John Meskell is a retired
Queensland Detective Inspector, residing on the Gold Coast. He was educated at
The police car cruised slowly along
Banton, who was less inclined to dramatise and who understood his friend’s seething inner-world more than most, interrupted his deep contemplation.
‘What time did he say again?’ he asked.
Coslow sighed heavily. ‘Ten am,’ he grunted.
‘Strange how he rang in the middle of the night, has he done that before?’
‘No, that’s why it’s got to be important,’ Coslow said furiously as he gave up in protest and wound down his window.
Coslow and Banton were ideally suited as partners and it was an incredible thing, strange to others, that their vastly different personalities were complimentary rather than confrontational, which made for good teamwork. Over the years they had homogenised their differences into a tough, proficient and astute unit.
They were highly respected members of the undercover drug squad and had been among the first selected for the new task force put together to break a connection thought to be responsible for the marketing of high-grade heroin.
The truth of the matter had surfaced through the indifferent attitudes of those responsible. Countless complaints for action had remained unheeded and it was not until a parliamentary figure’s daughter died from an overdose of heroin that spontaneous action was decided upon.
proprietor of a Vietnamese restaurant with a small food shop specialising in
Asian products attached, situated in
Coslow sighed impatiently and looked at
his watch. It was 10am and time for their contact to arrive. Hitherto, his
information had been excellent and hopefully he would be in possession of some
more vital information about the distribution of drugs within the
So far Steve’s information had been spot on, and some of the information he had supplied in the past to the detectives resulted in arrests of many dealing and trafficking in dangerous drugs; however, at the same time, the detectives, although happy with the end result, were wary of quite a lot of the information supplied to them. They knew opposition dealers only too well and were well aware of the ploys they got up to by loosely talking about other drug syndicates in the hope of eliminating their competitors.
So far it had been a good policy adopted by the detectives and information received was not always acted on by their special task squad. Instead it was passed discreetly to the local law enforcement officers in whose area it concerned and by operating that way they believed they were protecting Steve’s credibility and above all his identity. Local detectives who received the important communication had no idea where the information originated, only that it came from a reliable source and they revelled in the ‘busts’ they made.
It was a double-edged sword so far as Steve was concerned; he supplied correct information to the police involving opposition drug dealers and at the same time, protected the organisation he worked with by ruthlessly eliminating any opposition, under the pretence of working in with the police – an old ploy of his.
The Vietnamese mafia was a ruthless killing machine devoid of all sympathy or mercy. Nobody could be trusted – many were in the employ of ‘the organisation’ and people simply disappeared if they opened their mouths, never to be seen again. No complaints were ever made to authorities about the missing people and to do so could prove fatal.
A big Harley Davidson motorcycle thundered into the laneway with the rider dressed in black and wearing a black safety helmet. The Harley came to a halt at the open window of the police car and its rider seemed to be in one hell of a hurry. Generally their informant drove his motorcycle up behind the police car and parked it, then moved into the rear seat of the police vehicle.
Neil Coslow called out, ‘Hi, Steve, how’re things going?’
motorcycle rider did not answer nor did he lift the darkened weather shield of
his crash helmet, but reaching inside his jacket he pulled his hand out holding
a .38 Magnum revolver. It was the last thing the detectives’ startled eyes would
ever see as four shots rang out in quick succession with bullets ripping into
their heads. As blood, bone and brains splattered the interior of the police
car, the motorcyclist slipped his machine into gear and rode off at a fast rate
Detective Senior Sergeant Wendell
Wilson was in charge of the field squad assigned to those specific drug
investigations and was in
Wendell Wilson brushed through the media and ducked beneath the plastic ribbon stretched across the laneway.
‘Your guess is as good as mine at the moment,’ he replied. ‘Give me a go, I haven’t even got there yet.’
‘Our readers are entitled to know what’s going on,’ an angry female reporter
‘Yeah yeah, I know,’ replied Wilson who kept walking.
television crews filmed the scene and anyone who moved in and out of the area.
This was the usual hype
‘Hi, Bill,’ he said. ‘What’s the score, any witnesses?’
Inspector Bill Glasgow had known Wendell Wilson for many years. ‘This is what we’ve got, Wendell. First of all the scientific boys are having a look at single-track tyre marks on the roadway and no doubt left behind by the shooter’s motorcycle while he was speeding away.’
‘How do we know there’s a motorbike involved?’ Wendell asked.
‘I’m Detective Sergeant Wilson, the police inspector here told me you witnessed the shooting of my two men. What can you tell me about it?’
