The Rottnest head-in-the-bag police investigation is centred on a violent, notorious racing identity who is due to face court on serious drug charges on Friday but has not been seen for weeks.

_The West Australian _understands that police are now focusing on the last movements of Stephen Raymond Cookson, a long-time underworld figure.

Sources said last night Cookson, who is about 54 years old, lived in the Quattro apartment complex in Hay Street, East Perth. He was missing several upper front teeth and had a beard.

Cookson has convictions for armed robbery and payroll theft and was described as a regular gambler, with one source saying he would gamble thousands of dollars in a sitting.

When shown a 2005 photo of Cookson yesterday, residents at the complex told _The West Australian _they had seen the man in and around the apartment building.

One person who worked at a business Cookson regularly visited said he had not been seen for about three weeks.

Another said he regularly saw the man leave the apartments and get into a waiting taxi.

Cookson is due to appear in the District Court on Friday on one count of possessing methylamphetamine with intent to sell or supply.

Major crime squad detectives revealed last week that the head found by an 11-year-old girl beachcombing in Porpoise Bay on January 6 was missing seven front upper teeth and had a full beard and moustache.

They said he was aged between 30 and 60 years. Yesterday, detectives would neither confirm nor deny whether the person was Cookson.

Forensic scientists confirmed the identity of the victim last Thursday. Cookson's arrest on the drug charges would mean his DNA profile is held on a police database.

Cookson, a self-described equine consultant, was well-known in the racing industry, particularly in Perth's south. In August 2005, he was convicted of improper conduct and fined $5000 by stewards after he assaulted former racehorse owner Peter Graham, breaking his nose.

The assault happened the day before Mr Graham was to give evidence in a doping case.

Five months later, Cookson was investigated by police over the bashing of bloodstock agent Malcolm Ayoub at Mr Ayoub's Port Kennedy home. That prompted an article in _The West Australian _ which described him as "the baddest man in WA horse racing".

Cookson took issue with the moniker, saying: "It's easy to drag up my past, but it does me no good. I'm struggling to make a go of it and I'm just about having to eat the paint off the walls."

He offered to take a lie detector test to refute claims he had bashed Mr Ayoub with a wrought iron chair. He blamed Mr Ayoub's injuries on his "brittle bones".

He said Mr Ayoub's wife intervened during the bashing, spraying him with pepper spray and threatening him with a carving knife. The dispute was said to be over money.

Cookson also has convictions for heroin possession, stealing from his boss and spent time in a German prison for drug offences.

The West Australian

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