Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Fixer: The Rise and Fall of Australian Drug Lord Robert Trimbole

The Inquest

Following the findings of the Woodward royal commission, it took seven more years of political and media pressure before an official inquest into Donald Mackays death was held.

James Bazley
James Bazley

Opening the inquest before coroner Bruce Brown, David Shillington QC, acting on behalf of the crown, told the inquest that Gianfranco Tizzone had been interviewed by Detective Inspector Joseph Parrington in June 1983. During the record of interview, Tizzone allegedly told police that Trimbole had decided Mackay presented a threat to their operation and had to go. He also told Parrington that James Bazley had been hired to do the job for $10,000.

According to Tizzone, he had been approached by Trimbole in 1971, and asked to distribute marijuana in Victoria. He also told police that Tony Sergi and Tony Barbaro were responsible for cultivation and supply, while Trimbole looked after distribution. Tizzone agreed to work with the Griffith-based organization and became responsible for distribution throughout Victoria turning more than $1.5 million in sales per year.

Tizzone, nicknamed the songbird by police, told Parrington that Trimbole asked him to make arrangements for the Mackay hit. He contacted George Joseph, who in turn put him in contact with Bazley. Tizzone became a police informant in 1982, after being arrested in a vehicle containing marijuana.

Evidence was also presented to the inquest showing that lights in the hotel parking lot had been broken prior to the ambush, indicating a premeditated act to ambush and kill Mackay.

The court was also told how Mackay had begun to fear for his life after the drug raids as he knew that he would be blamed given that the street value of the crop seized has an estimated value of more than $25 million.

Forensic evidence was presented to support the crowns case including ballistic evidence showing that the three .22 cases found at the scene had been fired from the same weapon, a French made Unique brand hand gun, and blood and hair samples also found at the scene had been matched to Mackay.

Additional evidence given to the inquest described how an agricultural inspector named Patrick Joseph Keenan had made a report to police in February 1974, concerning an illegal marijuana crop he had uncovered outside of Griffith. He told the inquest that he had entered a shed on the farm while inspecting for fruit fly infestation and had discovered Antonio Sergi and several women packing marijuana into plastic bags.

He later reported the matter to police but found them disinterested in his story, and didnt seem to take it seriously. A month later a man with exactly the same name as the inspector was found drowned in a local canal. Griffith police investigated the second Keenans death and found no case to answer as the man had been an alcoholic and declared there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. Keenans evidence would later lead to the conviction of three Griffith detectives for conspiring to pervert the cause of justice.

Detective Parrington told the inquest that following Mackays disappearance, Trimbole gave his associates the go-ahead to expand their operation into heroin trafficking in company with Terrence John Clark, the head of the notorious Mr. Asia drug syndicate.

Parrington described how Tizzone had bragged about an endless supply of marijuana coming out of Griffith and how the police had not only, turned a blind eye to the operation, but also were involved in covering up anything that could be incriminating.

The most damning evidence that Detective Parrington gave at the inquest was that section of the record of interview with Tizzone that related to Mackays alleged killer.

Tizzone told Parrington during the 1983 interview that he had met with Bazley in Melbourne the day after the incident and Bazley allegedly told him, I killed him (Mackay) last night. He then produced a drivers license and a doctors bill belonging to Mackay and joked how the body had been heavy to carry.

Tizzone told Parrington that Bazley hadnt mentioned what he had done with the body, but from a statement that Bazley had made about cutting him deep, he assumed that Bazley had meant he had dumped the body in the water somewhere.


Bazely was born in 1924 and rose to become a union heavy on the Melbourne waterfront in the early 70s. Associated with the notorious Painters and Dockers Union, Bazely carries four bullet wounds after having been wounded in two separate gunfights with would be attackers.

He was also accused of murdering drug couriers Douglas and Isobel Wilson after they gave evidence to police regarding heroin trafficking in Victoria. Allegedly, it was Robert Trimbole who had also ordered the hit on the Wilsons.

The evidence heard, Coroner Brown summed up with these words: The evidence has now reached the point where I am of the opinion that a prima facie case of murder, in that each was an accessory before or after the fact, has been established against two known persons whose identity I must not publicly reveal in accordance with the prohibition under section 19 of the Coroners Act.

In short, Brown officially found that Mackay had died by violent means in the car park of the Griffith hotel on the evening of 15 July, 1977. As to motive, Brown found that Mackay was probably killed as a result of the activities within the Griffith district of Mr. Mackay in his attempts to expose publicly persons responsible for the cultivation in the Griffith area and the supply of large quantities of marijuana.

Following the inquest Bazley, Joseph and Tizzone were charged with conspiring with Trimbole to murder Donald Mackay. They were subsequently tried and convicted of not only conspiring to kill Mackay, the Wilsons and a further charge of armed robbery from a security van in 1978.

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