of O’Keeffe and was then offered clothing items of O’Keeffe’s deceased twin brother that the police announced that the DNA sample that they had was from another case. Thus a match with O’Keeffe’s DNA was scuttled.
    We will return to the police’s strange utterances and behaviour surrounding the issue of DNA samples mysteriously appearing and disappearing in a later instalment.

    12:15 pm (est.) John James arrives at the bookshop
    Suddenly there is a banging and rattling at the front door of the shop. Bongiorno goes down the hall and peeks through the curtain covering the glass panel in the door from the residence. John James and another person see the curtain move. John then runs to the side street (Mansfield St), down the back walkway and into the backyard and up to the back door of the residence. The door is locked. Bongiorno obviously is hiding inside somewhere out of sight.

    John James runs back and forth between the front and back doors a few times. During this time, John makes a call to the shop from a neighbour’s phone. As he would have run past the Real Estate office on the corner and the shop in between that and Maria’s shop appears unoccupied, it is reasonable to assume John called from there. Maria’s phone was engaged as the receiver was still ‘off the hook’.

    Somewhere during this time Bongiorno hides in the toilet still covered in Maria’s blood. Presumably O’Keeffe did not want Bongiorno in the bathroom with him (it is a small room) and he hurriedly dresses his wound and continues to clean himself up.

    12:30 pm (est.) John James enters the residence
    Finally, John James breaks a window in the rear of the residence, climbs in and immediately goes to the back door to unlock it and leaves it open in case he needs to run out in a hurry. He moves slowly down the hall to Maria’s bedroom to find her dead on the floor.

    12:32 pm (est.) Bongiorno flees out the back door
    While John James is staring at Maria’s dead body, Bongiorno leaves his hiding place in the toilet and flees out the open back door which is opposite, through the back gate into the walkway, across Mansfield St, through the church property and around to the front of the presbytery to find himself covered in blood and facing Mr Allan Hircoe.

    Bongiorno would have been able to leave the residence without being seen because the toilet door faces the back door and both would be out of the line of sight of John James who is down the hallway. The rear gate would also be out of sight from the hallway.
    Bongiorno had to have left via the back door. The only way he could leave through the front door would be after John left via the back door. In which case Bongiorno would have run smack bang into John as he rounded the corner into Mansfield St. Besides, only one man was seen leaving the shop by the front door and that man did not have blood all over him. Further, a witness (Laura – Trace Bonus Ep) who knew Bongiorno, identified the man fleeing from the front of the shop as not being Bongiorno.
    Alternatively, if he followed John out the back door, Bongiorno would have been taking a huge risk that John James would not look behind him or stop and go back.
    To cut through the church property as he did, and for all of the above reasons, Bongiorno could only have left via the back door and the safest and obvious time to do that would have been while John James was still in the residence. The only room Bongiorno could do that from without being seen is from the toilet.
    The toilet door faced the open back door and out of the line of sight from the hallway.
    If Bongiorno was somehow hiding in another room, it would make much more sense for him to leave via the front door with O’Keeffe after John James had left the premises through the back door. But only one man left via the front door so he didn’t do that. We are then left with the only possibility being that Bongiorno was hiding in the toilet and left via the back door and while John was still in the premises.

    12:35 pm (est.) O’Keeffe flees out the front door
    We can also say with confidence that O’Keeffe was not in the toilet with him because he would have left at the same time with Bongiorno. But he didn’t. Instead, we know he left via the front door. So O’Keeffe and Bongiorno were hiding in different rooms. Indeed, we have already placed O’Keeffe in the bathroom. We can also say that O’Keeffe was still in the bathroom when John James entered the premises because if he wasn’t, Bongiorno would have availed himself of the opportunity to enter the bathroom and clean himself up even at that late time. So Bongiorno was in the toilet and O’Keeffe was in the bathroom. It is reasonable to assume that both the toilet and bathroom doors had locks on them.

    O’Keeffe could only have left the shop/residence through the front door after John James had left via the back door to go and phone the police otherwise he would have been seen by John. O’Keeffe would have had to walk past him.

    Bongiorno (in blue) leaves first out the back door after John James (in orange) has moved down the hallway to Maria’s bedroom. John James leaves next returning up the hallway and out the back door. O’Keeffe (in green) leaves last out the front door immediately after John James has left the residence.

    It has been suggested that O’Keeffe could have left while John is breaking through the back window but he would have had to emerge from his hiding place in the bathroom and move into the relatively well lit kitchen area and then into the hall and also into John James’ line of sight all the way. The window at the back of the house (incorrectly described as the kitchen window) was in a direct line with the hallway.
    The hallway would have been dark if he had managed to get into it without John seeing him somehow, but once the door into the shop was opened, light from the shop would have highlighted his figure and silhouetted it against that light. O’Keeffe would have been seen.
    We would also have to accept that O’Keeffe quietly closed the internal hall/shop door after himself but yet flung open the front door as he raced through it. That door either slammed open or shut, probably open. Either way, John James would have heard it.
    If the hall/shop internal door was open when John James came down the hall he would have noticed it because it was closed earlier. If the front door to the street was open when John James came down the hall, it is highly likely that John would have noticed it because of the street noise. John’s hearing would have been on high alert. High St is a very busy thoroughfare as it is a major traffic route. There are trams as well.
    People, especially women, tend to leave doors as they find them. When John James returned to the front of the shop from phoning the police, he found the front door open and a woman customer inside. It was a cold, showery, blustery day. It is far more likely that the woman customer found the front door open rather than closed. Not many people open a closed door on a day like that and leave it open.
    So O’Keeffe was still in the residence and specifically in the bathroom when John came down the hall.
    He could not have left the bathroom to follow Bongiorno out the back door because he would have had to step into John’s line of sight from the hallway. He could not even afford to poke his head out to see where John was. He was trapped in the bathroom and would have had to wait till he heard John walk past the bathroom and out the back door.

    Once John James leaves via the back door to phone for the police from a neighbours (probably the Real Estate agency again), O’Keeffe has a very short time to make his getaway. One wonders what would have happened if John had decided to ring the police from the phone in the residence.

    O’Keeffe would have been aware that John had gone from the front to the back a few times and he would not know if he was going to go around to High St in front of the shop again. If O’Keeffe hesitated, he could not know where John would be but if he left straight away he would know John was not out the front, at least. But he had a very limited time; seconds would count. So he raced from the front door and sprinted across the street without even looking for traffic and down Hutton street which was away from the safety of the presbytery but more importantly it was also away from the danger of running into John James.

    12:45 pm (est.) O’Keeffe ducks under boom gates at Hutton St. train station
    O’Keeffe could have circled back to the presbytery by running down the access lane behind the shops (unnamed street just visible in the photograph) or by going down Stott St further up Hutton St and back around to High St but further south and away from the shop. But he didn’t. We know this because a railway employee saw him duck under the operating boom gates past Stott St. He was going somewhere else. But where? Where would he find safety?

    Click on photograph for full resolution. North is to the left of the picture. The two parallel white lines either side of the tracks to the left of the roadway and the boom gates are the painted white edges of the railway platforms. They extend up to the roadway.

    First question is, “Why would he draw attention to himself (which he did) by ducking under a railway boom gate in operation? There was no one pursuing him on foot. There must have been a train approaching because the gates were in operation and Thornbury station is very close to the crossing.
    So the only reason to risk being noticed would be to catch that train. It must have been a north bound train as well. A south bound train could be caught without having to cross the tracks. (Note for North American readers – cars, trams and trains all travel on the left in Australia. So a north bound train would be to the west and on the far track from High St but closest to the camera.)
    So what is north of Thornbury station that might provide a place of safety?
    Well, the next station is Bell and not far across the road from Bell station is Immaculate Heart College. This school is now run by the Christian Brothers and is called Parade College but in 1980 it was run by the Marist Brothers and the principal was one Mr Gregory Coffey, a serial paedophile who offended from the early 70’s well into the ’90’s.
    I think it reasonable to assume that O’Keeffe knew Coffey and knew that he was a paedophile and perhaps was even a member of his satanic cult. This would be a place of safety and by far the closest safe (Catholic) haven.

