This week 40 years ago was arguably the biggest in news in the history of the MIA. UFOs were spotted, prominent businessman Don Mackay disappeared, Italian families were threatened and a Royal Commission promised.
In lighter news, Dad’s Army was welcomed back to our TV screens, Griffith’s Rosemary Barker won the Queensland study girl quest and the Griffith Black and Whites had a one point win over DPC.
Griffith City Library have preserved copies of The Area News from mid-July 1977 and they make for fascinating reading. A big thanks to the library’s Chris Robson, Mike Lee and Christine Del Gigante for helping us retrieve them.
Friday 15 July 1977
The Area News headline on the day Don Mackay disappeared was “further sighting of Riverina UFO”.
A gentleman by the name Ivan Soliani reported seeing the flying saucer over Leeton, and police and nurses said they saw it too.
This apparent coincidence would have fuelled conspiracy theories at the time.
John Robinson, a Griffith High School teacher in 1977, said “there were all sorts of theories about what happened to Mr Mackay, with some saying he was taken on a plane”.
Tuesday 19 July 1977
As there was no weekend or Monday paper at the time, The Area News missed out on covering the breaking news on what was then the biggest story across Australia.
On Tuesday, The Area News reported Mr Mackay was still missing, and wife Barbara said she did not regret her family’s brave stand against the drug trade.
NSW opposition leader John Maddison called from a royal commission into drugs.
Wednesday 20 July 1977
On this day it was revealed blood was found near the car of Don Mackay.
Italian families reported threatening phone calls, one farmer said he couldn’t leave his wife and children alone.
“I noticed southern Italian children becoming alienated in school playgrounds at that time,” Mr Robinson said.
Thursday 21 July 1977
Lake Wyangan was front page news, as it will be exactly 40 years later to the day. In 1977, it was reported that police were searching the lake for the body of Mr Mackay. Wade Shire also joined the calls for a royal commission.
Friday 22 July 1977
On the seventh day of the search, it was reported that blood in the car park was identified as that of Don Mackay.
NSW Premier Neville Wran responded to the calls for a royal commission into drugs by promising one would happen.