Donald Mackay assassination site to get a revamp

FACELIFT: The Griffith Hotel, where Donald Mackay was murdered in Australia's first political assassination, is being renovated. Picture: Stephen Mudd.

FACELIFT: The Griffith Hotel, where Donald Mackay was murdered in Australia's first political assassination, is being renovated. Picture: Stephen Mudd.

The scene of one of Australia’s most infamous cold cases is getting a facelift, but the people of Griffith will never forget its past.

The Griffith Hotel, believed to be the place where Donald Mackay was murdered, is undergoing renovations. However, no amount of paint will cover over its history.

On a Friday evening after a drink with some friends, Donald Mackay stepped into the carpark of the Griffith Hotel where his killers laid in wait.

Police found Mr Mackay’s locked van with the keys laying beside it. Blood stained the door and pooled on the ground beside three .22 cartridges.

It was Australia’s first political assassination.

Almost 40 years later, the carpark where Mr Mackay’s van was found is blocked off, with several sections appearing to be ripped up. Rubble is spread on the ground where blood once stained. 

Griffith mayor John Dal Broi, who knew Mr Mackay, said even though the hotel may get a new look, the past would not - and should not – be forgotten.

“Most of us were in utter shock and couldn’t believe it could happen in our town,” Councillor Dal Broi said. “The community was in uproar.”

Cr Dal Broi said the disappearance of Mr Mackay was a “blot” on the city’s history.

“I got to know him when he stood for the Liberal Party and he tried to bring some of the crops being grown to the public’s attention,” he said.

CRIME SCENE: Donald Mackay was shot in the car park of the Griffith Hotel on July 15, 1977. He had provided police with information on marijuana growers.

CRIME SCENE: Donald Mackay was shot in the car park of the Griffith Hotel on July 15, 1977. He had provided police with information on marijuana growers.

“Unfortunately he must have done too good a job and the gangsters got him.”

The murder was something Cr Dal Broi’s generation was “not proud of”.

“It’s really sad but in those days it was a way some people made their money,” Cr Dal Broi said.

“It wasn’t about growing a little hooch and getting high, it was all about money and corruption.”

According to Cr Dal Broi, the murder could have been avoided altogether.

“It’s unfortunate but I think the case can be traced back to three detectives who didn’t do their job properly,” Cr Dal Broi said.

“In my view they wouldn’t have allowed marijuana to be grown if they did their job.

“These detectives didn’t do enough.”

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