    The map below is from 1982. Immaculate Heart College (a.k.a. Marist Brothers School/College or Marist Brothers Preston) is seen in the upper right and Maria’s shop and Thornbury station are seen in lower left of the map.

    Mid afternoon Sometime before school closure Bongiorno picks up Mark James at Immaculate Heart School
    Now it just so happened that this is the school that Maria’s elder son, Mark, was attending. And it just so happened that the police asked Bongiorno later that afternoon (instead of the father, John James, who was there and hardly a murder suspect) to go and collect Mark James from this same school and inform him of his mother’s death. Three policewomen were sent to pick up Adam James from his school. Why was Bongiorno asked to pick up Mark James? And who suggested it?

    Why not John James or even one or two of the three policewomen? Why didn’t one of the policewomen go with Bongiorno?

    We know that when Bongiorno collected Mark, he also went to see this paedophile principal. Coffey had a rap sheet a mile long!

    The smirking Gregory Coffey

    From an article in the Sydney Morning Herald Jan 13th 2013 we have this quote:-
    “Brother Gregory Vincent Coffey, who pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault against two students in 1976 and 1977 at Immaculate Heart College in Preston”

    So this guy is convicted of sexually assaulting two students under his care while employed by the Marist Brothers. What do you think his Marist Brothers bosses do? Fire him? No, you would be wrong if you thought that. They kept him on and promoted him to vice principal the next year in 1978. In 1980 they promoted him from vice principal to principal and he is now running the school. How is this not a paedophile organisation masquerading as an educational organisation?

    The usual excuse is that people didn’t understand the damage done to children ‘back then’. But that is simply not true. Up until 1954, it was a hangable offence in Victoria to rape a child. People knew exactly the gravity of the crime and the danger the paedophile posed to the community. So how should we view the magistrate that let repeat offender Coffey off with a slap on the wrist? How do we view the Marist Brothers?

    I think it is very likely that O’Keeffe was in this paedophile principal’s office and that Bongiorno took him a change of clothes and brought him up to speed as to what was happening with the police.
    It would have been a simple matter to arrange. A phone call to the Thornbury presbytery would be all it would take. O’Keeffe would have been busting to find out what was happening with Bongiorno and if the police suspected either of them. O’Keeffe likely made another phone call; to the cathedral.
    It is worth noting here that the police went to the presbytery to see the parish priest. They saw the assistant parish priest instead. Given that we know Bongiorno had just murdered Maria, don’t you think he would have preferred that O’Keeffe, as the senior priest, would have seen the policeman instead (if he was there)? But O’Keeffe wasn’t there, that’s why Bongiorno had to talk to the police.
    The cops were questioning Bongiorno about hearing Maria’s confession or maybe the killer’s confession without luck. But where is the senior parish priest and why aren’t the cops questioning him, too? Or, at least, you would think the police would be appealing to him about Bongiorno’s intransigence. He’s not there, that’s why. And no one seems to be asking where he is or remarking on his absence.


    We know that around this time in 1980, there existed a group of very corrupt policemen within Victoria Police that covered up the crimes of the Catholic priesthood. These crimes included multiple child rapes. This group has been called “The Catholic Mafia” and followed the dictates of the Catholic hierarchy. This has been admitted to by none other than the current Chief commissioner of Victoria Police, Graham Ashton.

    Denis Ryan, former policeman and a campaigner for priests to be charged with their crimes, told the Royal Commission into sexual abuse, “The common law of the police force was not to charge a priest, short of murder.” It would seem that this did not hold true in the case of Maria James. Why would it stop short of murder, anyway, considering the heinousness of the crimes that were routinely being covered up?

    The usual drill for a priest in trouble was to make a call to the cathedral offices and before too long the arresting police officer was told by his superior to release the priest. Often one or two priests would turn up at the police station to escort their brother priest away from the clutches of the law.

    From the above article linked in the box immediately above:-
    “When he was arrested (for sexually assaulting six boys – ed.) the priest rang a bishop and by the time the detectives had taken him to the watchhouse a senior policeman was waiting.
    He told the investigators he required a brief of evidence before the priest could be charged. They countered that they had enough to lock him up immediately. The senior man ordered they release him and complete the brief for review. When they did it was not authorised and the priest was never charged.”


    “When the priest was arrested on the day before Good Friday, he made one phone call – to Archbishop George Pell.
    ‘By the time we got the priest back to the station, a QC had already rung to say he was representing him and told him to make no comment,’ said one of the investigators.”

    It would be extraordinary if O’Keeffe and/or Bongiorno did not make that call to the cathedral office. And it would also be extraordinary if someone in the church hierarchy did not then telephone someone senior in the ranks of the police to put the fix in and send the message down the line. Where would that line end?

    An obvious choice would be the head of the Homicide squad as they were the squad that would be carrying out the investigation. At the time, the head of the homicide squad was Inspector Paul Delianis, known amongst his colleagues as “The Golden Greek”.

    Delianis had not long taken over the job from his previous post as head of the notorious Armed Robbery Squad. The ‘Armed Rob Squad’ was a household name in Victoria during the 1970’s. I know; I was there in the 70’s. It was so bad (there were many rumours of Squad members forcing criminals to carry out armed robberies on their behalf) that the squad was broken up and it’s members were dispersed throughout the force and throughout Victoria (reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s behavior); dispersed, that is, except for Paul Delianis “and one or two others”, which is very curious.

    We will hear more about Paul Delianis from McJ in the next instalment which will detail some of the endemic, even ubiquitous, corruption, including murder, throughout Victoria Police during the last half century and particularly during this time of the 70’s and 80’s. Corruption that let the Catholic Church get away with its own murder (metaphorically speaking, of course!)

    Epilogue and Authors’ Note

    For those who have had quite enough ‘darkness’, I suggest you do not continue reading. For those that have had quite enough darkness but are drawn like moths to a flame to understand this brutal murder and what it means, read on.

    (BTW, it is a natural desire to understand such catastrophic events for our own (and our children’s) future survival. It is an unconscious drive within most of us. Of course, this is then combated by our universal sense of revulsion and horror at someone, whom we might identify with, even as just another human being, being treated in this literally inhuman manner. This all sets up an inner conflict and stress. So you might be experiencing this.)

    We know why Maria was killed now and by whom but we don’t know why she was killed in this particularly brutal and bizarre manner. Dismissing it as an act of rage doesn’t quite explain it. Certainly rage was evident but there seems to be more to it. As was said earlier, there is a certain cold calculation involved.

    The spontaneous ‘rage’ does not explain why Maria’s hands were bound with her being either unconscious or dead. It does not explain why Maria was apparently in fear for her life. She twice said to her elder son, Mark, to look after Adam should anything happen to her; once a couple of days before her murder and again on the very morning of her murder.

    Maria’s murder was initially described as a ritual killing by the police and then later this was dismissed. The authors believe it was indeed a ritual killing; one that was not only satanic but had distinct Italian elements to it.

    Maria was born to Italian parents from Calabria, Italy. The Italian immigrant community was plagued by an organisation, also from Calabria, called the ‘Ndrangheta (pronounced with the emphasis on ‘drang’ as in – en-DRANG-geta) – the Italian Mafia, the largest criminal organisation in Australia (if you leave aside some prominent institutions).

    But first, let’s construct a possible scenario of the murder that accounts for all the puzzling aspects of the killing and then offer an historical explanation for the ritualistic elements of it.

    O’Keeffe surprises Maria with his sudden appearance but she is still not intimidated with now two priests trying to face her down. O’Keeffe sees the kitchen knife in its ‘stay-sharp’ scabbard on the bench and removes it from its scabbard. At this point, O’Keeffe has decided to kill Maria. We can say this because he has participated or been present at many killings involving knives and other blades (Trace Ep 3). He’s not messing around and has no inhibitions.

