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The 1974 bikie funeral of a man they called "The Preacher" attracted a wide cross-section of the community.
Nuns wearing their crisp, white habits stood shoulder to shoulder with outlaws dressed in trademark scruffy jeans and check shirts at Karrakatta Cemetery in Shenton Park. The sisters had crucifixes around their necks. The brotherhood was cloaked in sacred club patches.
One of the men in the funeral cortege would go on to become the biggest name in WA motorcycle gang history. He is Coffin Cheater Edward Horace Withnell.
There was another significant figure there that day to farewell John McGinty, who died in a crash. It was his brother, James Andrew McGinty, who would become the State's attorney-general in 2001 and take the fight up to the bikie gangs.
When Jim McGinty trumpeted the first seizure of a Harley-Davidson under new criminal asset confiscation laws in 2002, he and then Director of Public Prosecutions Robert Cock posed for a photograph on the $20,000 motorcycle. The Preacher, a bikie who liked to quote from the Bible, would have been turning in his grave.
He would be equally disturbed at the way sophisticated organised crime has permeated the good old boys who were happy in their clubs with booze, bongs and birds.
According to police intelligence reports, the modern-day bikie gangs are either active in or linked to the "distribution of narcotic drugs, vehicle and motorcycle theft, the interstate transportation of stolen property, extortion and the illegal importation of firearms".
In the past two years, the clubs have become so offended by adverse publicity, police attention and new laws to control them that they have set up a national union and hired a public relations and lobbying company.
It's hard to imagine how the gangs can complain when one of them, the Gypsy Jokers, was involved in the car-bombing murder of a retired WA police commander and his friend in 2001. Don Hancock, aka the Silver Fox, was killed as payback for the unsolved shooting death of Joker Billy Grierson in Ora Banda, where Hancock owned a pub. Hancock's mate Lou Lewis was collateral damage. Only one Joker, supergrass Sidney "Snot" Reid, was convicted of the crime - on his own admission. He gave evidence against Graeme "Slim" Slater, who was cleared by a jury in 2003. The bombing took the already fearsome reputation of bikies to a new level.
Nevertheless, the gangs haven't been so self-conscious about their image and reputation in the wider community since the days of the iconic Coffin Cheaters-organised Bindoon Rock Festival.
The rollicking annual weekend event, which ran from 1986 to 1995, involved some collaboration with the WA Police to ensure things went as well as possible for the tens of thousands of people who converged for two days of grog and music. One copper accused his colleagues of turning a blind eye to crime and wrote a stinging report, which found its way to his superiors in 1991.
"Once again Bindoon Rock was held on the weekend and once again the police are patting themselves on the back on a job well done," wrote Sgt. Frank Scott. "Each year we have officers … gathering intelligence and informing the department of the smorgasbord of drugs that are supplied and sold at these concerts. It is difficult to reconcile how the department can allow such hypocrisy when dealing with laws relating to liquor and drugs."
Under considerable stress, Scott was discharged from the department after a 22-year career and took on whistleblower status, appearing in a series of media reports. But his claims are rejected by the Coffin Cheaters to this day.
Withnell, now retired from the gang, wrote in a submission to the Liquor Licensing Commission of WA last year that Scott had "thrown a tissy fit" at that concert, but "real coppers knew we had no drugs".
"I will not deny that later all kinds of bikies became involved in crime; some organised, some totally disorganised, (but) certainly not more than any other social, governmental, ethnic, religious or cultural group," he wrote.
It was during the Bindoon Rock era that the bikies took on a bigger profile than ever before. The 1970s and 1980s had seen WA's four established gangs expand almost unhindered. The God's Garbage, based in Albany, held the South-West, while Bayswater was the home of the all-powerful Cheaters, the stoush-loving members of the Gypsy Jokers were based in Maddington and the largely anonymous Club Deroes headquarters was in Cloverdale. The Cheaters also established chapters in Bunbury and Fremantle. Before The Preacher met his maker in 1974, there was a variety of smaller clubs.
