A prominent Albany businessman plotted to have someone kill a woman in the Great Southern city, a Perth court was told yesterday.
Community identity Brian Vincent Attwell, 72, is behind bars on remand facing the rare charge of attempting to procure the commission of murder.
The identity of his alleged victim remains a secret because prosecutors have applied for a suppression order in Stirling Gardens Magistrate's Court covering three crucial State witnesses, including the intended target and another two civilians.
The West Australian is fighting the suppression bid on the grounds that it is not in the interests of open justice.
Magistrate Jan Whitbread reserved her decision on the order.
Prosecutor Sandra De Maio said gossip and speculation about the case was rife in Albany and confirmation of the identities of three of the main players would be inflammatory.
She said there were concerns that witnesses might be intimidated.
Ms De Maio said Mr Attwell, who sat in a wheelchair listening to court proceedings via video link from Albany Regional Prison, had contacts in the community ranging from the deputy mayor to a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang. The accused was arrested and charged late last month.
Ms De Maio said the alleged victim, who had been directly approached by community members about the case, feared for her safety despite police putting security measures in her home.
She said Mr Attwell had told police in his video record of interview that there were "40-odd" people in the town who wanted to get rid of her.
Mr Attwell's lawyer Tom Percy supported the prosecution's application despite telling the court the witnesses were in no danger from his client or his family.
He said his client's right to a fair trial could be at risk because he was such a "high-profile citizen" and noted the case could attract national publicity.
He said prejudices could arise because in any country town people had polarising views and successful business people always had enemies.
"The less publicity about this matter, the better," Mr Percy said.
He said the family business A.D. Contractors, an earthmoving, excavation and demolition company founded by Mr Attwell in 1970, could be "catastrophically affected" by adverse publicity.
Tony McCarthy, counsel for The West Australian, argued there was no evidence that witnesses' safety was at risk or that they would be unwilling to testify if their identities were published. He said Mr Attwell should not be treated any differently just because he was a high-profile citizen.
Mr McCarthy argued a suppression order would only serve to intensify the rumour mill that Mr Attwell had tried to hire a hitman to kill the woman.
Ms Whitbread remanded Mr Attwell in custody to appear again on November 28.
Mr Percy said he would not rule out making a bail application for Mr Attwell but told the court he was waiting on psychiatric and medical assessments.