‘I can’t tell you much but I know he was riding a Harley Davidson motor bike,’ said the vagrant.
‘How do you know that?’
‘Believe it or not, Sarge, I was once a member of a bikie gang and I owned one of those beautiful machines. That’s how I knew what type of bike it was.’
‘You didn’t by any chance happen to get the registered number of it, did you?’
‘No, but I do remember the first letters on the number plate were AO. I don’t remember what rest was,’ he said. ‘It all happened that fast.’
‘Can you describe the rider to me?’
‘He was dressed in black, maybe about my size, medium build. He had a black helmet on but I can’t tell you anything more than that.’
After ensuring the preliminaries were attended to,
team of officers selected were considered to be of the utmost integrity and
foremost suspicion nagging at
desk phone shrilled; it was Detective Chief Superintendent Morrow who required
an immediate audience. The boss was an old friend of his going back many years
and they had worked together as a team on many difficult investigations.
‘Take a seat, Wendell. What can you tell me about the murder of our two men?’
‘Well, Ben, it doesn’t look good at this stage. I was well aware Arty Banton and Neil were working on something we were hoping would assist in the justification of our Task Force. All I can tell you at this stage is they left the office to keep an appointment with an informant at 10am and bang, this happens.’
‘Do you know who the informant was?’ queried Morrow.
‘I knew it was someone known to them as Steve or Stevo. He’s a Viet-Australian citizen or Chinese-Australian. His name should be listed in the informants’ register locked in our safe but again, you know as well as I do, information in those books could also be valueless and not worth a cent. That’s nothing new if you have a good, productive informant – as you know, staff will not conform to strict regulations and will protect such a person who puts them in the limelight.’
Morrow chuckled, ‘Yeah, you’re right, Wendell, but Christ, man, we’re going to have the media baying at our doors for something on this – what do you suggest?’
‘If the mission of this task force is exposed to anyone then we’re ratshit. We’ve put many months of intensive – and I might say meticulous – work into this; far too much to be blown away by some irresponsible journalist trying to make a name for him or herself. I strongly suggest this be presented to look like a murder investigation completely distanced from the true purpose of our task group. It must never be leaked out under any circumstances that any such organisation as ours exists. It may assist greatly in confusing those responsible for the deaths of Arthur and Neil. It’ll make them wonder if their information, whatever it was, was right or wrong in the first place – particularly if it doesn’t appear in the press to their way of thinking.’
Ben Morrow leaned his elbow on the table and cupped his chin between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. ‘I don’t think there’ll be any problems about that, Wendell. But to say this should be kept quiet is an absolute impossibility – everyone within our rank-and-file knows there’s a Special Task Force in operation. That’s no secret, unfortunately, and as you well know, the old saying is curiosity killed the cat.
‘So far I haven’t heard anything that would suggest what your task force is all about, only speculation, and you’re to be congratulated on that. Our hierarchy know the amount of work gone into what you’ve achieved but can I tell them you’ll eventually nail the people responsible for the deaths of Arty Banton and Neil Coslow?’
Wendell Wilson left to return to his office. He was pleased to get into his air-conditioned car; the afternoon heat had struck him like a blowtorch after leaving the air-conditioned office of Morrow. He drove back through the peak-hour traffic to his own office and on arrival he took up with his partner George Lithgow, briefing him on the afternoon’s events and his talk with Morrow.
took stock of other organisations working with his staff. There were personnel
from all States of Australia, men and women, with two detectives from
The Federal personnel were the most difficult to liaise with and were annoyed that they weren’t running the whole show, despite information surfacing through the New South Wales Police officers.
The attitude of the Feds had almost wrecked the whole enterprise from the start but State Police Departments needed the Federal authorities and their police enforcement agencies with equipment and funding seeming to be unlimited in the fight against drugs.
It was not that State Government departments did not want to supply money, for they did. It was because there were so many other demanding priorities pressing for finance: well-organised union demonstrations from groups of dissatisfied people demanding their proposals receive immediate attention. Niggling accusations by opposition Government parties about money being wasted or misused and the seemingly never-ending muck-raking of alleged corruption along the way. Money had to be distributed for Health, Education, Government Railway departments, and Transport within the State, as well as monetary needs of local councils.
‘The first thing I request is that you all stand for a minute’s silence, please, out of respect to our fallen comrades.’
entire group of thirty personnel stood with heads bowed. Asking them to be
seated, he glanced over the faces looking up at him.
