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.]
THE MARIA JAMES MURDER: THE GOLDEN GREEK, PAUL DELIANIS
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”.
THE BEACH INQUIRY – 1975
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).
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)
A ‘MILITANT’ POLICE ASSOCIATION REACTS TO THE BEACH INQUIRY
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
THE BARRY PERRY OMBUDSMAN’S REPORT – 1998
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.]
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, Victoria
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.” (68)
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