The Whiskey – Whodunnit? (16 March 2019)

There were three levels;

  1. At the bottom of the food chain was John Stuart and James Finch. Stuart’s role was to provide the extortion smokescreen.  Finch, a professional firebug, torched the Whiskey.
  2. Billy McCulkin recruited Stuart, his best criminal mate. After Stuart was released from jail in mid 1972, the two were inseparable. Serial killer Vincent O’Dempsey, recruited McCulkin. McCulkin and O’Dempsey had previously organised the Torino firebombing, an insurance job. Well before the Torino and Whiskey fires Stuart had told multiple people that the clubs would be bombed by the same people. He also intimated members of the so called Clockwork Orange would be involved. Members confirmed their involvement with the Torino and Finch said Tom Hamilton assisted in the Whiskey arson.
  3. The Whiskey was torched for financial reasons, this is the only scenario that makes sense. Ex manager John Hannay had the motive and track record to instigate the fire.

The Whiskey – Were Stuart and Finch Innocent? (16 March 2019)

Categorically NO.

They were rightly jailed for life, although Finch eventually conned his way out of jail.

Stuart knew that the fire was planned for some time close to 2.08 am
on 8 January 1973, but no later than 2.15 am.

He held the knowledge that the Torino would be firebombed first,
followed by the Whiskey. Stuart even told Bolton on 13 January that
the first bombing would occur in about five weeks, which is within a
week of when the Torino went up in smoke.

He had the knowledge that there was only ever one target; the Whiskey, with Stuart later tossing in the name of Chequers (also bankrupt) to camouflage the fact it was all about a single club.

John Stuart set up his alibi thus. He walked in to the Flamingo nightclub. He asks bouncer Quick for the time. Quick had to phone the Postmaster-General’s Department as he did not have a watch available. It was 2.15 am. Looking for a second witness Stuart then asks the owner for the time and Yasse also responds it is 2.15 am.

There was no good reason why Finch returned to Australia (paid for by Stuart) just prior to the fire. To work on an oil rig was ludicrous. If he was innocent, why had Finch gone into hiding after the fire? Why had he hidden his passport in a children’s toy? Why was he using a false name? He had a solid track record of lighting fires. There were no innocent answers.

Finch has recently said, ‘I’m willing to still take a lie-detector test to say I never made that confession in the room.’ He speaks the truth as he was ‘verballed’.

Note how careful his wording is. He would take a lie detector test regarding the false confession but not of his involvement in the crime. That is because he did murder 15 innocents.

Whiskey Au Go Go figure offers to give evidence to new inquest – Brisbane Times (9 March 2019)

Another great article from Tony Moore;

A prominent Brisbane business identity has been named by a convicted criminal as the mastermind behind Brisbane’s Whiskey Au Go Go fire bombing, in which 15 people died in March 1973.

And a researcher, who spent five years investigating the notes of the Whiskey Au Go Go lead detectives, believes 77-year-old William “Billy” Stokes’s comments should be investigated seriously.

Stokes, 77, the former editor of the Waterside Workers Union magazine Port News, named the businessman at a commemoration service to those who died in the nightclub, when two barrels of petrol were rolled into the ground-floor foyer of the Whiskey Au Go Go on March 8, 1973.

Due to a lack of corroboration, Brisbane Times is not naming the businessman.

As editor of Port News, Stokes has previously published accounts of the mass murder based on what he was told at the time.

Stokes was convicted of the murder of Clockwork Orange gang member, boxer Thomas Hamilton and served 16 years, although he still denies the charge.

Stokes said he would give a statement to the new Whiskey Au Go Go inquest, which could begin in the second half of 2019.

He said he had not yet been interviewed by the coronial investigators.

“I don’t think the police would want me to give evidence, because I’m of the belief that (the person) paid the police to organise the fire bombing,” he said.

“I’m of the belief that police were the ones paid by (the person) to arrange the fire bombing.

“(The person) was the mastermind, you can say.”

Researcher Geoff Plunkett, who wrote the 2018 book Whiskey Au Go Go Massacre after being the first person to have direct access to the lead detectives’ notes, on Friday described Stokes as “the ignored witness”.

“Mr Stokes must be interviewed by the new inquiry,” Plunkett said.