    But if O’Keeffe simply wanted her dead, why didn’t he stab Maria in the heart there and then, or more messily, slit her throat and quickly leave via the back door and down the walkway to the St Mary’s property? Simple . . . for a man of O’Keeffe’s abilities. From the beginning, though, it seems he had other plans.

    Maria runs down the hallway and seeing the door to the shop closed (it opens inwards) decides to go into her bedroom which has a lock on it (Trace Ep 1). O’Keeffe and Bongiorno are too close behind her though and enter the bedroom with her. Maria flings herself onto the bed followed by one of the priests and is stabbed multiple times in the back.

    Somewhere from Maria seeing the knife in O’Keeffe’s hand to being stabbed on the bed, she is struck three times on her head. Maria is now face down on the bed either dead or dying. There is blood all over her quilted bed cover (which mysteriously disappeared later from police custody – see video at 7:58).

    O’Keeffe and Bongiorno lift Maria’s body off the bed by grabbing her hands and feet (the easiest way to move her) and put her on the floor beside the bed placing two pillows at her head and feet to kneel on.

    They then proceed to stab her multiple times from her upper chest to her groin area. They now bind Maria’s hands in front of her (the police and the Coroner agreed she was bound while either unconscious or dead). It would make sense to tie her hands after they had finished stabbing her torso. Given that there are two of them, the priests would find it easiest to move her by grasping her by the wrists and ankles. Tying her hands before moving her would only make this more difficult. The only reason for tying her hands afterwards (or at all) would be for ritual reasons.

    If she was tied up to restrain her, either then or earlier, we would see evidence of bruising from struggling. She would also much more likely to be tied with her hands behind her. It would be easier and make more sense to do this with a conscious and struggling woman – pin her down on the floor while they tie her hands behind her. Maria was not the type of person to quietly submit. No bruising on Maria’s wrists tells us this didn’t happen. So she was tied up after she was dead. Therefore, again, Maria could only have been tied up for ritual reasons and not for reasons of restraint or for moving her.

    Maria was found with her right leg bent under her left leg which was straight out. From Trace Ep1, 15:15 – Maria James is described as lying face up with “her right leg tucked up behind her, her wrists are bound and rest on her stomach”

    If she was picked up from the bed by her feet, her feet would be put down beside each other. So this placement of her right leg behind her left leg was deliberately done. In the process of ‘staging’ Maria’s body, the murderers were probably interrupted by John James’ arrival given the time constraints.

    Bongiorno peeks through the internal door’s curtain to see John James at the front door, announces to O’Keefe that they have trouble and O’Keeffe bolts for the bathroom . . . and the rest is covered in the report above.

    The image of someone killed with their hands bound and one leg bent under the other is that of “The Hanged Man”. Usually, but not always, the hands are tied behind the back but this would be too awkward in Maria’s case. Also the leg is bent at a distinct angle to the straight leg. Usually, but not always, it is the left leg that is tucked behind the right. The other leg is straight because that is the one the whole body is being hung from.

    “The Hanged Man” is most often known as a Major Arcana card in the Tarot and it has a few meanings in that context. But it also has a lesser known and distinctly Italian criminal context and meaning. It is the sign of the traitor. In Italy, in days gone by, it was how a traitor was killed and whom you wanted to leave as a message to others. To terrorise them, in other words.

    From Wikipedia
    The Hanged Man (XII) is the twelfth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. It is used in game playing as well as in divination.
    It depicts a pittura infamante (pronounced [pitˈtuːra iɱfaˈmante]), an image of a man being hung upside-down by one ankle. This method of hanging was a common punishment at the time for traitors in Italy.

    So it is an act of vengeance against the victim and also a warning to others in the community.

    The Hanged Man was originally named The Traitor. It can also be read as a necessary sacrifice. Another interpretation is the devil or satan because it symbolizes reversal. It forms the outline of the reverse alchemical symbol for sulphur – a downward pointing triangle beneath a cross.

    So how do we get from the Italy of centuries ago to a Thornbury, Melbourne bookshop in 1980?
    “The Traitor” would be part of Italian folklore passed down through the generations. It would be unthinkable that modern day ‘Ndrangheta would be unaware of it.

    The ‘Ndrangheta came to Australia with the Italian immigrant influx after WW11 and set up shop in Melbourne at the wholesale fruit and vegetable market where is still exists to this day. Anthony Bongiorno worked at his father’s ‘fruit shop’ which seems to have consisted of a stall at the wholesale market before training to be a priest. The wholesale market and the produce farms were the main supply channel for marijuana from the swinging sixties onwards. All settlement for all business at the market was done in cash.

    ABC 4Corners show did an excellent two part TV report on the ‘Ndrangheta in 2015 – First part and Second part

    The Bongiorno family did get rather rich rather quickly in one generation. The Bongiorno family have not been connected to the ‘Ndrangheta, as far as I know. I’m sure they were remarkably good at buying and selling apples and oranges.

    But in any case, Anthony Bongiorno would very likely be aware of the killing method of “The Traitor” because he worked in the market amongst these criminals. The ‘Ndrangheta’s first victims are their own ethnic brethren through extortion and intimidation. So word would spread amongst the Italian community about this and many other practices of the Mafia.

    Maria, being of Italian immigrant parents and having lived in a community of many Italians would also have known a lot about the ‘Ndrangheta and their behaviour. It would be self preservation for this community to share what they knew about these predators between each other.

    Did she connect Bongiorno with the ‘Ndrangheta and was this the source of her fears for her life? It would seem the most logical reason and, in fact, there has been no other reason proffered to account for her fear; for how the body was staged and for why all the stab wounds and the manner that they were inflicted.

    Was the method of killing meant to be a message to others whom Maria might have talked to in the Italian community? From circumstantial evidence the authors have, it seems that Maria did talk to at least one person; apparently not an Italian. So why not others? Is this why others have not come forward in 37 years.

    There’s lots of possibilities connected in the above scenario. It is by no means anywhere near certain . . . but it is feasible. It fits with what we know about the circumstances of the murder and the character and thinking of the murderers. It is the only explanation that we have so far that accounts for all the known facts despite how bizarre it may sound. But this murder, and everything else surrounding it, is nothing if not bizarre.

    So, we shall finish up this investigation as we started it with a saying about logic. There is a principle in logic and philosophy known as “Occam’s Razor” and it is this; the simplest explanation (of all the explanations) that fits all the known facts is the most likely to be the truth.

    Note – “the simplest explanation” does not mean the most familiar one.


    The above Epilogue was published with Part 2 when it was first put up but no sooner had I published it, I came across extra information that was at first confusing and that may have contradicted the murder scenario that I had proposed. Just when you think this case can’t get more bizarre, it does!

    So I removed the Epilogue until I had sorted this issue out. I have now been better able to understand this new information and it does not, in my opinion, call into question my proposed murder scenario. I have now reinstated the original epilogue as it was and will simply add this new (to me) information.

    I came across this article written in 2014
    which briefly described how Maria had been held down using, of all things, a potato masher from her kitchen against the side of her face. There was a picture of the masher in another article from 2017 and also, I was later to realise, a picture of Maria’s face underneath the masher. It was obviously a Coroner’s picture that had been released by the police.

    The picture can be viewed at this page if you need to see it. There is no added information in this article regarding the potato masher, just the picture (which is quite strange to my mind).

    I am confident now that the masher was used on Maria, not so much to restrain her because the picture indicates that she was already dead, but to brand her for some symbolic or occultic reason.

    These satanists, and O’Keeffe at least was definitely a satanist, may be insane at some level but at another level they are highly rational. Whatever they do, they do for a reason. However mad it might be, there is always a reason. In that sense, they are more rational than most ordinary people who operate so much more randomly or unthinkingly in their daily lives. While we just live a lot of the time, they are constantly plotting and manoeuvring.

