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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.