Back in the day, the Cheaters, Deroes, Jokers and Garbage proudly rode their bikes alongside members of Satan's Commandos, Epitaph, Devil's Disciples, Filthy Few and Gutter Rats. It was only after one particularly messy all-in "run" through the South-West that many of the smaller clubs were folded into - or patched over by - the bigger clubs.
By the late 1980s, the big four were strong. Police believed they were also moving into organised crime, using their traditional love of a fight to form strong gangs capable of carrying out substantial drug deals. Police were especially worried about the Coffin Cheaters and the power that would come with the money and connections they had made at Bindoon - especially in the year or so before the festival ended.
Yet police would soon come to appreciate the strength of the Cheaters and the other WA clubs when an interloper from across the Tasman set up shop in Perth.
The Mongrel Mob had a reputation for untold violence in New Zealand and the WA gangs were unhappy when they opened a chapter in Perth and moved into minor areas of organised crime. The Mongrel Mob was fencing stolen electrical items and selling drugs. But not for long.
During a week of bloodshed in late 1989, several WA gang members were arrested. Their main target had been Perth Mongrel Mob chapter vice-president Selwyn Wharepapa, who owned a Midvale motorcycle repair shop. First, his business was firebombed by Gypsy Joker David Roy Kirby and then he was shot outside his Swan View home by Gypsy Joker Paul James Hugo, who was in a car being driven by God's Garbage bikie Ronald Mark Scott. The Mob didn't want it to be a case of third time unlucky. The four gangs, who were fronted by Withnell as spokesman, claimed they were the good Samaritans when they acted. Asked at the time if he condoned the shooting of Wharepapa, Withnell said: "We live in very real times, and some people are thrust to the front line of a very real situation."
The gang left town after key Kiwi member Michael "Pixie" Moke negotiated the terms of the surrender with Withnell.
But whatever spin the Mongrel Mob tried to put on things, it was obvious they didn't have the stomach for the fight so far from home.
"Gang members going from here to Australia are like babes coming into an adult world," one New Zealand police officer said cheekily after hearing of the backdown.
Eventually, the existing gangs relaxed their so-called "four gang policy".
In 1996, a gang called the Rebels moved into Perth and Busselton and were quickly in trouble for drug dealing, while both the Gypsy Jokers and Club Deroes expanded into Kalgoorlie in the following year. Five God's Garbage members became suspects in a gang rape of a Quinninup woman who later committed suicide. They got away with it after maintaining their code of silence.
But bikie gang violence escalated and police pressure on the gangs grew by the day. It was only a matter of time before another war started and this one wouldn't end so quietly.
In the years which followed Bindoon Rock, the Coffin Cheaters had made the most of their success. Their clubhouse, which stretched across two blocks in Raleigh Road, Bayswater, was decked out like a dream bachelor pad, despite a courageous petition from local residents.
"For years, the activities of the Coffin Cheaters club have been a source of annoyance to those living nearby, due to their complete disregard of nearby residents," the petition read.
It was water off a duck's back to the Cheaters, who had invested in a company called Compri-Tube which looked like making a fortune out of new pipe-cleaning technology. The other clubs, meanwhile, were still operating in the shadows, especially the Club Deroes.
When the Deroes kicked Kevin "Mad Mick" Woodhouse, a nominee and suspected amphetamine cook, out of the gang and the Cheaters took him in, war was inevitable. The bikie code forbids such treachery and Woodhouse owed the Deroes money. The Cheaters had been warned by a Gypsy Jokers member that Woodhouse was not to be trusted and had been informing on fellow gang members while in jail.
Mad Mick wasn't to be taken lightly and had a reputation for violence. In the mid-1990s, he and three other Club Deroes hogtied and beat one-legged Pingelly man Martin Devaney after Devaney had quit the gang. They claimed they had just gone around to get his Deroes memorabilia back when things got out of hand.
It was May 1998 when the first public target of the bikie war was chosen. Withnell was attacked by Club Deroes bikies at the Broken Hill Hotel in Victoria Park and had his head cut open. Four days later, Coffin Cheater David Whittaker was admitted to Swan District Hospital with a gunshot wound to the left leg.