‘I hope each and every one of you will learn your lesson from this tragedy. Despite what I’ve been trying to indoctrinate into your thick skulls about teamwork with one another, some of you are failing miserably, and unless you wake up very quickly you’re gunna be ratshit. Just as Banton and Coslow failed in their duty to do so and were brutally murdered for their indiscretion and own self-importance.’
He smashed a clenched fist onto the lectern. ‘They failed to confer with me or anyone else on this squad about this person they were to meet. So what were they trying to be, big time, one-man bands? They failed to supply any information on the squad occurrence sheet, simple facts and a procedure asked for and expected from each and every one of you so we all know what’s going on.’
‘Christ Almighty, give us some sort of a start,’ he continued. ‘Leave something behind for your colleagues to work on and if you don’t want to work by my rules then piss off, get to the shithouse, I don’t want you here – am I getting through to you?’
Embarrassed silence greeted his outburst as he stared angrily at them. ‘Our two friends failed us because they went off on their bloody own without a word to anybody about what they were doing. Oh yeah, they told me all right! They told me they were going to see their informant named Stevo about something big at 10am. They didn’t put anything on the running sheet so we would all know what they were up to – not one bloody hint, for Christ’s sake. That’s the name of this bloody game, is it not – or is it only supposed to be? Are we, or are we not in the future going to be a team, for Christ’s sake? Now then, I expect that courtesy to be strictly adhered to: team work. For all intents and purposes they were off to rendezvous with this parasite just like any one of you tell me time and time again, every day.’ Wilson again paused and in a loud voice exclaimed, ‘I trust you when you tell me these things, but I’m not clairvoyant or a fucking mind reader and for reasons only best known to themselves, like it or not, they betrayed that very trust I keep communicating about.
‘If it’s going to be something very important to our cause I expect you to let me know exactly what it is. We all want to know what’s going on. Banton and Coslow played right into the hands of our enemy and somewhere along the way someone slipped up badly. Not deliberately, but nevertheless their murders were drug related and the people responsible must have known of this rendezvous being kept with an informant.
‘Make no mistake about that, I didn’t come down in the last shower and be expected to cop this. Believe me, it didn’t just happen out of the blue like it was purported to portray; it’s been well planned and methodically executed by ruthless people. It’s imperative at this stage the media don’t get an inkling of what the real circumstances are. You were all sworn to secrecy when you came into this squad and that secrecy now applies stronger than ever and of that, I kid you not.
‘The people we’re up against have millions of dollars at their disposal, they’re ruthless beyond imagination, intelligent, and above all well organised. By not pulling together as a unit we’re playing right into their hands and letting each other down badly.
‘Now that’s all I’m going to say on this subject and I want to see a marked improvement. Put everything you are doing down on the occurrence sheet so that it’s there for everyone to read and we know all about it. Surely to God I don’t have to spell it out to you. Do I make myself understood, am I getting through to you? Now then, are there any questions?’
The gathering looked up at him in silence and suddenly there was a loud applause and choruses of approval. Wendell knew he had made an impact – they were a team again and he felt there should be no further problems. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of two fine police officers who did not deserve to die the way it happened.
Both Banton and Coslow were married men with families; the funeral was a big affair and the police pipe band played ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, and other favourites to a huge gathering of police officers smartly attired in immaculate, pressed summer uniforms. It was a spectacular event filmed by the television media. The officers were buried side by side in the portion of the cemetery kept aside for police officers killed on duty.
Back in his office he pulled up the blind that hid a network of photographs and properties with connecting arrows to different individuals. Surveillance cameras had photographed suspects in different circumstances, who became targets for future operations.
A wealth of evidence was meticulously placed in chronological detail on the briefing board. Arrows led from certain places to certain individuals and from one person to another – culminating in a pattern to the central figure of a man named Ling Duig. His business premises together with his photograph were dead centre of the chart.
Duig also owned a twin-engine Piper Aztec aircraft. Consequently a lot of the
photographs were of Duig at the Bankstown Aerodrome. The surveillance crew had
done their work well.
‘You’re the bastard all right and I’m going to nail you if it’s the last thing I
thoughts were interrupted by some of his crew returning to the office from the
funeral. He spoke to two of the officers, a man and a woman who originally came
‘I’d like you to visit each of the wives of our departed comrades, but do it in the morning. I want you to have a discreet talk with them and see if you can find out anything at all that may assist us. It could be nothing but then again it just might turn up something important. But remember, take it easy with them, they’ll be extremely uptight.’
The following morning Duncan McDougall with his partner, Janette Warren, visited the two wives of the murdered detectives. There was nothing Mrs Arthur Banton could tell them and they left her to visit the wife of Neil Coslow.
