Walsh Street police shootings
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2007)|
|Walsh Street police shootings|
|Location||South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia|
|Date||12 October 1988
|Deaths||2 police officers|
The Walsh Street police shootings was the 1988 murder of two Victoria Police officers, Constables Steven Tynan, 22, and Damian Eyre, 20. The officers were responding to a report of an abandoned car when they were gunned down about 4.50am in Walsh Street, South Yarra (a Melbourne suburb), on 12 October 1988.
Four men, Victor Peirce, Trevor Pettingill, Anthony Leigh Farrell and Peter David McEvoy, were charged with murder and later acquitted by a jury in the Supreme Court of Victoria. Two other suspects, Jedd Houghton and Gary Abdallah, were shot and killed by Victoria Police before being brought to trial.
During 2005, Wendy Peirce, widow of Victor, gave an interview to the mass media. In this interview, she admitted that her late husband had planned and carried out the murders and that he was actually guilty as charged.
The Walsh Street police shootings are mentioned several times in Underbelly Files: Tell Them Lucifer was Here and are portrayed in slightly fictionalised form in the feature film and book Animal Kingdom. The events also form an important part of the narrative of the Australian drama Killing Time.
On 11 October 1988, Peirce's best friend, Graeme Jensen, was fatally shot by police in Narre Warren. Jensen had been under observation by the Victoria Police Armed Robbery Squad, who had planned to arrest him in connection with an armed robbery and murder. Police followed Jensen to a local store. Three cars containing eight detectives attempted to block Jensen in as he left the store; but one of the cars was delayed by passing traffic, allowing Jensen to drive through. Police later gave sworn evidence that they saw Jensen brandish a firearm. Police yelled at Jensen to stop, one detective yelled: "He's got a gun." Jensen was then shot dead. His car crashed into a roadside pole.
Report of an abandoned car
On 12 October, 13 hours after Jensen's death, at 4:39am, Constables Tynan and Eyre were operating a divisional van from Prahran police station when called to an abandoned Holden Commodore left in Walsh Street, South Yarra. While the officers were examining the vehicle, they were ambushed by armed offenders. Constable Tynan was cut down with a shotgun while sitting in the car, and Constable Eyre was seriously wounded. Constable Eyre, despite suffering serious injuries, is thought to have struggled with the attacker until another person approached him from behind, managed to remove Eyre's service revolver from its holster and shoot him in the head with it.
Police believed members of a Melbourne armed robbery gang had organized the murders. In the period up to April 1989 there had been an unusually high number of fatal shootings of suspects by police. The killings of the two police officers were viewed by many as a form of payback by members of the Melbourne underworld.
Ty-Eyre task force
The police investigation was known as the Ty-Eyre Task Force, a combination of the two surnames of the officers killed. It was headed by Inspector Dave Sprague and was the biggest investigation Victoria Police had ever undertaken at the time and also the longest running, spanning 895 days. At the height of the investigation, police had hundreds of officers working with the task force to investigate the murders.
The Flemington Crew
Police investigations revealed the shotgun used to perform the murders was the same weapon used earlier in a bungled attempt to blast open a bank door during a robbery at the State Bank in Oak Park seven months earlier. A gang, police dubbed The Flemington Crew, had robbed at least four Melbourne banks. The robbers, on security CCTV at the Oak Park robbery, had left shotgun shells at the scene. Seven months into the investigation, the shotgun itself was found half-buried in an inner-city golf course plant bed by a gardener. The shotgun and shells became the single forensic link police had, linking the Oak Park robbery to the same shotgun used in the Walsh Street murders. The shotgun and empty shotgun shell casings are on display at the Victoria Police Museum, Melbourne.
Members of the gangs responsible for the robberies were believed to be Victor Peirce, Graeme Jensen, Jedd Houghton and Peter David McEvoy. The home of Victor Peirce was raided the day following the Walsh Street shootings. Peirce's house was later demolished and the backyard dug up in the search for evidence.
The trial of the four men accused, Victor Peirce, Trevor Pettingill, Anthony Leigh Farrell and Peter David McEvoy, began in March 1991. The prosecution alleged six people were involved in the planning of the shootings, the accused, Jason Ryan and the late Jedd Houghton.