A few weeks later, a Club Deroes bikie had both legs broken by a gang of masked men armed with baseball bats in a carefully planned raid on a Bayswater factory. The scale of the war became abundantly clear when a Cheater was caught by police just metres from the home of a Deroes member in Balga. He was nursing a loaded illegal automatic shotgun, commonly known as a street sweeper. The police strategy designed to minimise the bloodshed was named Operation Gallipoli.
But the battles raged on. Club Deroes member Ian Gangell was dragged out of his van by four men and beaten with clubs and iron bars outside his home in South Guildford. Two weeks later, Mad Mick himself was shot in his car in Beechboro. He managed to drive to the Cheaters' clubhouse in Bayswater before being taken to hospital.
In September, the war spilt into Perth Magistrate's Court where a Club Deroes member was punched in the face by a Coffin Cheater while sitting in the public gallery. Days later, 20 rounds of ammunition were fired from three weapons at a house in Lion Street, Carlisle, and Raymond Washer, a former Club Deroes member who had joined the new Rebels bikie gang, was lucky to escape unscathed.
A month later, the violence was reaching its fatal crescendo. Club Deroe Mark Doyle was ambushed on his way to work by a shooter waiting in bushes near a Roe Highway on-ramp. His car was sprayed with bullets as he drove past and he was taken to hospital with gunshot wounds to his spine.
The next day Coffin Cheater Marc Raoul Lucien Chabriere was shot dead in his car in Welshpool while fellow gang member Mick Anderson was shot in the arm. Baby-faced Club Deroe Andrew Wayne Edhouse was eventually charged with murder, but on June 27, 2001, he was acquitted at trial.
The trigger for the war, Mad Mick Woodhouse, would eventually join Chabriere on May 12, 2004. A man on a motorcycle drove up and shot him dead while he stood waiting for the Bayswater Waves aquatic centre to open. A security guard told police Woodhouse used his dying breath to name his killer as "Johnny Montoyo". In the end, a friend of the bikie called Johnny Montani, was charged. He was tried three times for murder, the first was a hung jury and the final an acquittal.
During the Cheaters-Deroes war, the Deroes had to cope with unwanted police attention over the disappearance of 28-year-old Lisa Joanne Govan. She had vanished after last being seen outside the Deroes' Kalgoorlie-Boulder clubhouse at 7.30am on October 8, 1999, where she had arrived earlier from a nightclub in a taxi.
Govan was believed to be dead, dumped down one of the thousands of mineshafts dotting the Goldfields, and members of the bikie gang were murder suspects. The Deroes stayed true to their code of silence and much to the anguish of Govan's family, the disappearance remains unsolved.
The Cheaters, too, had problems when one of their high-profile members became involved in a murder investigation. On February 25, 2000, Jacqueline Margaret Neville knocked on the door of a house in suburban Mirrabooka. Little did she know that a high-tech security camera was recording her every word and every move.
"How are you going, mate," she asked the 30-year-old who answered the door. "What do you want," he asked. Neville answered, "You", before pulling out a gun and firing seven shots through the flyscreen door. One of those shots hit the man, Michael Wright, in the chest and he died within minutes.
At the time, Neville was the wife of Coffin Cheaters bikie Mark Raymond Hinchliffe. She had had an affair with Wright, which had enraged her husband, who bashed Wright and demanded $50,000 from him. He also bashed Neville with a Cheaters belt, poured boiling water over her and forced her to shave her head. But the final insult was his demand she get a tattoo around her waist which read "Property of Mark Hinchliffe".
Wright complained to police and Hinchliffe was charged. But Neville, who had suffered years of abuse, saw herself as a traitor to her husband and decided to kill Wright to make amends.Hinchliffe, whose phone was bugged by police still investigating the bikie war, made the mistake of telling a friend he had bashed his wife so hard that "she just keeps bouncing off my fist". He was sentenced to six years jail. Neville will not be released from jail until at least 2015, but while in jail she has claimed compensation from the State for the injuries her husband caused. The taxpayer will also foot half the bill for the removal of her tattoo.