calling card simply read, "You have just met
Dave". The president of the feared Head Hunters
needed no introduction.
A giant of the
criminal world, Dave Smith died this week after
suffering the effects of a stroke for several
To some, the
53-year-old was an icon, a mentor, a friend, a
To others, he was
a powerful and feared underworld figure who beat
a murder charge, then took charge of the
notorious motorcycle gang.
Those who know him
say all are true.
Patched members of
the West Auckland-based chapter of the Head
Hunters - of which Smith was a former president
and member for 30 years - were among mourners at
his funeral at Piki Te Aroha marae in Northland.
for all the good times and wonderful memories.
Forever remembered for the way you were. RIP.
With love and respect. From all your brothers
out west," the Head Hunters wrote in the Herald
Another read: "To
me you were always a man of great strength and
impeccable character. A salt of the earth."
motorcycle gang Hells Angels paid tribute to a
"staunch good man" who "would be sadly missed".
But there was a
dark side to Smith, as he made a name for
himself on the way to the top of the criminal
As one police
source cynically noted, a number of people have
disappeared after crossing the gang under the
stewardship of Smith.
intent, assault, cannabis possession and
receiving stolen goods are some of the
relatively minor convictions which belied his
In August 1983,
Smith and fellow Head Hunter Jason Ruka were
charged with murdering Highway 61 rival Steven
Bliss, who was stabbed nine times in the stomach
at a party in Kingsland.
Smith went on the
run but the charge against the pair was dropped
when witnesses recanted evidence despite their
identity kept secret.
told police he saw the fatal stabbing, then at
court said he saw nothing. At the inquest into
the death of the 28-year-old, his father Raymond
Bliss told the coroner that witnesses were
witnesses came in, they looked around and saw
the two JPs, they saw the defence and they
looked at the back and saw the Head Hunters,"
the Herald reported Mr Bliss saying in December
"I feel that my
son did not have a fair go."
Two years later,
Smith took over as president when Wayne Doyle
was sent to jail. Doyle and Graham "Choc" Te Awa
were convicted of the murder of King Cobra Siaso
Evalu, who was beaten to death in a Ponsonby
street by a group of Head Hunters. Over that
time, the Head Hunters grew into one of the most
notorious and wealthy criminal organisations in
the country - particularly when the
methamphetamine trade took hold in the late
"Dave was one of
the powers behind the Head Hunters, no doubt
about that," said Cam Stokes, a former head of
the police motorcycle gang unit in Auckland.
"He was a very,
very powerful and feared figure in the
While Smith was a
"real menace in his younger days", Stokes said
he mellowed as he matured.
"He was a lot more
level-headed and reasonable when I was dealing
with him," said Stokes.
"He was always
straight up and down with me."
On one occasion,
the detective recalled catching wind that the
Head Hunters planned to have a New Year's Eve
party in Northland.
the possibility of 30 patched members on
motorcycles riding through a small town and
terrorising the locals, Mr Stokes called Smith.
He confirmed the
gang's plans - but said the motley crew of
career criminals would travel on a bus and not
wear their patches.
"And I thought
what a load of nonsense, they're obviously going
to be riding up and wearing their patches," said
"But sure enough,
they turned up on a bus not wearing their
patches. Just like he said."
Smith stayed at
the helm of the West Chapter even after Doyle
was released from prison in 1995. Doyle left to
establish the East Chapter, based in Marua Rd,
But in recent
years, Smith was a shadow of his former self
after suffering a stroke.
He stepped down as
president in July this year, replaced by David
Dunn, who has convictions for methamphetamine
Now that Smith's
influence is gone completely, there are fears
that the West Chapter will cut loose - something
the police are well aware of.