    I am no forensic pathologist but my reasoning for thinking Maria was dead before her face was pressed down with the potato masher is that the outline of the marking on her face from the masher is very sharp against her otherwise pasty looking skin. The implement has obviously been pressed down very hard and has broken the capillary veins forcing blood up to the surface layer of skin.

    Had her heart been pumping, blood would have flowed through the broken capillaries and into the surrounding skin causing bruising and discolouration and the sharp outline seen under the masher would be lost. So this, like the tying of her wrists which showed no bruising, was done after Maria was dead and for the same ritual or symbolic reasons.

    A possible reason for this deliberate marking, and it is only a guess, is that some women in these cults are actually branded with a hot iron. It is done as a mark of ownership either to the cult leader or to satan or to both. Perhaps our two mad satanic priests thought they were exerting ownership over Maria and her life for themselves or for satan. But who knows? (Be sure to read the added information in McJ’s comment below Speaking of ritualistic killing)

    To move on to a slightly less gruesome aspect of this appalling tragedy, a reader asked a very good question regarding O’Keeffe’s missing coat. McJ and I have both addressed this issue in the comments section and it may be of interest to read. This issue of the coat and other issues were not included in the article so as to try and keep the story manageable and comprehensible. But we are more than happy to address any issues if readers have queries regarding the many puzzling and bizarre details involved with this case.

    The next instalment, The Role of Psychopathy, can be read here

    The Maria James Murder: Two Murderers – Part 1

    THE MARIA JAMES MURDER: Two Murderers – Part 1

    This is the second in a series of articles. If you would like to read the background to this murder mystery and perhaps take up the challenge of working out the solution to the murder and read the source material linked to, go back to the first article here. There are resources including diagrams and ‘street scene’ photographs there.

    Regardless, this article is written on the presumption that you, the reader, have listened to the TRACE series of podcasts by the ABC. You can access them at this page or through iTunes. Search iTunes for “ABC Trace” and you should have no trouble finding the series. Additional articles can be found here. Spoiler alert ahead!

    The podcast series leaves the question, “Who killed Maria James?” unanswered though it implicates two Catholic priests, Anthony Bongiorno and Thomas O’Keeffe as suspects. I propose to show that it was indeed these two priests and it could not be anyone else based on all the information we have.

    While I will be referring to much of the material covered in the audio series, there is much that I won’t be and I will presume that you are aware of what I leave out as background and contextual information. You may find placing some of my text in this article difficult to contextualise if you haven’t absorbed the audio programmes first. It is an engaging series and you should have no trouble in following along, the nature of the content notwithstanding. So go have a listen if you haven’t already.

  • The Witness

    In 2014, Mr Allan Hircoe went to the Victoria Police to tell them he saw a man with blood on him approach the Thornbury presbytery of St Mary’s Parish shortly after midday on Tues 17th June 1980. This was the very time of the murder of Maria James three shops down High St. from the St Mary’s property which included a school, church and presbytery.

    Street map of the immediate area

    St. Mary’s property bounded by High St, the main thoroughfare through Thornbury, Mansfield St and Rossmoyne St which runs parallel to Mansfield St and the walkway shown behind Maria’s shop at 736 High St across Mansfield St from St Marys property. Click here for a larger, higher resolution picture. Click here for an aerial view of how the area looks today. Note: Building additions to the school in front of the Presbytery were not there in 1980 (See Allan Hircoe’s hand drawn map of the area in 1980 below.)

    Mr Hircoe identified that man as Catholic priest, Fr Anthony Bongiorno. From that moment on, Victoria Police should have realised that the cold case murder of Mrs James was carried out by two men and not one. At least three witnesses had seen another man flee from the shop by its front door on High St and run across High St, nearly being run over by a car in the process, and running off down Hutton St to the west; the opposite direction to the St Mary’s presbytery where Bongiorno was seen at the same time covered in blood.

    It is impossible for one man to be running away from the crime scene in two divergent directions at the same time. So it is beyond dispute that there were two murderers. That Anthony Bongiorno is one of them should also be beyond dispute. The following lays out why that is.

    The First Suspect – Anthony Bongiorno

  • Caught ‘Red Handed’

    Bongiorno had blood on one side of his face, blood on one forearm which was exposed by a rolled up shirt sleeve and blood on both hands. He had literally been “caught red-handed” coming from the direction of the scene of the murder less than 100 metres away and at the time of the murder.

    Mr Hircoe, an electrician, was working on the front veranda of the presbytery which faced onto Rossmoyne St. He testified that Bongiorno came around the corner of the building from the direction of a grassy walkway between two St Mary’s buildings, the church and the presbytery. The walkway was the continuation of one that was visible across Mansfield St and ran behind the High St shops. One of those shops was Maria James’ second-hand bookshop. There was a gateway from the bookshop backyard onto that walkway. (See maps)

    Bongiorno explained his bleeding by saying he had cut himself on some roses or on a wire fence near the roses (Hircoe could not remember which) at the rear of the presbytery building. Bongiorno was later to tell police he was in Coburg at the time of the murder and till late into the afternoon with the Coburg parish priest, Fr Sean O’Connell, a long time personal friend. The immediate problem with this is that Bongiorno was on hand to take Mark James out of class and bring him home earlier in the afternoon. But, of course, there is a much larger problem with the alibi.

    Never-the-less, it’s nice to have friends; friends that will lie to the police for you. After receiving Mr Hircoe’s statement, the police should then have known that the alibi furnished by O’Connell years previously was a complete lie.

    Allan Hircoe’s Map
    IMG 1188
    Allan Hircoe’s map showing the bookshop, St Mary’s property and the walkway (lane) behind Maria’s bookshop. ‘North’ is to the left of the drawing. Note: The building marked “Mance” is the Presbytery.

    Anthony Bongiorno went through the Corpus Christi Seminary in the same class year as Sean O’Connell, Denis Hart, the current Archbishop of Melbourne and the now world famous Cardinal George Pell. O’Connell provided Bongiorno with his alibi but clearly Bongiorno could not have been in Coburg and at the Thornbury presbytery covered in blood at the same time. Both Bongiorno and O’Connell lied to police and in 2014 police would have been aware of this. Sean O’Connell did not die until Dec 2016. Did Victoria Police question O’Connell regarding his lying to them by giving Bongiorno a false alibi? If not, why not?

    Years earlier, had Victoria Police consulted their files after taking O’Connell’s word for Bongiorno’s whereabouts, they would have seen that they were dealing with a man with a record of lying to police. In 1977, just three years before the murder, O’Connell was convicted of harbouring an escaped criminal, armed robber and close friend of Mark “Chopper” Read, James (Jimmy) Loughnan.

    Victorian Police Detective Sgt Ron Iddles (R) with Chopper Read (M) and Iddle’s daughter Shae (L).

    It’s a small world, after all! Mark “Chopper” Read was a famous, even legendary, criminal figure in Melbourne. His targets were drug dealers and fellow criminals. He was regarded as a modern day bushranger. More on him below in the epilogue to this article.

    O’Connell later had his conviction quashed by virtue of a technicality through the judge tightly redefining the meaning of “harbouring”. Clearly the police had O’Connell ‘caught to rights’ and O’Connell, because he pleaded ‘not guilty’, had lied to them. The company you keep!

    Back to the presbytery. Mr Hircoe went to fetch a first-aid kit from his truck to attend to Bongiorno, whom he described as somewhat distressed, but when the electrician turned around, Bongiorno had disappeared. Presumably, he had disappeared inside the presbytery. Allan Hircoe then heard a very heated argument in Italian coming from inside the presbytery with a woman’s shrieking voice being the dominant one. He thought it a very odd reaction over some blood on a shirt.

