How police got hitman to turn on Carl Williams
As he sat in the back of a police car after carrying out an underworld execution in South Yarra, a gangland killer made a stunning confession. But it was what police did next that would end the reign of drug boss Carl Williams.
The hitman, who cannot be named, was the first domino to fall amid Melbourne's underworld murder spree, and his decision to turn on Carl Williams led others to follow.
Stuart Bateson was part of Victoria Police's Purana taskforce when the hitman was arrested within hours of the slaying of Michael Marshall in South Yarra in October 2003.
Today Mr Bateson, who was the basis for a central character in the television series Underbelly, told the Lawyer X royal commission a recording of the conversation was just what they needed to get the hitman to turn against his gangland boss.
He said the conversation was recorded as they transported the hitman from prison to a police station days after his arrest.
The hitman admitted involvement in a murder and spoke about Williams and his hatred of rival crime family the Morans.
Mr Bateson said the man was given a police caution before he got in the police car, but would not have known they were recording him.
He said once the transcript of the secret recording was served on the hitman's legal team, he would have been "cut off from Carl Williams's crew" with little option but to turn witness against him.
Mr Bateson said gangland barrister Nicola Gobbo helped provide witness statements from the hitman implicating Williams and other members of his crew in 2004, a year before Gobbo became a registered police informer.
He said at the time Ms Gobbo was seen as a member of the Williams crew and helping someone "roll" on them would have been seen as an act of disloyalty.
Mr Bateson said Ms Gobbo approached him in July 2004 and said she was worried about her safety if her role in the witness providing statements ever became known to Williams.
"What I believed was that Mr Williams would find it objectionable that Ms Gobbo acted and facilitated instructions for the (gangland hitman), because they believed her to be part of their crew, their criminal network," he said.
He said he agreed to redact her appearance at the Bendigo Magistrates' Court in an unrelated robbery case out of concern for her safety.
Ms Gobbo reviewed the gangland hitman's statement against Williams before he signed it.
Mr Bateson said Ms Gobbo and he had both expressed scepticism about the hitman's claim in the statement that he had not known they were going to kill Marshall.
The statement was altered to say the witness believed they were seeing Marshall over a debt and that it was possible they were there to commit a murder.
Under examination from counsel assisting the royal commission Chris Winneke, QC, he said while he did not keep the draft he made a note of the changes in his diary.
"I had no doubt he knew it was going to be a murder. But ultimately that was what he was willing to put in his statement and be cross-examined on," he said.
He said the hitman was cross-examined for 10 days on the changes in his statements that Bateson had noted.