Jason Ryan became a prosecution witness in the trial and was offered immunity in exchange for his testimony. Police placed Ryan under the witness protection program and removed him to Mansfield on 24 October 1988 for questioning. His evidence changed a number of times up to the opening of the trial.
Ryan's evidence had implicated Gary Abdallah, Jedd Houghton, Anthony Leigh Farrell and Emmanuel Alexandris. Police were told the party of killers were Jedd Houghton, Peter David McEvoy, Anthony Leigh Farrell and his uncles Victor Peirce and Trevor Pettingill. Houghton was shot and killed during a police raid on the Big4 Ascot Holiday Park in Bendigo in November 1988. Abdullah was fatally wounded during his arrest on another matter in April 1989.
Victor Pierce's wife, Wendy Pierce, also became a prosecution witness and entered the witness protection program. She had previously maintained her husband was with her in a motel all night on the night of the murders; she retracted this alibi in preparation to testify against her husband. But, in a pre-trial hearing, she retracted her retraction and, as a hostile witness, did not appear at the trial.
Not guilty verdict
Victor Peirce and Peter David McEvoy were taken back into custody on other charges, yelling "We'll be killed, we'll be killed". Peirce claimed after his acquittal that he was afraid of police retribution and issued a statement in which he professed his innocence and requested "to be left alone to work and prove to the community I am not as bad as police and the press has made me out to be".
Wendy Pierce was charged with perjury, convicted and sentenced to serve 9 months non-parole.
Timeline of relevant events
- 25 January 1987 - Mark Militano is shot and killed by Victoria Police.
- June, 1987 - Frank Valastro is shot and killed by Victoria Police.
- 1 October 1988 - Hai Foong (Joshua) Yap was shot by Steven Tynan during a robbery, ending up a paraplegic who later died of his wounds due to self-neglect.
- 11 October 1988 - Graeme Jensen is killed
- 12 October 1988, approx. 4:50am - Walsh Street killings occur
- 21 October 1988, TyEyre taskforce set up
- 24 October 1988 - Jason Ryan moved to Mansfield and placed under witness protection
- 17 November 1988 - Jedd Houghton shot and killed by police in a Bendigo caravan park.
- 9 April 1989 - Gary Abdallah is shot and killed by Victoria Police after pulling an imitation pistol on detectives.
- 26 March 1991 - four accused men found not guilty.
- 1 May 2002 - Victor Peirce shot and killed in Bay Street, Port Melbourne in drive-by shooting linked to Andrew "Benji" Veniamin
- October, 2005 - Widow of Victor Peirce, Wendy Peirce gives an interview to John Silvester, detailing her husband's involvement in the crime.
- February, 2010 - Peter McEvoy told New South Wales Police, in anger, that he had heard the final words of a dying constable, prompting calls for a coronial inquest into the deaths of the two policemen.
- 13 March 2011 - Sunday Night airs former police officer Malcolm Rosenes' claim Graeme Jensen was killed in cold blood and had a sawn-off rifle planted in his car after death.
- October, 2011 - The book A Pack of Bloody Animals was published, concluding that two of the defendants, Anthony Farrell and Trevor Pettingill, played no part in the murders of the two policemen.
In popular culture
The Walsh Street shootings were a subject of the Screen Australia/Film Victoria documentary Trigger Point, aired by the ABC in 2014, which also documented questionable cases of shootings of criminals by police, and training programmes aimed at reducing such incidents.
- Revisiting the Walsh Street murders, The Age, 1 October 2005
- Walsh Street revisited, Green Left, 27 May 1992
- Coming Clean, The Age, 1 October 2005
- Silvester, John (January 4, 2003). "Fatally flawed: the death of Graeme Jensen". The Age. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
- Kerr & Mooney (2011). Pack of Bloody Animals. Melbourne: Kerr. pp. 56–74. ISBN 978-0-9581283-4-6.
- Silvester J. Police shootings aired on ABC TV The Age, 7 June 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2014