    Indeed, it would have been an odd reaction for any woman to be shrieking at a Catholic priest for any reason, especially in 1980. One can only imagine a family member talking to a priest in such a manner. What could spark an outburst of anger instead of care and concern at the sight of a priest covered in blood?

    What could it be about? Surely something of major significance. News of a confrontation gone wrong? A needless murder, perhaps? Whoever it was behaved as if she knew quickly what had happened and that it wasn’t good or, more likely, unbelievably stupid! I hope to return to this very odd behaviour in a later instalment.

    So far we have an agitated Anthony Bongiorno identified as running from the direction of the very brutal and bloody murder of Maria James with blood on his face, arm and both hands at the time of the murder and later lying to police by giving a false alibi. Plus, we have someone who apparently knew him very well abusing him in no uncertain terms. Added to this, we have in episode 4 of TRACE a woman positively identify Bongiorno lingering outside Maria’s shop that morning around 11am. So that leaves motive.

  • The Motive

    Did Bongiorno have a reason to kill Mrs James? While apparently nobody thought so at the time in 1980, a motive has since emerged. In 2013 it was revealed that days before Maria James was killed, her second son, Adam, informed her that Bongiorno had molested him.

    On the morning of the murder, she asked her elder son, Mark, for the second time in almost as many days, to make sure he looked after Adam should anything happen to her. Mark left for school puzzled that Tuesday morning. Why was Maria afraid something might happen to her? This still remains a puzzle to this day. Clearly, she knew more concerning the context than her sons did – ‘Ndrangheta, perhaps?

    Maria then told Adam she was going to phone the presbytery regarding his abuse. Adam said that his mother was agitated while talking on the phone and then took him to his school bus stop and telling him that she was going to see Bongiorno that day.

    Now in 2017, it is beyond any doubt that Anthony Bongiorno was a serial paedophile and this view of him has been held for many years. We accept these days that Catholic priests have many paedophiles amongst their number. Indeed, they are protected from within the church and are even given grand funerals by this same protective clerical hierarchy.

    But in 1980, the idea of paedophile priests did not enter the news cycle at all. It went on, of course, and was known by a few police but certainly not all. The average person in the street had no idea of the criminal nature of many priests and the nature of many of their bishops who protected them from the police, the law and the public.

    So keeping Bongiorno’s paedophilia quiet was of paramount importance not only to Bongiorno but to other paedophile priests and to the Catholic hierarchy. They all relied on the public’s ignorance of their criminal behaviour to maintain their position of power and privilege, to continue unimpeded in their appalling destruction of the lives of the children in their charge and, very importantly, to stay out of jail.

    There was a lot at stake for a lot of privileged people in keeping Maria James quiet. But she was not to be bullied into silence. She was made of sterner stuff and this problem for Bongiorno and his partner in crime must have seemed at the time to have only one logical solution; silence her permanently.

  • The ‘Form’

    Did Bongiorno have the ability or temperament to kill and to kill in this brutal manner?

    Paedophiles are often psychopaths. If you look at the television interview of Bongiorno in 1980 in the month after Maria’s death and if you are familiar with some of the signs of personality disorders, you will notice a certain ‘social tone-deafness’ in Bongiorno’s replies to the reporter’s questions. This ‘social tone-deafness’ is most often associated with psychopaths. They have no emotional connection with other people and their comments can betray this disturbing lack of empathy and connection.

    Mark James said in the above program when remarking on Bongiorno’s manner when he informed Mark of his mother’s death, “He was just cold. There was no compassion, there was no empathy, there was nothing in his voice. He was just going through the motions of doing something and it just didn’t feel right.”

    All this means that Bongiorno was very unlikely to feel any empathy at all for Maria’s plight and to be totally consumed with his own protection instead. It is reasonable to expect him to have gone along with the murder but would he have initiated it? I think a lot would have depended on his influences; the company he kept.

    The Second Suspect – Thomas O’Keeffe

  • Motivation

    Which brings us to the other priest resident at the Thornbury presbytery at the time, Fr Thomas O’Keeffe. Very recently, Adam James has identified O’Keeffe as also molesting him though he had not previously told anyone including his mother. But at the time O’Keeffe could not presume that Adam would remain quiet regarding his own abuse of Adam. O’Keeffe, as well as Bongiorno, had a very personal reason for ensuring Maria James’ silence and permanently if necessary.

  • Thomas O’Keeffe’s ‘Form’

    This man was certainly a psychopath. He was certainly a violent paedophile and he certainly had ‘form’, as they say. A witness had told police in 1997 that he and O’Keeffe had been present at at least four murders during satanic rituals. O’Keeffe in a previous assault had threatened the witness at knife point in exactly the same way that led to Maria James’ death. O’Keeffe was also seen to emotionally explode at the time of this previous assault in a rage described as “demonic”. He engaged in torture of his victims. And Victoria Police had been informed of this as far back as 1997. It was in their files.

    Fr Anthony Bongiorno had been regarded as a suspect possibly as early as ’98 and certainly by 2007, and if police had looked at their own files regarding his boss and housemate, Fr Thomas O’Keeffe, he would have surely been included as a suspect. It would seem that Victoria Police did not consult their files in the case of O’Keeffe just as they did not consult their files regarding Fr Sean O’Connell either at that time or at any time since. This is doubly strange as retired homicide detective, Ron Iddles, has himself said many times, regarding cold cases, “The answer is in the file”.

    The murder of Maria James has been officially described as ritualistic and involved torturing the victim before death. All these behaviours were attributed to O’Keeffe by other victims at other times. All this is detailed in episode 3 of the Trace podcast series. The man had ‘form’. He certainly had the ability to carry out the murder of Maria James in exactly the way it unfolded.

    In the interests of full disclosure, Thomas O’Keeffe was known to me, the writer, and I feature in Episode 3 of Trace. I am James Shanahan. I am not to be confused with other writers at this site, specifically Winter Patriot a.k.a. Winter or WP, or McJ or newjesustimes a.k.a. NJT or Admin.

  • Identifying Thomas O’Keeffe

    In my view, O’Keeffe is very likely the man seen running from the front door of the shop and across High St and then to the west down Hutton St. While no positive identification has been made yet, the police identikit drawn from descriptions by witnesses could easily be Thomas O’Keeffe, to my eyes, at least. I knew the man when he would have been in his early 30’s.

    The circumstantial evidence against O’Keeffe is in one sense weaker than the case for Bongiorno in that he has not been positively identified in the area of the crime at the time of the crime. One witness to the ‘running man’ seen outside the shop described him as 40 to 50 years old. Another witness said he was definitely not Bongiorno as she knew Bongiorno. These two witnesses can be heard on the TRACE series episode 4. The next two witness descriptions do not come from any published material and unfortunately I am not at liberty to identify the source(s ). So take it as you will.

    Jeanette Hodson/Hodgson, the driver who nearly ran over the running man, identified him from a photograph twenty years later as Peter Keogh a local criminal and who was later found guilty of a similarly brutal murder with a knife of a young woman, Vicki Cleary, in 1987. Keogh would have been 31 or 32 in 1980 though.

    The railway employee who saw ‘the running man’ at the railway crossing down Hutton St when shown a photograph of Keogh said it definitely was not Keogh. The man he saw was older 45-50 and stouter than Keogh. Keogh at that time was quite lean and muscular. The railway man got a good look at the running man while Jeanette Hodson got a very brief look at him. O’Keeffe was 49 at the time.

    Added to this is my own opinion. I knew O’Keeffe in the early 1960’s. There are three photos of him that I have seen, one from an earlier period and two taken much later. None of them capture the man that I knew. Oddly enough, the police drawing does. The hairline is clearly too low and the eyebrows aren’t quite right but the intensity that I knew has been captured. Take that for what it is worth!

    So we don’t have a positive identification of O’Keeffe in the vicinity of the shop immediately before of after the murder but we do know he was in the general area that morning because he lived around the corner 100 metres away. He most probably was at home when the call came from Maria James for Bongiorno early that morning and therefore would have had knowledge of what was wrong. So, while we cannot place O’Keeffe at the shop, we can place him nearby that morning.

