Investigative journalist David Murray tells the Stokes story;
The former magazine editor who made sensational claims about who was behind the Whiskey Au Go Go massacre before himself being convicted of murder has written a book detailing his involvement in a dark chapter in Queensland criminal history.
William Stokes, 77, writes in the book how a friendly association with the so-called Clockwork Orange Gang turned sour after the 1973 firebombing of the Whiskey, a popular nightclub in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.
The attack killed 15 people, and Mr Stokes says he came to fear his life was in danger because of what he knew about the gang.
He was later convicted of the murder of boxer Thomas Hamilton and spent 16 years in jail, but denies the charge.
He writes in the book about his connection to the Whiskey saga, which started when Hamilton boasted of being behind the arson of Brisbane nightclub Torino’s.
The Whiskey was torched less than a fortnight later and Mr Stokes says the offer of a record $50,000 reward for information “startled the life out of me”.
“If the gang was responsible, and thought I may be interested in collecting the reward, they would have to think about putting me in the ground,” he writes.
As editor of the magazine Port News in the 1970s, he accused in a series of articles gangland figure Vincent O’Dempsey of organising the firebombing.
He also accused O’Dempsey and associate Garry “Shorty” Dubois of the then-unsolved 1974 murders of Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki, 13, and Leanne, 11, saying it was because Barbara knew too much. Decades after his claims, O’Dempsey and Dubois were jailed for life in 2017 over the McCulkin murders.
The Queensland government then ordered a new inquest into the Whiskey firebombing, but more than two years later a date has yet to be set.
Two men, James Finch and John Stuart, were convicted over the Whiskey attack.
Mr Stokes has spent $1300 printing 20 copies of his book to give to publishers. He doesn’t discuss in the book his own murder conviction, but says his stance on it is the “same as it’s always been”.
“It’s never changed — I was not guilty,” he said. “I was led to believe if I mentioned anything to do with that or Hamilton, the book could be viewed as getting money from proceeds of crime.”