“I would describe him as an essential witness for the forthcoming inquiry.

“In the last 46 years, no detective has ever interviewed William on his assertions, which proved eerily accurate during the 2017 McCulkin murder trials.

“Stokes was never approached during the O’Dempsey-Dubois trails and has not been for the upcoming Whiskey inquest.

“This makes no sense.”

The new Whiskey Au Go Go inquest was ordered after Vincent O’Dempsey and Garry Dubois were handed life sentences in 2017 over the 1974 murders of Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki (13) and 11-year-old Leanne.

O’Dempsey’s trial heard he murdered Mrs McCulkin because of fears she could have implicated him in the Whiskey Au Go Go bombing.

Stokes said he was told by Hamilton that the Clockwork Orange gang was responsible for the Fortitude Valley Torino nightclub fire earlier in 1973.

Evidence that O’Dempsey was involved in the 1973 Torino fire-bombing by the Clockwork Orange gang was given at his and Dubois’s 2017 Supreme Court trial for the McCulkin murders.

At that trial, former Clockwork Orange gang member Peter Hall told the jury that Dubois told him O’Dempsey was paying them $500 for the Torino attack because “apparently the nightclub wasn’t doing too well”.

Unlike last year’s gathering to mark 45 years since the bombing, there were only four people at the corner of Amelia Street and St Paul’s Terrace for Friday’s commemoration.

One was Donna Phillips, who was a waitress at the club in 1973. Today, she is fighting cancer and keeping close links with the families of the 15 victims.

Ms Phillips said she hoped the inquest would go ahead.

”They asked if I would like to speak to them and at that stage I was in the middle of cancer therapy,” she said.

Ms Phillips said the inquest should look beyond convicted killers James Richard Finch and John Andrew Stuart.

“Let’s hope that it is weighted with the relevant information to take people beyond Finch and Stuart,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the Queensland Coroners Court would not say if the businessman alluded to by Stokes would form part of the new inquest.

“The State Coroner intends to proceed with the inquest during 2019 and the QPS Homicide Investigation Unit is assisting with the investigation,” she said.

Secret of death fire taken to grave – The Australian (9 March 2019)

Yet another from ‘Teacher’s Pet’ legendary investigative journalist David Murray;

Queensland nightclub boss John Hannay was a key suspect in the catastrophic Whiskey Au Go Go firebombing, with strong motives for wanting the club burned to the ground, it has been claimed.

Hannay’s death last Friday at the age of 74 has opened the floodgates to accusations that he was behind the 1973 Whiskey fire in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley that killed 15 people, one of Australia’s worst mass murders.

He was expected to be a key figure at an upcoming new ­inquest into the fire. His death may have dealt a fatal blow to the chances of getting to the truth.

Author and historian Geoff Plunkett, who had access to prev­iously unseen police files on the firebombing, told The Weekend Australian that on legal advice he had redacted from his book The Whiskey Au Go Go Massacre signific­ant sections on Hannay.

“Based on circumstantial evidence­, I concluded Hannay was a prime suspect,” he said.

William Stokes came to the same view as editor of the Port News, a publication associated with the Waterside Workers Federation, when in 1975 he publicly nominated Hannay as a suspect “as the only man to financially profit from the Whiskey”.

“The mastermind is dead,” Mr Stokes said yesterday, while revisiting the former Whiskey site on the fire’s 46th anniversary.

Hannay made for a confused witness at the 1973 trial of James Finch and John Stuart over the deadly blaze, saying he had retrograde amnesia after falling off a horse. With a doctor by his side during his evidence, he denied any involvement.

Mr Plunkett said tens of thousand­s of dollars­ went missing from the Whiskey, a successful club inexplicably facing financial ruin, before the fire. Owners Brian and Ken Little went to police and made a fraud complaint, blaming sacked manage­r Hannay.

Mr Plunkett said Hannay may have been seeking to solve problems­ he had created by taking­ money from the club. The Whiskey fire resulted in an insura­nce payout to the owners, and had the effect of killing off the fraud investigation, he said.

Alternatively, Hannay may have been motivated by revenge after being “humiliated” by the Whiskey’s owners. Whiskey staff had also savagely bashed Hannay and he had blamed the owners.

“I don’t believe they intended to kill people,” Mr Plunkett said.

