Rifle theory thickens missing campers plot
If and when the Wonnangatta mystery is solved and the fate of Russell Hill and his friend Carol Clay is finally known, it will probably be down to dogged police work.
After a slow start in March last year, the police have chased down the best leads while monitoring "people of interest" to see if any splash of publicity loosens lips about the missing campers.
So far, there have been stories about the unidentified 4WD, an identical drone to Russell Hill's being found - and, perhaps oddest of all, two apparently new shovels located in scrub near a road near Mt Hotham, 80kms from the vanished pair's campsite.
Before that, the story centred on "Button Man", an eccentric loner and spear hunter who camps in the bush for weeks at a time and spooks deer hunters and bushwalkers by appearing at their camps.
Button Man, so called because of large decorative "buttons" in his earlobes, has apparently been cleared of suspicion. Which is reassuring, because (counting the Wonnangatta couple) in 12 months four people have gone missing around where Button Man is home on the range.
It turns out that a longtime Deadline contact was second at the scene of the camp in the Wonnangatta valley back in March last year. Our man (let's call him Mick) was on a camping trip with his young son, Billy the Kid, grandson of a well-known mountain cattleman.
Mick and Billy wondered about the burned-out tent and scorched vehicle when they saw it that week.
Mick reported it to police at Sale and then, later, at Myrtleford - and was struck by the dismissive reception. And surprised that police at one station apparently did not know of the report already made at the other station.
Anyone would think they were using smoke signals instead of telephones.
Mick told the police they'd seen a white 4WD, similar to a Toyota HiLux, with a blue tarpaulin stretched over a frame on the back.
He also said that bulldozer operators on the Mt Buffalo side of Wonnangatta told him a suspicious-looking white Land Cruiser had been around when diesel and firewood was stolen from their roadside camp.
It was only when missing persons investigators got around to contacting Mick that he remembered finding a fluorescent green crossbow arrow, or "bolt", not far from the burnt-out camp.
The arrow did not strike him as sinister at first because hundreds of hunters visit the area.
On the other hand, crossbows are silent and appeal to people who might not be able to buy guns legally.
Meanwhile, local shooters and farmers wonder about the thermal-imaging rifle sights used by rogue hunters who shoot stags and take their heads to sell for cash (or drugs) on the black market.
Thermal imaging helps shooters with high-powered rifles to spot deer at ranges of up to 800m, they say.
At which range, the blurry thermal image of, say, a human bending over might be mistaken for a deer, with fatal results. Culpable negligence could easily turn to murder in a panicked cover-up.
HOLD MY BEER
Paddy Murphy is no stranger to dealing with dangerous reptiles.
But the Walkley Award-winning journo and, more recently, communications guru at hotshot law firm Maurice Blackburn had to deal with the real thing during the week.
This was when a lively young snake lobbed in the kitchen of his mouse-infested holiday rental in the Great Australian Bight.
As Murphy's housemates beat a retreat to workshop ways to downsize the serpent, action man Murphy carefully put down his Coopers stubby and went to work.
He cornered the snake under a chest of drawers, extracted it with a pair of barbecue tongs, tossed it in a pillow case and strolled outside to set it free.
Steve Irwin eat your heart out.
The reptile, if not a King Brown, was certainly brown in colour. It was last seen decamping in a westerly direction towards the Nullarbor.
THE GANGS THAT CAN'T SHOOT STRAIGHT
Outlaw motorcycle gangs just can't get good help.
Wise old bikies like the late "Ball Bearing" Coelho were too smart to get involved when someone like black widow stripper Robyn Lindholm came looking for a hit man for hire.
But gang bosses who want to be distanced from contract killings end up hiring idiot "prospects" and "hang arounds" whose IQs are lower than the calibre of their guns.
Investigators suspect that the latest bikie-related shooting, at Ravenhall a few weeks ago, is another dumb-and-dumber debacle in which the wrong man was shot.
Ikenasio "Sio" Tuivasa, 33, was standing outside the All Star Lounge on Westwood Drive with family members and friends, when he was shot dead from a moving utility just before midnight on February 27.
As far as police can tell, the victim's worst mistake in life was to lift his head when the gunman called out to him in Tongan.
If the shooting was a mistake, it's nowhere near the first.
There's the tragic story of Zabi Ezedyar, 26, who was killed in 2017 while visiting the Narre Warren home of Mohammad "Afghan Ali" Keshtiar, who is linked to the Mongols, enemies of the Comanchero gang.
Just months earlier, Muhammad Yucel was shot dead in Keysborough, almost certainly because he lives in an identical house in the same street as a bikie target, a former Mongols gang member.
On the subject of murder by mistake, the jury is still out on the case of suburban fruit shop owner Paul Virgona, shot dead in his van on the East Link freeway at Donvale in November 2019. If it is a mistake, no one can work out who the real target was.
Four signed photographs of "Jim Goose", the character played by Steve Bisley in the Mad Max film. The seller is one S. Bisley, who is presumably either moving house or just cashing in unwanted memorabilia.
Also available down Geelong way if someone has enough lazy cash: a pinball machine originally from the house of Sydney vice king Abe Saffron. It's probably rigged.
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Originally published as Rifle theory thickens missing campers plot