    Fr Thomas O’Keeffe (L) Police Identikit Drawing of suspect seen fleeing the bookshop (R)

    The photograph on the left (courtesy of ABC Trace) was taken when O’Keeffe was approx 25yo and he was approx 50yo at the time of the murder when this drawing on the right was made.

    As was pointed out at the beginning of this essay, two murderers were present. It could not be the work of a solitary murderer because two men were seen fleeing the murder scene at the time of the murder and running in opposite directions.

  • The Panicked Friend

    A possible alternative was suggested at the end of TRACE episode 4 to explain the man seen running across High St. This speculative suggestion, made without any basis, was that the running man might have been a friend or someone else who entered the shop, walked through it to the residence behind looking for Maria and stumbled upon her dead body and then fled in panic.

    While this is highly implausible given the time frame, it is not impossible. But ‘the panicked friend’ would have had to be in addition to the murderer fleeing from the front door i.e. there would have had to have been two men fleeing via the front door, one after the other as well as Bongiorno fleeing out the back door. (The logistics of this will be further explained in the next article). Somebody, after all, would have had to open the front door from the inside to allow ‘the panicked friend’ to enter the shop in the first place before he could run out again.

    The front door had to have been opened from inside the shop and the person who did this had to have been in the shop before John James entered it through a rear window. This was so because Mr James had checked the front and back doors a number of times and both were locked at each time.

    The ‘panicked friend’ possibility does not take away the necessity of two murderers but merely adds to the number of characters involved and without any basis or evidence to support the idea of introducing a new character.

    Connecting the dots

  • Motive, opportunity, ability and a shared interest in the outcome

    So, we have an overwhelming case against Bongiorno as one of the two murderers involving very damning circumstantial evidence.

    He had motive (to keep his paedophilia quiet)

    He had opportunity (Maria James had arranged to meet him that morning).

    He was seen outside the shop earlier at 11:00am approximately.

    He was seen covered in blood arriving at the presbytery from the direction of the murder scene at the time the murder took place less than 100 metres away.

    He gave a false alibi to police as to his whereabouts at the time of the murder.

    And he had observably psychopathic behaviours.

    Bongiorno was literally ‘caught red-handed’. Fr Anthony Bongiorno had participated in the murder of Maria James. There are no alternative plausible explanations for the evidence against him.

    If there was a plausible alternative explanation, why did Bongiorno find it necessary to lie to the police as to where he was at the time of the murder?

    Common sense and the evidence itself tells us that Bongiorno was one of the murderers and I find it hard to accept that there would be a jury in the land who would not convict him on that overwhelming circumstantial evidence. People have been convicted for murder on far less evidence.

    Despite the relative weakness of the lack of a positive identification, the case for O’Keeffe is stronger than for Bongiorno in one crucial manner:-

    He had been witnessed at other bloody and brutal murders involving knives.

    He had a history of this behaviour and it had been acknowledged by no less an authority than the Catholic Church in the person of Mr Peter O’Callaghan QC, the church’s legal representative in these matters.

    It was also acknowledged subsequently by then Archbishop of Melbourne, George Pell (TRACE episode 3).

    O’Keeffe also had motivation. In 2015, Adam James revealed that he had been abused by O’Keeffe as well as by Bongiorno.

    While Adam had not mentioned his abuse by O’Keeffe to his mother, O’Keeffe could not assume that he would not do so in the near future. So he had just as much reason as Bongiorno to keep Maria quiet and permanently quiet if necessary.

    We have already described his ability to carry out such a murder and he very probably had the opportunity as well. After all, he lived with Bongiorno just around the corner from the James’ shop/residence .

    It would seem highly likely that he knew of the problem of Maria James accusing Bongiorno that morning of paedophilia. He was ‘Jonny-on-the-spot’ as an accomplice that morning.

    Where else would Bongiorno find an accomplice with motive and ability at such short notice?

    There are simply no other suspects that come anywhere near these two acknowledged paedophiles and there are simply no other pairs of suspects as there would need to be to give any alternative version any credence at all. No other two suspects have shared motivation, ability and opportunity and a shared interest in the outcome of silencing Maria James.

    Bongiorno could not have been reasonably ruled out as one of the murderers in 2015. There was far too much evidence against him and there still is. The case is overwhelming. O’Keeffe may possibly be ruled out but only by replacing him with a man of similar motivation and interest in the outcome: similar character and history; similar connection to Bongiorno and been on hand that morning. That doesn’t leave a lot of people.

    Allan Hircoe, the electrician, has suggested O’Keeffe may have been another man he saw at the presbytery shortly before noon that day and therefore not at the murder scene. But there are two major problems with that identification. Mr Hircoe described the man at the door of the presbytery as a priest because he had a priest’s black trousers on and was wearing a flannelette shirt and braces over the top. He also described him as looking somewhat like the then Premier of Victoria, John Cain.

    I knew O’Keeffe and he was meticulous in his grooming and dress. It would have been completely out of character for him to be seen dressed in a flannelette shirt and braces. He also had a full head of jet black hair whereas John Cain had a thinning head of sandy brown hair. Hair colour is a strong identifying characteristic. It is very unlikely that the man Mr Hircoe saw was Thomas O’Keeffe. Fr. Sean O’Connell, the man who gave Bongiorno his false alibi for that day is a much more likely candidate.

    Fr Thomas O’Keefee Circa 1980
    (Courtesy of ABC Trace)

    Fr Sean O’Connell 2011

    John Cain Circa 1980

    Who looks more like John Cain? O’Keefe or O’Connell? Unfortunately, there are no better photographs of O’Connell available. (During the research for this article, we came across evidence that information regarding Sean O’Connell was being scrubbed from the net).

  • The Solution and Some Final Thoughts

    Police have now thrown a few old suspects or ‘persons of interest’ back into the new investigation because their having been ruled out on DNA evidence is no longer valid, they say. But none of these men can be said to have had a co-conspirator. They are all presumed to have been loners as far as this murder investigation is concerned. Looked at critically, none of these persons of interest have had any evidence brought forward linking them to the murder of Maria James that day.

    So if you, the reader, took up the challenge laid down in the previous instalment and picked Bongiorno as the murderer, give yourself one point-

    Or if you picked O’Keeffe as the murderer, give yourself one point –

    And if you picked both Bongiorno and O’Keeffe, give yourself two points –

    Plus a bonus third point for realising that there had to be two murderers.

    Though the police should have known there were two murderers since 2014, the public have only been introduced to that possibility now in 2017 by Rachael Brown’s TRACE podcast. It is only through her investigation that we know of Allan Hircoe’s eye witness evidence. Police, on the other hand, have known about it from 2014 and have seemingly done nothing with this crucial information since then. And they persist in this to this day.

    Bongiorno should not have been ruled out as a suspect by the police in 2015. There is just too much evidence against him and nothing exculpatory in his favour.
    Though the DNA ‘evidence’ has never ruled against him, it can not be said to have ever been in his favour, either.

    – We (and this includes former detective, Ron Iddles) do not know how the police could have obtained a sample of Bongiorno’s DNA to clear him without digging him up (which should have been done long ago – certainly by 2014 if not 2013 or even in 2007).

    – We know and the police know, or absolutely should know, that there were two murderers. So if Bongiorno’s sample did not match the (pre-bungled) DNA sample the police had, this did not prove he was not THE murderer but only not THAT murderer. He could still have been the OTHER murderer.

    Then (between TRACE episodes 3 & 4) when there is pressure to have O’Keeffe’s DNA tested (and why don’t we dig up Fat Tony while we’re at it), Victoria Police confess that the sample of DNA that they have is from another case. You can’t help bad luck, I s’pose.

