At 81, John Hatton is learning to ski and has returned from six weeks in New Zealand, which is why he missed the ACT Supreme Court’s reference last month to Mafia involvement in Colin Winchester’s murder.
Organised crime figures who believed they had been double-crossed were said to have a motive for killing assistant federal police commissioner Winchester, but police had been unwilling to reinvestigate Mafia links.
This would not have been news to Mr Hatton, the former NSW independent member of parliament and corruption fighter who instigated the Wood Royal Commission into NSW police corruption in 1995.
Mr Hatton spelt out the Mafia’s connection to Mr Winchester’s murder during a wide-ranging speech to Parliament in May, 1990.
He had been calling since 1987 for a royal commission into joint Mafia and police marijuana crops and again in 1990, for their relationship with Mr Winchester’s murder.
Mr Hatton had told Parliament the ACT chief magistrate Ron Cahill was brave and competent at Winchester’s inquest.
But this week, some 24 years later, Mr Hatton told the Canberra Times he has bitter memories of that hearing.
He described three days of hostile questioning in the witness box and of having documents screwed up and thrown in his face in what he believed was a conspiracy to break him.
“Frankly, they went very close,” he said.
“I went back to my motel room after the third day and said ‘I’m getting out of here’.
“I stopped at a cafe in Goulburn, went down into an alley and just sobbed and sobbed,” Mr Hatton said.
In Parliament in 1990 Mr Hatton said he was aware of marijuana crops worth $100 million in the Bungendore and Braidwood areas planted about 1983, including two that were ripped off five times while under police surveillance.
NSW police and to a lesser extent federal police were involved in Operation Seville.
Mr Hatton said Mr Winchester’s role was pivotal, but before he could give evidence against 11 people charged when the National Crime Authority brought the matter to court, he was killed in January, 1989.
“The federal government’s response to the assassination of the second most senior police officer in Australia was to hold an inquest. That inquest relied on a compromised police force as its investigative arm.”
At the time Mr Hatton felt the inquest had turned into a quasi trial of David Eastman, later convicted of murder.
Mr Hatton told Parliament on the night after Mr Winchester’s murder, area police commander Bill Fleming offered him police protection.
Later police paid Bungendore constable Peter Jamieson, who had tried in vain to do something about the drug crops, to relocate with his wife and family.
So great was Jamieson’s concern that he kept unofficial running sheets, threatened to go to superiors, but was “abused and assaulted” by district detective Bill Cullen. Cullen has since died.