Hannay’s history of dodgy dealings played into suspicions. His own business, Alice’s Food Bar, went up in flames before the firebombing. He had taken out a new insurance note on Alice’s less than a fortnight earlier.

MP Kevin Hooper used parliamentary privilege in 1981 to name Hannay as one of four Queensland mafia godfathers of crime, calling him a “shadowy businessman who does not pay his debts”. Hannay went on to be sentenced to a year’s jail in 1983, for misappropriating the superannuation payout of a deceased employee.

In another red flag, Hannay was seen dropping Stuart off at the Whiskey just days before the firebombing. Stuart and Finch were convicted, protesting their innocence from behind bars. But when Finch was released and deported to Britain he admitted he lit the blaze and named the others he said were involved.

Mr Plunkett said there was ample evidence police rushed the investigation and fabricated evidence to ensure only Stuart and Finch were charged. Other culprits, possibly Hannay included, escaped justice as a result.

Mr Stokes said he was convinced corrupt police protected the Whiskey firebombers. Hannay sent him a message to this effec­t, he said. “He said he wasn’t worried, ‘They can’t touch me unless­ they arrest the coppers, and they won’t arrest them.’ ”

Donna Phillips, a waitress and cashier at the Whiskey on the night of the fire, said survivors and victims’ families knew Hannay had been unwell and had hoped he would help get to the bottom of the story. “That’s another big figure­ gone from the scene. We’re all none the wiser,” she said.

The Whiskey – The Ignored Witness (8 March 2019)

William Stokes, the editor of the Port News, made four extraordinary claims in 1975;

  1. Billy McCulkin through Vincent O’Dempsey, conscripted the so called Clockwork Orange gang to torch the Torino club for $500 as an insurance job. Mrs McCulkin had admitted to her husband’s role, and O’Dempsey’s role was confirmed at the 2017 McCulkin rape/murder trials. The figure of $500 was also confirmed by one of the gang.
  2. Garry Dubois and Vincent O’Dempsey abducted, raped and killed Mrs McCulkin and her two daughters. Both were convicted for murder, and Dubois for rape. O’Dempsey was not convicted of the rapes due to insufficient evidence.  However, O’Dempsey is a known paedophile. In 1959 he was convicted for the ‘aggravated assault of a sexual nature of a female child’.
  3. Billy McCulkin, through Vincent O’Dempsey, conscripted elements of the Clockwork Orange gang to torch the Whiskey. After reviewing all the original police murder investigative files I concluded Stokes assertions made sense. Jim Finch admitted Orange member Tom Hamilton was in the car that was used to torch the Whiskey.  John Stuart repeatedly warned Detective Basil Hicks and reporter Brian Bolton, before both the Torino and Whiskey fires, that the same group would burn both nightclubs.
  4. Hannay masterminded the entire plan. The claim was reiterated in 2015. I concur this is the most likely scenario and have listed the reasons here

This is a hell of a strike rate, yet in the last 46 years no detective has ever interviewed William on his assertions, which proved eerily accurate during the 2017 McCulkin murder trials.

Stokes was never approached during the O’Dempsey/Dubois trails and has not been for the upcoming Whiskey inquest.

This makes no sense.


Extortion vs Financial Fraud – John Hannay a Prime Suspect (7 March 2019)

John Stuart’s tales of an impending nightclub extortion racket that he related to both Detective Basil Hicks and reporter Brian Bolton were garbage. Here’s why;

  1. The Whiskey was the sole club targeted for the stand over. However it was bankrupt and this was known by Stuart. A worthless club is not a plausible target of extortionists. It owed more than one million dollars in today’s terms.
  2. Stuart’s interviews with his police handler were recorded. The variations in Stuart’s narrative were irreconcilable and nonsensical.
  3. Criminal extortionists both before and after the Whiskey have never announced their extortion plans through the press for the obvious reason that they are raising their hands to be instantly clamped in handcuffs.
  4. Sydney criminals were doing nicely in their home town and would not have bothered with a backwater like Brisbane. Rogerson confirmed this point to the Bulletin reporter.
  5. The missing tens of thousands of dollars of Whiskey funds, allegedly stolen, were never investigated or accounted for.

