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Terror at home

8 July, 2012
Reporter: Ross Coulthart
Producer: Mick O'Donnell

The bombing of the National Crime Authority (NCA) in Adelaide in March 1994 remains one of Australia’s most significant unresolved crimes.

The blast killed Police Detective Geoffrey Bowen and seriously injured lawyer Peter Wallis, striking at the heart of Australia's top crime fighting body.

For years, South Austraia’s Police and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) have maintained there was insufficient evidence against the known suspect, Domenic Perre, to proceed with criminal charges.

Now former South Australia DPP Paul Rofe QC has told Sunday Night he was not aware of key new evidence when his office made the decision not to prosecute.

The original 1994 case against Perre was weak. It was based on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of a witness called Alan Chamberlain, whose reliability came into question at committal.

But after Mr Rofe decided not to proceed with charges based on that evidence in late 1994, SA Police carried out investigative work with the then NCA in a sting operation designed to catch Mr Perre, the acknowledged chief suspect (subsequently identified as such by the Coronial inquiry).

Led by Colin McLaren, NCA undercover operatives - with the support of SA Police - obtained extraordinary evidence implicating Domenic Perre in the bombing.

It is these key admissions by Perre to police undercover agents which Mr Rofe now says may well have changed his mind, had he known about them.

The so-called meth lab sting evidence includes the following admissions by Perre:

  • Perre acknowledged a knowledge of red phosphorous, a highly inflammable controlled chemical used in the bomb (and also used in the illegal speed lab for which he was subsequently prosecuted). When asked by the undercover operative why he was reluctant to get it for the drug lab, Perre pulled down his lower eye lid and mouthed the word ‘bomb'... then said: “The police department, that’s what they were looking for."

  • Perre was also recorded admitting to an undercover officer about the bombing: “They were all f**king looking in the wrong place. It might be to fucking do with me. At least if they looked in the right place, they might find something instead of pissing me around.”

  • Perre also was recorded expressing his anger about his house being searched by NCA officer Bowen and said: “...they f**king annoyed me so much that I wish I’d f**king done and taken out the whole f**king building, you know. F**k them. The f**king bomb. I dream about it.”

  • When undercover operative Pahia raised the bombing directly with Perre and asked him if he did it, Perre nodded his head in the affirmative and smiled. On another occasion, Perre was mouthing the word ‘bomb’ to the undercover pointing at his chest and saying: “Do you know what I mean? Do you know what I mean." These conversations were recorded and independently corroborated by notes taken by NCA investigator Colin McLaren.

In July 1997, Perre did a deal where he pleaded guilty to the amphetamine lab charges on the basis that he was the architect and financier of the factory. Charges were dropped against all the other men by the prosecution. In 1999 the Coronial Inquest into the death of Geoffrey Bowen found that Perre was responsible for the parcel bomb sent to the NCA, which killed Mr Bowen. The meth lab evidence was raised at the inquest.

Paul Rofe was the South Australian DPP through to May 2004, throughout the period of the bombing, and during several reviews of the evidence, and throughout the Coronial inquiry which found Perre was responsible. Sunday Night asked Mr Rofe whether he was aware as DPP, since his original nolle prosecuii decision, of the new evidence obtained by the meth lab sting, in which Perre made a number of incriminatory admissions.

Mr Rofe told Sunday Night in an interview that he had never heard the detail of the evidence obtained against Perre in the meth lab sting:

“I don’t recall ever being made aware of it,” he said.

When asked whether his views on the prosecution brief against Perre might have changed if he had seen that evidence, he said: “It may have done.”

Mr Rofe told Sunday Night in an interview there was nothing stopping evidence against Perre obtained in the meth lab sting from being used in a prosecution and he repeated his claim that he was never asked to decide whether a prosecution was viable, based on that evidence.

Sunday Night also asked Mr Rofe whether, in light of the fact that 18 years have now passed since the bombing – with no-one prosecuted – and in light of his assertions that he had not even heard of this key evidence from the undercover recordings with Perre – that there was perhaps some merit in a fresh review of the case by an independent prosecutor/police agency outside SA.

He said: “Yes, I can see a case for that.”

He also said he could not mount an argument against the idea that, after so long since the bombing, the case against Perre should go to trial to see if a jury would convict.

Sunday Night have spoken to SA Police to double-check that, as DPP, Mr Rofe was provided with the drug lab sting evidence – and they have said he was so informed, contrary to his stated understanding.

Whatever the accuracy of Mr Rofe’s recollections, the issue remains that SA’s formerly most senior prosecutor suggests his office made a decision not to prosecute Perre without Mr Rofe as DPP fully considering the implications of the extraordinary admissions made by Perre in his recorded statements to undercover NCA officers.

Sunday Night approached the South Australia DPP Adam Kimber for comment. He declined to be interviewed, saying in a statement: