The Murder of Don Hancock

01.12.2013

tags: Homicide, Forensic, Western Australia, Hancock, OCMG,

discussion: 0 comments

By David Royds, National Centre for Forensic Studies, University of Canberra

From the December 2013 issue of the APJ.

This was an outstanding forensic investigation that showcases the work of highly regarded forensic professionals who painstakingly carried out a world class investigation. Most forensic investigations assist in either identifiying offenders or at the very least assist in convicting them. This investigation however did neither of that. The murderers of Lou Lewis and Don Hancock were charged with murder and associated offences by detectives who identified them through outstanding police work. The forensic evidence assisted investigators to demontrate to the offenders that police had recovered large amounts of critical intelligence. This went to obtaining a confession from the offender Sid Reid and to convince a cooffender that the case against them was strong and professional. 

Abstract

Bombings in Australia are rare as are crime experts with experience in bomb crime scene examination. It is important to review cases; not only for posterity but to reflect on some of the hard-earned experiences of others so that good work is remembered and emulated in the event of a recurrence. This article is a review of the forensic work carried out by a team of bomb scene examiners from Western Australia (WA) Police led by Sergeant Clayton (Jack) Bennie into the homicides of WA Police Commander Donald Hancock and Mr Lou Lewis. Although Senior Sergeant Bennie had no formal training as a scientist, he applied “scientific methodology” in the search for better understanding of explosive effects of the bomb used to murder Don Hancock and Lou Louise. David Royds has written this article as a training aid for aspiring bomb scene examiners.

Background

Don Hancock was a retired police officer who had served most of his career as a detective. He and his friend Lawrence ‘Lou’ Lewis, a bookmaker, were killed by a bomb that had been planted in their vehicle was detonated as it approached Hancock’s home at 6.36pm on Saturday 1 September 2001.

Hancock, who had risen through the ranks to become the chief of the Criminal Investigation Branch,was also to become one of the state's most controversial police officers.He was best known for the investigation in 1983 of $650,000 worth of gold in the so-called “Perth Mint swindle” which resulted in the gaoling the Mickelberg brothers. They maintained they had been framed. Hancock was also active in the pursuit of Outlaw Motor Cycle Gang (OMCG) members, running a public campaign against them. An incident occurred in the small mining town of Ora Banda, near Kalgoorlie, where a member of the Gypsy Jokers OMCG, Billy Grierson, was shot dead by a sniper. The finger of suspicion was pointed at Hancock however there was no evidence to support a charge. Hancock’s subsequent death was widely seen as an act of revenge by bikies and the death of Lou Lewis as “collateral damage”.

The police investigation, known as Operation Zircon, had a breakthrough when a gang member called Sidney Reid implicated another member, the gang’s sergeant-at-arms Graeme Slater, as the bomber. Reid admitted receiving the bomb from Slater and planting it under the front seat of Lewis’s car whilst it was parked outside Perth’s Belmont Park racecourse. In company with Slater, he followed the vehicle to Hancock’s home and, as it pulled up, he alleges that Slater dialled a number on his mobile phone and whispered “Rest in Peace, Billy” before the bomb went off.

Reid was jailed for life with a minimum of 15 years after pleading guilty to his part in the murders. He would also became the key witness at Slater's trial in the WA Supreme Court. The prosecution of Slater, however, subsequently failed after a vigorous assault upon Reid’s character and reliability as a truthful witness. Whilst controversy and various conspiracy theories persist, the forensic investigation was thorough and detailed. It uncovered strong factual evidence that stands uncontested to this day ...

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