    Because of this ‘bungled DNA evidence’, Victoria Police are now proposing to go back and reconsider all the old individual suspects as noted above. Go back to ‘square one’ , in other words, and perhaps we can look forward to waiting another 37 years. But, again, we now know, and the police should now know, that there were two murderers and the only two suspects who could possibly be linked together are Bongiorno and O’Keeffe. All the other ‘persons of interest’ need an accomplice to be considered a suspect.

    So ruling out Bongiorno through DNA evidence in 2015 should not have been possible because police should have known since 2014 that there were two murderers and therefore the DNA sample could have been of the other murderer. This is not rocket science. Someone has some ‘splainin’ to do!

    The fact that police now claim the sample they had all along came from another case doesn’t change the logic in the preceding paragraphs and does not excuse them for ruling out a man who should clearly have not been ruled out whether or not the DNA sample was subsequently the correct one.

    But in some respects, the issue of “the DNA sample” is a red herring. Victoria Police have ‘hijacked’ the TRACE story at the last minute with their ‘mea culpa’ concerning their incompetence in keeping track of historical exhibits. Plenty of murder cases have been solved without DNA evidence. Talk of the bungled DNA sample seems to be distracting everyone from the rest of the substantial amount of incriminating prima facie evidence against Bongiorno and O’Keeffe. And perhaps that is its purpose.

    The cases against Bongiorno and O’Keeffe are circumstantial but they present a complete picture. Legally speaking, a circumstantial case needs to be rebutted rather than dismissed by a possibility here or a possibility there. A rebuttal requires an alternative and convincing case to be made that accounts for the known facts. This ‘alternative case’ is conspicuous by its absence. Therefore, the case against Anthony Bongiorno and Thomas O’Keeffe stands and does not need any DNA evidence to do so.

    Should Victoria Police, sometime in the future, produce DNA evidence that clears both O’Keeffe and Bongiorno, then I think the first issue to address will not be the priests’ innocence or guilt but the issue of the credibility of Victoria Police.

    In the next instalment, we will reconstruct the likely logistics of the murder accounting for the facts that we know surrounding the brutal death of Maria James.

    To be continued –

    Epilogue and Authors’ Note

    This investigation into the murder of Maria James is far more than a “whodunnit”. Her murder provides the starting point for a whole network of connections between what would, at first, appear very unlikely people. We found a cast of priests, satanists, criminals, judges, politicians and police connected in ways you would not expect.

    Let us start from the outer edges with the innocent but remarkable picture seen above of former detective Ron Iddles with Mark “Chopper” Read. Read was a colourful figure, to say the least. He was sentenced to 14 yrs in prison for mounting a judicial bench while court was in session and holding a shotgun to the head of the presiding judge in an effort to have his friend Jimmy Loughnan released. The judge, Bill Martin, was heard to utter, “Won’t someone get this bastard off me?” Loughnan repaid the gesture later by stabbing Read. Nice.

    Loughnan leapt over the wall of Pentridge Prison in 1977 and into the yard of Catholic priest, Sean O’Connell, who helped him to escape. This is the same priest who gave Anthony Bongiorno a false alibi and had personal connections to current church leaders.

    Loughnan moved in the same milieu as Peter Keogh, another local criminal. Keogh was found guilty of stabbing to death another woman in 1987. He was also a suspect in the murder of Maria James at one point and was being questioned again about his alibi when he died apparently of suicide (unusual for a psychopath) in 2001 on Mansfield St; the street between where Maria lived and where Bongiorno and O’Keeffe lived.

    The link goes from Keogh to judges and their criminal offspring, to a coroner and then on to another policeman uttering strange platitudes that circles back to Maria’s murder. Two of the judges have links to Bongiorno’s court cases in 1995 and one of these also has a connection to his funeral.

    There are connections to two currently alive and very public priests – one very much loved and one very much hated.
    There is a connection to a priest and satanist currently sitting in jail. Victoria Police know all about him. He and his history are in their files, too.

    There are connections to some very dead priests. As well as Thomas O’Keeffe and Anthony Bongiorno, we have convicted paedophiles, Kevin O’Donnell, Victor Rubeo and Peter Searson for starters. These men were also satanists and police have received statements attesting to their violent behaviour and satanic practices. It’s all in the files.

    O’Keeffe and Rubeo have connections to a satanic cult in Ballarat. And it circles back again. Before his death in 2011 on the eve of another court appearance, Victor Rubeo worked part-time (unofficially after having been convicted of paedophilia) at St Paul’s parish in Coburg . Sean O’Connell (close friend of Church figures in high places, Bongiorno and other criminals) was still the parish priest at St Paul’s in Coburg and officiated at Rubeo’s funeral there.

    There are connections with Monsignor Day (serial paedophile) in Mildura and Bishop Mulkearns in Ballarat and the persecution of former policeman, Denis Ryan. Ryan was hounded out of the police force by a group within the Victoria Police back in the 1970’s that he called, “The Catholic Mafia”. All this was officially recognised by former Police Commissioner, Mick Miller, and current Police Commissioner Graham Ashton in 2016.

    Denis Ryan wrote a book detailing corruption surrounding the paedophilia within the Catholic Church and the roles of the police and the legal system in allowing it to continue. His book is called, “Unholy Trinity”.

    If this “Catholic Mafia” was still in existence in 1980 and is still in existence in 2017 (and why wouldn’t it be?), wouldn’t it be a fair question to ask, “Did they compromise the original Maria James investigation and would they have an interest in continuing to compromise the investigation now?”

    (I wish to stress that I have had NO indication that former homicide detective, Ron Iddles, has done or said anything improper at any time over the years of this investigation. Rather, it is other police officers that have come to our attention).

    There are also senior Victorian politicians, past and present, who have inserted themselves in odd ways into this murder investigation of Maria James.

    The connections seem to spread out forever and then repeatedly circle back again. Not all the connections involve illegal behaviour, of course, but much of it is very odd and often very questionable.

    And at the centre of this extensive and complex maze of corruption is Maria James, a mother who wanted nothing more than to protect her sons and had the courage to do so in the face of great danger.

    By asking her elder son, Mark, to look after his younger brother, Adam, should anything happen to her, did Maria sense that she was up against much more than one short, fat paedophile priest? That she was up against something far larger and far more sinister?

    At the beginning of the TRACE series, journalist Rachael Brown said she had found the case involved far more than police realised. That was certainly true for some police but it seems that this case involves far more than Rachael realised, even then. And much of it was already “in the files” of Victoria Police and had been for many years.

    Part 2 of The Maria James Murder – Two Murderers can be accessed here.

  • The Maria James Murder: the case of the unsolved murder that has been solved

    Maria James was murdered in her residence at the back of her second-hand bookshop in Melbourne, Australia, in 1980: Tuesday, the 17th of June around noon to be exact. She had been stabbed 68 times with a knife from her own kitchen.

    Her murder has shocked and puzzled Melbourne for 37 years and counting. Still counting because, officially, the case remains unsolved. However, in a recent media investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) investigative journalist, Rachael Brown, evidence has been presented, including new evidence, which points convincingly to the resolution of this long standing mystery.

    Maria James’ Bookshop circa 1980

    Before we get any further into this article, a few notes regarding sources, credits and responsibilities. This article and others that will follow in this series were compiled with the invaluable assistance of a fellow blogger here at Winter Patriot Community, McJ. McJ has sourced most of the photographs and most of the documents (yet to be published) and has been of great help regarding ideas and reasoning. However, all writing and publishing decisions are my responsibility entirely.

    All material published here has been published previously and available on the web and/or can be reasonably and logically assumed from the published material. If a source is not cited, you need only ask and this will be provided. While I am personally in possession of information that has not been published anywhere, none of it has been used and will not be used in future unless it is specifically identified and a source cited (with their permission, of course).

    At the link below, you, the reader, will find all the information you need to solve this case. There are five audio presentations and five articles which accompanied the release of each audio episode over the last few weeks. There is also a sixth article, an epilogue, Trace: what happens next at the link.