Janette Warren pressed the doorbell at the home of Dulcie Coslow. After they introduced themselves, she led them into the lounge room.
Duncan McDougall spoke softly to Mrs Coslow. ‘Mrs Coslow, we’re very sorry to come at a time like this. We know what a terrible shock this has been to you. We’re your friends and if you don’t feel up to talking to us then we’ll understand and we’ll leave you in peace.’
‘No, no, no,’ she replied. ‘I understand these things must be done – just tell me how I can help you.’
‘We’re very anxious to find out what Neil and Arthur Banton were working on. Unfortunately we didn’t know exactly what they were doing at the time but we know it must have been important and caused them to act with haste otherwise they’d have told one of us,’ Duncan McDougall said.
Dulcie Coslow nodded. ‘What sort of thing do you want to know?’
‘Did Neil make any mention before he went to work about what he and Arthur might be doing that day. Any little thing at all may help us – it mightn’t seem important to you but it might be something we’ve been looking for.’
Dulcie held her head in her hands and shook her head. ‘No, not that I can recall. Goodness me, he never said anything to me about his work.’
She took her hands away from her face looking intently at the two police officers. ‘There’s one little thing I do remember, I don’t know if it’ll help you or not, but Neil did receive a telephone call at about 2am on that day and I know this because the telephone woke me up. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, he spoke in a low muffled voice and I was half asleep, but he did write something down with a biro on the pad beside the bed phone.’
‘Is the pad still there beside the bed?’ Janette Warren asked.
‘Yes it is, I’ll get it for you.’
Dulcie Coslow left them, disappearing into a hallway. A few minutes later she returned with the pad and biro pen.
‘Here it is, this is the pen he used but whatever he wrote down has been torn off.’
Duncan McDougall took the pen and pad from her outstretched hand and looked at indentations on the page left behind.
‘Could I take this with me, please, Mrs Coslow? It mightn’t be anything but then again it might. I’d like our scientific men to have a look at the indentations on this page and see if they can come up with something. The Homicide men will be here to see you. Tell them we’ve been here but we’d appreciate it if you don’t tell them we have this pad. We’ll tell you all about it in time to come and we’ll tell them all about it too. Will you help us please? We’re from the General Detectives assisting in this investigation should they ask who we are.’
Clouds were forming in the south and lightning forked through the sky, an ominous pattern indicating a cool change with rain imminent, one that would probably hit in a few hours’ time.
McDougall was deeply unhappy; he hated this cloak-and-dagger stuff they were involved in and because of the clandestine operation they were being forced to withhold valuable information from their specialist colleagues, the Homicide Squad. With his conscience deeply uneasy he and Janette confronted Wendell Wilson about the matter when they handed over the note pad to him.
‘First of all you’re right, I completely agree with you, and ordinarily this would be a job for the Homicide Squad. It pains me to be so secretive, but it’s imperative our operation remains just that, secret. Our Homicide Squad will not be left out of this and we’ll give them everything we have when the time is considered right and really, but to do so now is out of the question.
‘The hierarchy knows everything that’s going on. Our operation has gone on now for too long to bring it to a halt because of the killing of two of our operators. While our deep-seated sympathy cries out to nail those responsible, we can’t blow millions of dollars’ worth of work. It’s tough, very tough for all of us to continually try and keep this at a low profile but we must try and that’s all that is expected of us – and to do our best. Let’s see what this pad may bring up for us. It could be a start. Alright? At the moment we’re investigating a matter involving hundreds of millions of dollars. The murders are for the Homicide Squad and anything we fall onto which may be beneficial to them will eventually be passed on, mark my words. We will definitely tell them but only through me, do I make myself clear?’
The two nodded, acknowledging that they understood.
‘Alright, now I’ll take this pad to the Scientific Squad and we’ll see what Neil was writing about. I’ll let you know what the result is.’
Wendell made his way to the Scientific Squad Office.
‘Hi, Bruce,’ he said to the officer in charge. ‘Can you have a look at this for me? I particularly want to know if you can see what the indentation says.’
Detective Inspector Fields, a long-time
called in two of his Federal Detectives, Rogers and Padlow. They came up with an
address for the telephone number in
was almost an hour later when the Holden panel van made its way through moderate
Mona Vale traffic and turned into
There were no vehicles evident in front or outside. Curtains and blinds were drawn on the large, high-set brick home and a closed garage was at the side of the house. Another double garage could be seen beneath the premises. The blinding rain continued during their return journey and they cautiously took their time.
After reporting it to
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