Sunday, August 3, 2008

Standen in spotlight

John Kidman
August 3, 2008

DETECTIVES reinvestigating the 30-year-old murder of Sydney teenager Trudie Adams are to question disgraced NSW Crime Commission assistant director Mark Standen in jail.

Insiders say the move is designed to determine the nature of the jailed law enforcement boss's long-term friendship with John Anderson, one of the key suspects in the slaying of the 18-year-old business college student.

Career criminal Anderson is also considering a deal with prosecutors after the sudden postponement of his sentencing on unrelated drug charges, The Sun-Herald has learned.

The developments follow the announcement of a $250,000 police reward for information leading to a conviction over Ms Adams's murder and a series of rapes on Sydney's northern beaches.

Sources have also revealed the case is linked to a string of unsolved killings, including the 1984-85 murders of Andrea Wharton and Ante Yelavich, and the 1991 execution of former Australian light-heavyweight boxer and heroin dealer Roy Thurgar. Insiders have likened the scenario to "an underworld mosaic", with the chances of solving the long-cold homicides hinging on what Anderson reveals.

On June 2, Standen was accused of involvement in a $120 million global drug conspiracy and arrested by federal police.

Anderson, 68, who is understood to be suffering from hepatitis C and dementia, was charged with trying to smuggle 27kilograms of cocaine into Australia chained to the hulls of cargo ships, including the Tampa, in 2006. His son Michael, 30, has been convicted over the same matter, with the potential length of his jail sentence allegedly crucial to any deal in the Adams case, sources say.

Ms Adams was last seen with a group of men outside Newport Surf Life Saving Club on June 24, 1978.

Her body has not been found. After she disappeared, a stream of young women came forward to report being kidnapped and assaulted in the previous 10 months, by two armed men aged in their 30s along Barrenjoey Road.

While not prepared to name Anderson or his accomplices, homicide squad commander Detective Superintendent Geoff Beresford said last week there was little doubt the attacks were connected. "Based on that link, if you like, it makes us confident that the same offenders are responsible for all those offences," he said.

At the time, some detectives were so convinced more could have been done to prosecute Anderson - also known as Neville Tween - and his alleged co-offender that a complaint alleging a lack of support in the matter was lodged with the Police Integrity Commission. It is still being examined.

Inquiries by detectives at Manly this year into the murder of Mr Yelavich identified Anderson as the last known person to see him, outside the Manly Pacific Hotel on September 2, 1985.

Routine inquiries into Anderson's background then found Standen's son Matthew staying in the home of Anderson's estranged wife Susan.

There is no suggestion Matthew Standen was aware of Anderson's activities. It was also established Mark Standen had been a close friend of Anderson for at least 30 years and a regular visitor to his Central Coast home.

Mr Yelavich's girlfriend, Ms Wharton, was last heard from on February 19, 1984, when she rang her mother to say she was staying with friends at Byron Bay.

Police sources say she became embroiled in a fatal dispute with an underworld associate of Anderson over an alleged drug rip-off and that, in the weeks before she vanished, she was warned off by hitman Christopher Dale Flannery. Detectives believe Mr Yelavich was killed after subsequently threatening revenge.

Inquiries have also revealed that the other man suspected of Ms Adams's murder is a person of renewed interest in the slaying of Thurgar, who was shot dead outside his wife's laundromat in Alison Road, Randwick, in May 1991.