A week since police started searching for the remains of murdered anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay on a Hay property the Daily Advertiser looks back at the latest twists in the mystery spanning 36 years.
- Social media in Hay is abuzz as scores of police descend on the small Western Riverina town.
- Rumours that they are searching for the remains of Donald Mackay are confirmed by the Australian Federal Police later that night.
- The Daily Adveriser's Daisy Huntly is the first reporter on the scene capturing images of police beginning to excavate the potential crime scene around 4pm.
- The owner of the property 79-year-old Con Fattore was contacted and asked if it was his property that police were searching and he said, "Yeah what do you want to know that for?"
Mr Fattore does not live on the property and refused to comment on how long he had owned it or the nature of the search.
"It's my property but ask the police," he said.
"I got nothing to do with it."
- Neighbour John Mirabelli said Griffith detectives questioned him on Tuesday and said they were looking for a well or bore about three or four kilometres out of Hay.
"They asked me about whether we had a well on our property. It was obvious they had a tip-off of some description," he said.
- Heavy fog greets investigators in Hay, providing an eerie backdrop as evacuations continue at the site.
- Hay resident Mary-Anne Towler recalls her memories when Mackay disappeared in 1977 when she was 11 as "being absolutely devastating. It was a terrible, terrible thing.”
“The general feel around town is one of excitement.’’
“I wouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves," Superintendent Rowan said
"At this stage we’re just making a search. In real terms we cannot discount the information, the NSW Police treats these matters seriously"
Superintendent Rowan also reveals that current investigations came from an anonymous tip-off in December 2011.
- Griffith mayor, John Dal Broi, welcomed the news but remained wary given the early stages of the excavation.
"The community are just waiting to see what happens," councillor Dal Broi said
"You wouldn't find anyone doesn't want the body to be found."
"We would certainly like to see this come to some sort of finality, particularly for the Mackay family, some of who are still here in Griffith."
- One of the workers on the property, which is a lettuce farm, speaks to The Daily Advertiser.
Matt Dowse has worked on the farm for five years, but doesn’t think much will be uncovered by police.
“I don’t think they’ll find anything – I’ve been there five years and I’ve never seen anything ... or found any bones,” he said.
“There’s not much we can do, I’ll only miss a week out on a week's work. It’s got Hay talking, that’s for sure.”
The theory, believed to be supported by fresh information from an inside source, suggests Mackay was shot in the car park of the Griffith Hotel, bundled into the boot of a car and driven to a Hay property 150 kilometres away before the killers drove to Echuca and on to Melbourne.
- The son of murdered Griffith anti-drugs crusader Don Mackay says he is “hopeful but not confident” a wide-scale search will uncover the final resting place of his father.
“We’re always hopeful but never confident,” Mr Mackay said.
“This sort of thing has happened before and we’re no more confident that we have been in the past.”
- Former assistant commissioner with NSW Police and an investigator on the Woodward Royal Commission Clive Small remains sceptical that the remains of Don Mackay will be found on the outskirts of Hay.
"All we can do is wait and see what comes out of the digging that's going on ... I would be quite sceptical that they'd find anything," Small said.
While finding the remains would be a "terrific result" and provide many with some comfort that investigations have progressed one step further, Mr Small didn't expect any charges to be laid.
"I don't see where there'd be evidence that the recovery of the remains would, themselves, produce evidence to justify charges of people who may have been involved and are still alive," he said.
Superintendent Rowan said the investigation, which was being undertaken as part of a “rather specific”, structured plan with every scoop of dirt being examined for remains by a forensic anthropologist.
- As police continue only animal remains have been unearthed in a 50-metre by 30-metre area which encompasses a small dam and “farm tip”.
- A police source said police were still “60/40 confident” Mr Mackay’s remains would be found on the property.
Author and investigative journalist Bob Bottom and one of the nation’s leading authorities on the Don Mackay disappearance has thrown doubt on a fresh murder theory that sparked a large-scale search.
He strongly maintained Mr Mackay’s body was dumped in or near the Murray River at Tocumwal just hours after his 1977 murder.
Former The Area News editor Terry Jones reveals police had been in contact with him and other former The Area News employees about information over one of their former colleagues' notebooks used in a Coleambally drug bust case in 1975.
In the notebook were the names of various informants and, when it exchanged hands, The Area News journalist said they’d effectively signed Mr Mackay’s death sentence.
“To put in the effort they have, you’d think it’d have to be a pretty strong lead,” Jones said.
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