Underworld war feared after killing of crime boss

Police are considering the possibility that the murder of Carl  Williams in prison had a 'sinister' motive. Photo / APN

Police are considering the possibility that the murder of Carl Williams in prison had a ‘sinister’ motive.

CANBERRA – The murder of former Melbourne crime boss Carl Williams has opened a new can of worms that includes fears of a renewed gang war, allegations of police corruption and the possible collapse of pending trials.

Further speculation has focused on suggestions that Williams, 39, was beaten to death in Victoria’s most secure jail because of suspicions he had turned police informer, or that his death was in some way connected with a report disclosing that police had paid A$8000 ($10,000) in fees to his daughter’s private school.

“What happened is very, very clear,” Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland said yesterday.  “There is a wide range of possibilities that we will have to consider, ranging from this being a random act right through to it being something much more serious and much more sinister.”  A man whose name cannot be published for legal reasons appeared briefly in Geelong Magistrate’s Court yesterday, charged with Williams’ murder.

The late crime boss, who was serving a minimum 35 years for four murders and conspiracy to kill another rival connected with Melbourne’s brutal gangland wars, was attacked from behind as he sat with two other men in the maximum-security Barwon Prison, near Geelong.  Guards were in a room 10m away when one of the men struck Williams on the head with the stem of an exercise bicycle, causing serious injuries and cardiac arrest.

The attack was recorded on CCTV cameras in a combined kitchen and exercise room, part of the Acacia high-security unit that houses other prisoners convicted of crimes related to the gang wars that killed as many as 30 victims between 1998 and last year.

The ABC reported that Williams had shared a unit with his alleged killer and another man for nine months, and had told Corrections Victoria he had been happy with the arrangement.  Homicide squad Detective Inspector Bernie Edwards, the head of the team investigating the killing, told reporters there had been no signs of an argument on the CCTV footage leading up to the attack.

“We’re just going to treat it like every normal murder investigation or homicide investigation,” he said.  State Police Minister Bob Cameron said three investigations had been launched into the murder by the coroner, the Office of Corrective Services, and the police.  “We are very, very concerned that such a notorious criminal has been murdered,” he said. “That’s why there are all of these investigations and we want to get to the bottom of it.”

The ABC also reported that Williams’ lawyer, Rob Stary, who was preparing an appeal against the length of his client’s sentence, had stopped short of confirming that Williams had become an informer.   But he described Williams as a “useful tool for the state”.  Stary said there were other very sensitive issues to the state that would be jeopardised by the murder.   “Dare I say, he was a goldmine of information that unfortunately goes to his grave with his untimely death,” Stary told the ABC.

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