    It’s an intriguing case, to be sure, and it is very engagingly presented. Everything has been done very professionally leaving only the final ‘dot-joining’ for you, dear reader, to bring this saga to a close.

    A close, that is, unless of course you want to do some more dot-joining afterwards as to why it has taken police 37 years to not solve this brutal murder. And why and how Victoria Police hijacked the investigation by the ABC in the last audio episode with their story at the last minute of the “Bungled DNA Evidence”. But, for now, that is another saga!

    Will you take up the challenge that has befuddled, and continues to intrigue, the population of Melbourne, Australia, and has been Australia’s most popular podcast for weeks now?

    The investigation standard is simple truth using simple logic and not legal procedure which too often has no need for truth or logic. This is not a court case nor a prosecution brief but simply a search for the truth and for an answer for Mark and Adam James, Maria’s sons.

    The link to all the information you need- TRACE: The Maria James Murder

    A short ABC television report was done three years ago which is useful as an overview. Pay particular attention to Fr Anthony Bongiorno’s responses to questions from the reporter and Mark James’ description of Bongiorno’s manner when informing him of his mother’s death.

    The author/investigator of the Trace podcast, Rachael Brown, will be answering questions regarding the investigation live on Facebook on Thursday 3rd August at 4pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (Wednesday 2nd Aug 11pm North America West Coast Time, Thursday 2am North America East Coast Time and at Thurs 3rd Aug 7am London time) at this address-
    Twitter updates are available here-
    Or here-

    There are pictures, diagrams and maps after the jump which will be helpful in reconstructing the scene.

    There is further information, should you want it, available on the net as this case has been the subject of many articles over many years. But, as I said, there is sufficient information at the links above to arrive at the answer to ‘who killed Maria James?’

    And some diagrams-
    The floorplan of the shop

    Maria’s bedroom, where her body was found, is the (only) bedroom to the right of the central passage. The large room marked “living” nearest the street at the bottom of the diagram was the bookshop at the time of the murder. The door between the shop/living room and the passageway into the residence had a glass panel and a covering curtain over the glass. The french doors opening from the now ‘living’ room onto a walkway and the gate from the walkway to the street were not there when it was a shop. The front door opened directly from the shop/living onto the street. The “Decking” at the rear of the shop was not there either. Otherwise, I am reliably informed, the layout of rooms is as it was at the time of the murder.

    Street map of the immediate area

    Maria’s shop can be seen as ‘736’ in the map facing High St. North is to the top of the map. Hutton St. is opposite to the West. The walkway is to the East directly behind the shop and St Mary’s is to the South as is ‘the city’.

    The street map shows the walkway at the rear of the shop (736 High St.) leading onto Mansfield St with St Mary’s School and Presbytery across Mansfield St. and bounded by High St and Rossmoyne St. There is a gap between the buildings of St Mary’s directly opposite the walkway that runs behind the shops and opens out onto Mansfield St. This gap between the buildings is not shown on the map. The map presents the property as one large building but, in fact, it is several buildings and there were large gaps between them in 1980. The plot “726” represents St Mary’s Church and the plot marked “1” is the presbytery or Manse.

    The drawing immediately below is a map sourced from the ABC website and was drawn recently by Allan Hircoe whom you will meet in Trace episode 2 and also in the following instalment by your writer here. This was drawn from his memory of how the buildings were at the time of the murder. More buildings and additions have been constructed since then. “North” is to the left of the drawing. And “Mance” is ‘Anglican-speak’ for “Presbytery”

    Allan Hircoe’s Map

    Further photographs of the area are available below-

    Google Street View Collage – Bookshop and St. Mary’s #1
    The top left pic (taken in 1980) shows the bookshop on the left (clipped) taken from across High St. Next to it are the two adjoining shops then a gap which is Mansfield St and then the red brick building which is St Mary’s school on the opposite corner of Mansfield St and High St.

    The top right pic is again taken from across High St with the bookshop on the far left of the picture (clipped) and showing the view down Mansfield St.

    The bottom left picture shows Mansfield St. There is a high metal fence on the left which is the far wall of the walkway that runs behind the shops including Maria’s bookshop. There is a man sitting down on a low foundation wall that constitutes the near boundary wall of the walkway. The walkway is quite narrow.

    The bottom Right picture is taken from across Mansfield St looking down the walkway in a northerly direction. You can see the same man sitting on the low wall mentioned before. The school is directly behind the photographer.
    Google Street View Collage – Bookshop and St. Mary’s #2

    The top left pic is taken roughly outside the bookshop and looking across High St to the west down Hutton St.

    The top right pic is taken from down Hutton street looking east back at the bookshop. The bookshop is behind the blue parked truck.

    The bottom left pic shows St Mary’s church looking northwards at the other side of the school and the bookshop further up the High St out of sight. The presbytery can be seen to the right of the church and facing onto Rossmoyne St. Bongiorno would have come from behind this building and around to the front on Rossmoyne St.

    The bottom right pic is looking directly across Rossmoyne St with the church on the left and the presbytery on the right. There is quite a gap between these buildings.
    Google Satellite View Collage – Bookshop and St. Mary’s #3

    The top left picture is an aerial view looking south (and towards the city). Maria’s shop can be seen as the third roof from Mansfield St on the far left. The walkway is visible as a dark line. Across Mansfield St is the red brick school building. Note the change in colour of the roofing tiles. The brighter red roofing tiles denote the school extension which was not there in 1980. That area was open. The building on the far side of the school extension away from the viewer with the flat square roof was not there either. You can imagine someone running down the walkway, across Mansfield St, through the then open area and between the church on the right with the gabled slate roof and the presbytery with the hipped red tiled roof.

    The picture on the top right shows the same view from a slightly different angle

    The lower picture shows the same thing but looking northward rather than southward. The presbytery with its elaborate hipped roof is in the lower left corner and the back of the church is just visible next to it.

    St. Mary’s Presbytery

    This is a good view of the presbytery (marked ‘Manse’ on Allan Hircoe’s hand drawn map) with the gap between it and the church clearly visible. Imagine the building to the immediate rear of the presbytery with the flat roof not being there and the school extension behind it likewise not being there. One can readily visualise someone running down the walkway (black line visible across Mansfield St) across Mansfield St and straight across open ground and then between the church and the presbytery. i think it would take less than 30 seconds to do that!

    Please feel free to leave your comments, questions or conclusions in the comments section below. Comments are subject to moderation. I will endeavour to answer any questions. Please allow for time zone differences. An “honourable mention in despatches” awaits those with correct answers! The answers are fairly straight forward though perhaps a little difficult to accept; it is more a case of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, sort of thing. There are no sleights-of-hand involved.

    I will give you good folks a few days to solve this 37 year old mystery that has made a mess of the lives of Maria’s sons, Mark and Adam. After this I will lay out my solution and we’ll see if we agree!

    The second instalment is now published and can be read here

    The third instalment is now published and can be read here

    TRACE – an ABC investigation into the 1980 murder of Maria James

    From the ABC website-

    “On a winter morning in June 1980, Maria James turned to her son Mark and looked him in the eyes. “If anything happens to me, look after your brother.” Later that day she was found stabbed to death at the back of her suburban Melbourne bookshop.”

    The four episodes plus a mini bonus episode can be listened to here-

    There are also five written articles available at the above linked page. They contain additional information to the audio episodes for those keen to understand what happened.

    James Shanahan ABC interview July 2017

    As the focus over Maria James’ murder narrows onto the church, Adam reveals new information about a second abusive priest within the family’s local parish.

    Rachael Brown investigates the priest’s past and discovers a dark and disturbing history.

    Warning: this episode contains material that may be confronting for some listeners.

    Correction: This episode was republished on 6/7/2017 to correct a line of script that referred to Father O’Keefe as K, rather than by his full name.