Underworld death declared after 36 years

·2-min read

Lauren Prendergast was just four years old when her father Laurie drove away from the family home in his Volvo one afternoon, never to be seen again.

Over the 36 years that have followed, she and her family have been subjected to the cruel heartache of whispers, rumours and innuendo about what happened to the then 35-year-old.

As well as being a father to Lauren, a husband to Ursula and stepfather, Laurie Prendergast was also an underworld criminal who feared for his life.

He was widely believed to have been part of the 1970s gang that carried out the Great Bookie Robbery, stealing millions from bookmakers in 1976, and was acquitted of murdering Les Kane two years later.

For a period before his disappearance he had taken to carrying a pistol with him when he left their Warrandyte family home, and slept with it under his pillow at night.

He was last seen leaving home in his car on the afternoon of August 23, 1985. The car was later found parked and locked in Heidelberg. Mr Prendergast hasn't been seen or heard from since and police proof of life checks across the country have failed to find any leads.

It was ruled in a 1990 inquest that Mr Prendergast had a "strong incentive" to disappear, a conclusion that was equally likely as his death.

At his family's request the inquest was reopened in the hope they could have his death officially declared, granting them closure after nearly four decades.

"Given my father's alleged criminal history I find it very disturbing and hard to fathom that any other conclusion could possibly be made, especially considering every close friend or associate of my father's has been murdered over the past 40 years," Lauren Prendergast told coroner Caitlin English on Friday.

Ms English granted them what they wanted, finding Mr Prendergast died on or after August 23, 1985.

She said his cause of death was unascertained but was a suspected homicide.

Ms Prendergast said it had been made clear over the years that answers to her questions about his death would not be afforded to her.

"It is so heartbreaking and disappointing that not a single soul has stepped forward over the last 36 years with any information to ease the torment we have had to endure," she said.

"Instead we have been subject tot whispers, rumours and innuendo - the cruellest and most cowardly heartache to bestow upon a grieving family."

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