The top-secret Operation Stirling investigation into claims bikie Sidney “Snot” Reid set up another man for a murder he committed was seriously flawed and should be re-opened, a former deputy police commissioner has said.
Former assistant and deputy commissioner of WA Police Tim Atherton has examined the Operation Stirling report, which was delivered anonymously toThe Weekend West , and believes it is misleading.
And senior lawyer Malcolm McCusker has renewed his call for an independent body to examine claims of wrongful conviction after revelations that Operation Stirling recommended no further action despite not interviewing a potentially crucial witness.
Operation Stirling was set up in 2012 to investigate claims that bikie associate Gary White was wrongly convicted of the murder of Anthony Tapley in 2001.
It was requested by the Solicitor-General’s office to interview people who could potentially corroborate a statement that Reid bragged to other inmates he had got away with Tapley’s murder and set up White.
“It’s very clear that the White ‘investigation’ again points to the need for a criminal cases review commission here, as the UK has had for years,” Mr McCusker said.
In 2001, Mr Atherton authorised a three-year reduction to Reid’s jail sentence for the car-bombing murders of Don Hancock and Lou Lewis in 2001 in return for his testimony against White.
He now has concerns that Reid was lying.
Mr Atherton said the Operation Stirling report was misleading in its finding there was “no independent evidence corroborating” a sworn statement in 2011 by an inmate (Prisoner X) who claimed Reid had confessed to him and two others (Prisoner Y and Prisoner Z) that he had killed associate Anthony Tapley and set up White for the crime.
White’s solicitor Gary Massey said he gave Operation Stirling emails sent toThe West Australian in 2011 by someone claiming to be Prisoner Y, which corroborated Prisoner X’s story.
But the report claims the emails could not be investigated because they did not identify the author.
Operation Stirling reported that Prisoner Y, who was in a State-based witness protection program, was contacted by his handling agency but declined to be interviewed.
“The failure to interview Prisoner Y appears to be a serious flaw in the investigation,” Mr Atherton said.
“Notwithstanding the fact that Prisoner X could be considered an unstable and unreliable witness, he confirms the fact that Prisoner Y was told a similar story by Reid. The original email from Prisoner Y toThe West Australian reads as a well-considered and chronological outline of his interaction with Reid and Reid’s confession that it was him, not Gary White, who murdered Tapley at Maddington on the night in question.
“As such, I believe more rigorous efforts should have been taken by the Operation Stirling investigators to locate and interview Prisoner Y, and this unresolved matter should now be reinvestigated.”
A spokeswoman for Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan said the copies of emails provided to WA Police did not contain the full name of the author, however the investigators identified the author as a potential witness.
“All available and reasonable actions have been taken by police to interview the relevant witnesses but some have declined to be interviewed,” she said.
“There are no outstanding requests for follow up investigations to be undertaken.”