The state and federal police, as well as the police commissioner and police minister, rightly dismissed an extortion racket as being a credible possibility.

The leaves us with the obvious alternative. The fire related to the Whiskey’s financial strife. The fire was most likely an inside job.

There is evidence the now deceased former manager of the club, John Hannay, ruined the club through a combination of stealing and financing Chequers (the Whiskey’s sister club) through an underfunded company. The Whiskey was cash based only, all the takings were handed to Hannay at the end of each night. Tens of thousands of dollars, all in Hannay’s control, went missing. Hannay never explained how this could occur and no one bothered asking.

When Stuart and Finch went to jail all investigations ceased. The police narrative; only two people dunnit. If only they were involved all avenues of inquiry were shut down, including the possibility that others, such as former Whiskey manager Hannay and serial killer O’Dempsey were involved.

The owners of the Whiskey, brothers Brian and Ken Little, took the fraud allegations to the police. They and other Whiskey staff named John Hannay as the culprit. Reporter Brian Bolton announced the impending police investigation to the world by publishing it in his paper.

Knowing he is the prime suspect in the theft allegations, Hannay announces he is going to burn the Whiskeys accounting books (if they existed) in Alice’s bar which Hannay himself owned. Three days after Bolton’s article, Hannay is true to his word. He torches his own food bar after changing Alice’s insurance just prior to its destruction. A win win for Hannay. An insurance payout and the elimination of the Whiskey’s financial records.

By burning the Whiskey Hannay alleviates the debt he caused as the Littles received an insurance payout. It also killed off any investigation of the missing cash. There was an extra incentive for John Hannay.  Hannay felt humiliated by the Littles, having been sacked by them twice, once in the presence of private investigators. In addition, Hannay was savagely bashed next to Chequers nightclub by three of the Whiskey staff. Hannay told the police that the Littles organised the assault. Hannay had multiple motives.

Hannay was a thief before, during and after his stint as the Whiskey manager. He would eventually go to jail for stealing and someone tried to kill him due to his non payments in later business dealings (the would be assassin went to jail). This is who he was was; a life long fraudster and liar, someone whose moral compass was so awry, he could order the destruction of a club, even if it was packed with patrons. He had a track record of burning establishments. He had torched one weeks earlier.

I posed a number of questions to manager Hannay in the Whiskey Au Go Go Massacre;

Why did Hannay drop Stuart off at the Whiskey on 5 March as Longhurst had stated? Why did Stuart lie and say Hannay was working at Kin Kin as a postmaster during this week? John Ryan (security guard) said that Stuart was seen in remote places with Hannay prior to the fire. Brian Little saw a note from Stuart saying he would do anything for Hannay. Why was he never properly questioned about the missing Whiskey funds? Why was he not quizzed about the fire at Alice’s, both from the point of view of an alleged insurance scam and the destruction of the Whiskey’s financial records when the company was still in the hands of the receiver? What was his relationship with the Clockwork Orange goons, and with McCulkin and O’Dempsey?  Why was he never asked about his relationship with Cabaret Holdings Pty Ltd and the alleged misfinancing? Why was he debiting money for the Littles through his own company, Prestige Artists? The police also had intelligence that Hannay had asked Stuart to intimidate Farr (a later Whiskey manager), but had never pursued Hannay about this. Why not?

Hannay always evaded answering queries and with his death he will never have to. His Supreme Court appearance during the trial of Stuart and Finch was special in this regard. He had ‘brain damage’ from a horse accident and gave incoherent answers during cross examination. Immediately after the trial Hannay made a miraculous recovery and resumed managing hotels and clubs.

Hannay never had to account for his actions because there is compelling evidence in the police’s own files that evidence was fabricated to ensure there was a quick resolution of the case and only Stuart and Finch went to jail


The Whiskey – The Police Fabrications (6 March 2019)

Here is some of the evidence that the police fabricated evidence against Stuart and Finch;

