An alleged bank robber is behind bars after turning himself in for the murder of a doting father and anti-drugs “champion” at an inner-Sydney heroin hotspot in the 1990s.
Robert McPherson and an associate were walking back from a bottle shop along a Redfern alleyway in January 1998 when they were attacked by a group of men armed with baseball bats, a chain, a stick and a knife, NSW detectives say.
Mr McPherson died of a stab wound to the left of his chest. He’d also sustained head injuries and lacerations likely from being whipped with a chain.
His friend survived with minor injuries.
Police bugged and searched a nearby home and eventually charged multiple members and associates of a suspected crime family with various roles in the killing.
Redfern police officer Richard McDonald told a parliamentary standing committee in 2003 that Mr McPherson was killed at a time the family’s nearby “drug-dealing fortress” was brazenly flooding the suburb with heroin and cocaine.
“Robert McPherson was an absolute champion,” the officer – who was suspended at the time – said.
“Mr McPherson used to get kids who were dealing drugs off the streets. All he did was walk home – they mouthed off at him and he might have mouthed off back.”
After years of complex legal proceedings, the prosecution of the group collapsed.
Then, on Wednesday, NSW Police caught a break. Nicholas Bentley handed himself in at Redfern Police Station over Mr McPherson’s murder and for robbing a bank in 2002.
Court documents show the 41-year-old allegedly entered a Commonwealth Bank in Botany on a March morning in 2002 armed with a chrome pistol. He allegedly made off with $385,000.
Bentley fronted Central Local Court on Thursday – two decades after his alleged crimes – where he made no application for bail and it was formally refused. No plea was recorded.
Mr McPherson’s daughter reportedly arrived at court to catch a glimpse of her father’s alleged killer on Thursday. He is expected before the same court again on June 13.
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