Almost 40 years ago I was editor of The Murrumbidgee Irrigator newspaper at Leeton, and I was the conduit for information obtained by the late Don Mackay which I fed to the day editor of The Daily Telegraph, Harry Sherring, in respect of matters related to the activities of certain criminal elements in Griffith, specifically the Calabrian Mafia and some of their interesting agricultural activities.
Today, I received a copy of the April 9 The Area News with a story related to the Mackay assassination which quotes a certain Dr John Jiggens.
Firstly, let me say I have never met Dr Jiggens. However, I know he has written material on both the Griffith Mafia and the Mackay assassination which I know to be extremely accurate. In fact, so accurate has been his accounts that for a long time, many of us closely connected with the Mackay case believed Dr John Jiggens to be a pseudonym for a policeman who had inside knowledge of the case, while in turn, the police believed I was the mystery Dr Jiggens.
It emerged some time ago that Dr John Jiggens was no pseudonym, and that he was a Queensland academic who had developed certain well-placed contacts.
The case he presents is that a former corrupt policeman named Fred Krahe was responsible for the murder of Don Mackay, and that the order was given by Frank Nugan. He also argues that two people had to have carried out the murder.
The presence of Fred Krahe in Griffith and his association with Ken and Frank Nugan has been well documented over the years.
The then manager of The Area News, June Webster, had a high-level contact within the New South Wales Police Force to whom she directed inquiries as to the identity and background of Fred Krahe.
I am aware she was told by police that they believed Krahe to have been a prolific contract killer who had murdered a number of people.
Don Mackay was shot on a Friday evening. On the morning before (ie: The Thursday) I took the artwork for The Irrigator to The Area News where it was printed. June Webster called me into her office and told me she had received a tip off that Fred Krahe was at the Nugan packing shed.
The following morning, I spoke to Don Mackay, and he wondered what Krahe was doing in Griffith on this occasion. That night, Don Mackay was murdered in the Griffith Hotel car park.
In the mid-1980s, I was contacted by Tom Prior, a crime reporter from Melbourne’s The Herald Sun, and he in turn published my account of June Webster telling me of Fred Krahe being in Griffith the day before the murder and my conversation with Mackay on the morning of the murder, so this is not something new.
I cannot say for certain that Krahe was at the packing shed. I can only say that someone who June trusted phoned her and said Krahe was there.
There are two factors known only to a handful of people close to the Mackay case.
1. Mackay had uncovered a link between very senior intelligence and military figures in the United States and Frank Nugan, and these links had connections to the growing of cannabis and the sale of such cannabis to fund certain US activities in Third World countries.
2. I know the links existed, but Dr Jiggens has more extensive knowledge of the people and the events involved.
The second factor was that the then acting president of the NSW Liberal Party was V.W. (Bill) Letheren of Leeton. In 1974, Bill was primarily responsible for the election to the Federal Parliament of an outstanding protégé, a certain John Winston Howard.
Don Mackay had demonstrated as a Liberal candidate for the State seat of Murrumbidgee and Federal seat of Riverina, that he would have been an outstanding MP, and as a result, he was offered a Senate seat by the Liberals. Don Mackay in the Senate, where he could speak under Parliamentary privilege, would be a massive problem for the Mafia, as was his friendship with John Howard.
Dr Jiggens would argue that Don Mackay was killed for three primary reasons.
- Because he blew the whistle on a 33-acre cannabis farm at Coleambally which was raided in November 1975.
- Because he knew of the links between Frank Nugan and others.
- Because of the political influence he would have as a Senator.
And as always, Dr Jiggens would be dead accurate, because those close to the case know those to be the three reasons the murder assassination order was given.
James Frederick Bazley was convicted of the Mackay murder. No-one close to the case believes for a minute that a small man such as Bazley was capable of lifting Don Mackay into the boot of a motor car. At least one other person had to be present. It was believed at the time that Krahe was one and another former police officer was the other.
Whether it was actually two corrupt former policeman or Bazley and Krahe remains a matter of opinion.
Don Mackay has been wrongly labelled as an anti-drugs campaigner. He was never that. Instead, he fought against the Calabrian Mafia and its influence in Griffith. No town ever had a more outstanding citizen.
(John Higgins was editor of The Murrumbidgee Irrigator from 1972-77. He later became president of the Victorian Country Press Association at the same time as his friend from Griffith, John Kelly, then manager of The Area News, was president of the New South Wales Country Press Association. Both served together on the board of Country Press Australia).