  1. Eyewitness accounts make Finch’s confession (unsigned record of interview) logistically implausible. His confession states he rolled the two drums from the north west corner into the foyer. However, one of the patrons was at this spot when the fire was ignited. He did not see Finch or anyone here.
  2. Regarding his refusal to sign his confession (as stated on his unsigned confession), Finch supposedly said, ‘That is always the code that I have followed in the past and that is my desire in this case.’ This was patently false. On seven previous occasions when Finch had confessed to a crime, he had always signed his own handwritten confession.
  3. According to the lead detectives Finch supposedly made a confession in the watch-house. The watch-house staff made internal statements which were never made public. These eyewitness accounts are in conflict with the lead detectives. They carry none of the incriminating verbal exchanges between Finch and Stuart where they admit their guilt.
  4. Finch, after having admitted to police that he was guilty, firstly at the Jindalee shopping centre, then at the Criminal Investigation Branch in his unsigned record of interview interview (less than three hours earlier), and then at the watch-house, seconds after saying to a room of a least 11 police officers that he was guilty, had his first opportunity to put his true thoughts down in his own handwriting. He did so on the charge sheet, writing ‘This property sheet is signed under protest as I have no knowledge whatsoever of record of interview. This is a police fabrication.’ In jail Stuart and Finch immediately wrote letters to detectives stating they had made no confessions. The letters are reproduced in Plunkett’s book.
  5. The detectives prepared Stuart’s 16 charge sheets before he was charged and before there was any evidence against him.
  6. Roger Rogerson had told a Bulletin reporter that he and the other lead detectives fabricated evidence. They did so because, although they ‘knew’ Stuart and Finch were involved, they had insufficient evidence to convict them. The police confirmed Rogerson was the ‘mole’ during an early 1990s secret investigation called ‘Operation Graveyard’.

When Stuart and Finch went to jail all investigations ceased, including the obvious evidence that others were involved.

The result of the ‘verballing’ is that one of Australia’s most prolific serial killers, Vincent O’Dempsey, an architect of the Whiskey fire, roamed free and murdered four more people, the McCulkins and Margaret Ward.

Why did they do it? Pressure. Despite the warnings specifying the Whiskey as a target, 15 people died. Reporter Brian Bolton piled on the angst with headlines such as ‘HEADS MUST ROLL’. The police needed an instant result. Finch, despite being beaten up would not talk and Stuart had an iron clad alibi at the time of the fire. As Roger Rogerson told reporter Bruce Stannard, ‘So, in the end, we said, right, fuck you, smart arse (Finch), we’ll do it our way. So we left him. We went into another room and that’s where we proved that the pen really was mightier than the sword.’


Man’s death a setback for inquest over 1973 fire – The Australian (4 March 2019)

David Murray’s exclusive is here;

The death of Queensland nightclub identity John Hannay has dealt a blow to a pending inquest into the deadly 1973 Whiskey Au Go Go firebombing.

The Beat Megaclub, the gay nightclub Hannay, 74, founded in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley in 1983, has confirmed he died “peacefully” in hospital at 8pm on Friday.

Hannay had loomed as an important figure in the upcoming inquest into the atrocity that killed 15 people. Two men — James Finch and John Stuart — were convicted over the fire, but suspicions have lingered for decades that Hannay and others may have been involved. He ­denied any involvement and will take any secrets to the grave.

“Hannay’s loss is a tragedy for the inquest and diminishes the chances of solving it,” said Geoff Plunkett, author of The Whiskey Au Go Go Massacre.

“Only he could answer the many questions that surrounded the mismanagement of the ­financial affairs of the Whiskey.”

The Queensland government ordered a new inquest after Vince O’Dempsey and Garry Dubois were given life sentences in 2017 over the murders of Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne in 1974.

At O’Dempsey’s trial, the court was told he feared Barbara McCulkin could have implicated him in the Whiskey fire.

Plunkett said there was evidence Hannay bankrupted the Whiskey through theft and the financing of a sister club. He had been humiliated by the Whiskey’s owners, who had sacked him twice. He also blamed them after being savagely beaten up.

“For these reasons he always held a grudge against the ­Whiskey owners,” Plunkett said.

“He has always evaded ­answering queries and with his death he will never have to.”

The Beat’s Facebook page mourns the loss of “our iconic and illustrious leader”.

“In its 35-year history, The Beat Megaclub opened its doors and welcomed everybody, but in particular offered a safe haven for the LGBT community,” it reads.

“Through its many eras, The Beat has touched the lives of thousands upon thousands of people in a way that only John Hannay could make possible.”

The Coroners Court is yet to set a date for the new inquest.