Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Fixer: The Rise and Fall of Australian Drug Lord Robert Trimbole

The Hit

While Trimbole went about his daily business virtually unchallenged, one local politician launched a campaign of his own against him.

Donald MacKay
Donald MacKay

Donald Bruce MacKay was born and raised in Griffith and managed the family furniture business. He had also been the districts Liberal Party candidate from 1973 to 1976, but failed to win a seat in parliament.

Very community-minded, Mackay became alarmed about the towns growing drug trade and set out to do something about it. He kept his eyes and ears open for any snippet of information.

Finally, in November 1975, he received word of a large marijuana crop near the town of Coleambally, 35 miles outside of Griffith.

Knowing that some of the local police were connected to Trimbole, Mackay took his information to the drug squad in Sydney. A raid was planned and carried out successfully, producing several arrests. Eventually five people of Italian descent were charged; four were convicted.

Unfortunately, during the trial a police notebook was sworn as evidence. While the information it contained wasnt that startling, it had serious consequences when its contents were read out in open court. The notes named Donald Mackay as the police informant responsible for the raid. Another raid had also been carried out in Euston near Griffith, which Mackay had no prior knowledge of, but police feared that he would be blamed for that as well.

The word filtered back to the Griffith drug gang. Several months later, an unidentified man tried to lure Mackay to the town of Jerilderie supposedly to order a large amount of furniture from him. That plan failed when Mackay was detained on another matter and sent an employee to the proposed meeting in his place. The mystery man did not materialize, but just weeks later on the evening of July 15, 1977, Donald Mackay disappeared from a hotel car park after having drinks with friends. He was never seen again.

An investigation of the scene where Mackays locked van was parked revealed blood stains, car keys and three spent .22 shell casings.

His disappearance sparked a public investigation that eventually led to a royal commission into the Griffith drug trade. Many believed that Robert Trimbole was responsible for ordering the hit.

The Woodward Royal Commission, named after its chairman, Justice Woodward, was formed and began the unenviable task of trying to unravel the truth about Mackays death, the Griffith illegal drug trade, and the men behind it.

After months of tough investigative work, the suspect list was whittled down to seven names, including Robert Trimbole, James Frederick Bazley (a known Melbourne underworld figure), and George Joseph and Gianfranco Tizzone, two associates of Trimbole.

Antonio Sergi
Antonio Sergi

In the official transcript Justice Woodward says, I have named Trimbole as being associated with the production of marijuana in Griffith as well as being the director of an operation in Euston he is, if not the top man in relation to the production of marijuana in the Griffith area, then one of them and closely associated with Antonio Sergi in the same enterprise. Sergi was one of Trimboles closest associates and business partners.

Regarding the disappearance of Mackay, Woodward found that the disposal of Mackay was the result of an organized plan He was disposed of by the organization which I find existed in Griffith I am satisfied that the appointment to meet Mackay at Jerilderie was part of a plan to ambush and dispose of him. A year later the New South Wales Supreme Court officially declared Donald Mackay as presumed deceased.

Despite the best efforts of the Royal commission, no further action was taken regarding the alleged murder of Donald Mackay. Trimbole and company returned to business as usual.

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