Spouse Barbara Mackay (m. 1957)
Role Anti-drugs campaigner
|Name Donald Mackay|
Known for Anti-drugs campaigning
|Full Name Donald Bruce Mackay|
Born 13 September 1933 (1933-09-13) Griffith, New South Wales
Children James, Paul, Ruth and Mary
Died July 15, 1977, Griffith, Australia
Party Liberal Party of Australia
Donald Bruce Mackay (13 September 1933 – 15 July 1977) was an Australian businessman, a prominent anti-drugs campaigner who came to media attention and fame in 1977 through the circumstances of his murder, that has never been solved.
- Personal life and background
- Lead up to murder
- Evening of Mackays murder
- Woodward Royal Commission
- Aftermath of Mackays murder
Personal life and background
Mackay was born in Griffith and raised in Sydney. He and his family ran a local furniture business called Mackay's Furniture.
His wife Barbara (1935–2001) was an active member of the Uniting Church in Griffith and directed a great number of musicals for young children in Griffith, including Spindles and the Lamb and It's cool in the Furnace. Today, the Mackay family still has a property in Griffith. Donald Mackay's son, Paul, runs the family furniture store.
In 1974, Mackay stood as a Liberal Party candidate for the House of Representatives against Al Grassby in the seat of Riverina. He also stood for political office in 1973 and 1976 but was never elected. However, his preferences went to the Country Party candidate John Sullivan, allowing him to unseat Grassby.
Lead-up to murder
Concerned about the growing drug trade in his local area, and learning of a large crop of marijuana in nearby Coleambally, Mackay informed Sydney drug squad detectives, resulting in several arrests and the conviction of four men of Italian descent. At the trial of the arrested men, Mackay was identified as the whistleblower.
An attempt was made to lure Mackay to Jerilderie by a "Mr Adams" who wished to make a large order of furniture from Mackay's family business. Mackay, busy with other matters, sent employee Bruce Pursehouse to meet "Adams", who did not approach Pursehouse. This is believed to have been an attempt to assassinate Mackay. Pursehouse later identified a man he had seen at Jerilderie as a suspect in the Mackay killing.
Evening of Mackay's murder
On 15 July 1977, Mackay disappeared from a hotel car park after having drinks with friends and has never been found. Stains from his blood group were evident on his van and the ground nearby, and his car keys were underneath the van. Nearby were drag marks, hair, and three spent .22 calibre cases.
The Woodward Royal Commission found that the six prime suspects to the murder all had convenient alibis. On the night of the murder, Tony and Domenic Sergi, nominated as principal suspects by the Woodward Royal Commission, were on a "pub crawl" in Griffith with a number of police officers; Giuseppe and Rocco Barbaro went to Sydney and, then, the Gold Coast, not returning to Griffith until 20 July; Francesco Barbaro, brother-in-law of Tony Sergi and cousin of Savero Barbaro (who was arrested 3 months earlier of marijuana production), stayed at the Griffith Ex-Servicemen's Club; and Robert Trimbole was at Randwick, Sydney, at a restaurant.
Mackay's disappearance made headlines around the nation and many, such as Griffith supervisor of detectives James Bindon, drew the conclusion that gangland figure Robert Trimbole was responsible for the apparent contract-style killing. Trimbole had previously made death threats against Mackay. The killing fuelled the perception of Griffith as full of mobsters and "Australia's marijuana capital".
Woodward Royal Commission
The Mackay case led to the then-premier Neville Wran appointing Justice Philip Woodward to lead the Woodward Royal Commission into the illegal drug trade in New South Wales. In 1979, Woodward found that Mackay had been murdered by a hitman acting on instructions from the "Honoured Society", a Griffith-based cell of the 'Ndrangheta, a Calabrian criminal organisation.
Justice Woodward, in his final report, concluded that the members of this organisation involved in Mackay's murder were Francesco Sergi (born 24 January 1935), Domenic Sergi (born 3 March 1939), Antonio Sergi (born 4 February 1950), Antonio Sergi (born 29 October 1935), Francesco Barbaro (born 8 September 1937) and Robert Trimbole (born 19 March 1931). Justice Woodward requested for police to search Griffith's "grass castles" but this was denied.
Aftermath of Mackay's murder
In 1980, Al Grassby was charged with criminal defamation when it was alleged that he had asked New South Wales state politician Michael Maher to read in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly a document that imputed Mackay's wife Barbara and her family solicitor were responsible for Mackay's disappearance. An inquiry by John Nagle Q.C. found that "no decent man" could have spread the "scurrilous lies" that Grassby had. Grassby maintained his innocence and fought a 12-year battle in the courts before he was eventually acquitted on appeal in August 1992 and was awarded A$180,000 in costs. Grassby had already lost a civil suit filed by Barbara Mackay, forcing him to unconditionally apologise.
In 1984, the coroner ruled Mackay had died of "wilfully inflicted gunshot wounds".
In 1986 hitman James Frederick Bazley was charged over the death. Bazley claimed he was innocent, blaming allegedly corrupt former Sydney detective Fred Krahe as the killer, but was convicted of conspiring with Gianfranco Tizzone, Robert Trimbole, George Joseph and unknown other persons to murder Mackay, as well as the murders of drug couriers Douglas and Isabel Wilson. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Gianfranco Tizzoni, who turned informer in 1983, admitted to his 'complicity' in Mackay's murder. Specifically, Tizzoni admitted that he arranged for a hitman he knew as 'Fred' to undertake the contract. When shown photographs of possible suspects, Tizzone fingered James Frederick Bazley as the trigger man.
In July 2012, 35 years after his disappearance, the New South Wales police offered a $200,000 reward for information on the whereabouts of Mackay. The reward was considered a last-ditch attempt to gain evidence from reluctant witnesses. In particular those of James Frederick Bazley, who is 86 and unwell. However, in the rare moments he has broken his silence, Bazley denied he was the killer.
The annual Donald Mackay Churchill Fellowship was inaugurated in 1987. The Churchill Trust awards a Donald Mackay fellowship annually for journalists and detectives to study methods of investigating and bringing to light organised crime.
In late 2008, the Rotary Club of Griffith erected a memorial in Banna Avenue, the main street of Griffith, to honour the 30th anniversary of Donald Mackay's murder. The statue of Donald Mackay itself is a white marble bust with a plaque inscribed with "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. "
Australian actor Andrew McFarlane portrayed him in the 2009 television series Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities.