McGurk killing: how many hitmen were there?
22 October 2009
On Thursday 3 September at 6.30pm Michael McGurk was killed by a single bullet to the head as he stepped out of his late model black Merc on Cranbrook Avenue, Cremorne. The politically-linked loan-shark fell among the hot chips he’d gone with his 10 year-old son to buy, and died on the spot. The hit man, or men, vanished.
Six weeks later, police appealed for three men, spotted near the scene of the crime to come forward. Two of the men – of “white/European appearance”– were seen walking away from the shooting and about 50m from it. One was described as 183cm tall, medium build, broad nose, the other 188cm tall, medium build with dark collar-length hair. Both were wearing business suits. If you saw them in your street, you’d probably think they were estate agents. They walked up Cranbrook Street and were later seen crossing a small park towards Military Road.
Think about it. You’re one of a pair of blokes with legitimate business in the locality and, on the morning of 4 September you open the paper and discover the sensational news that, a few metres from where you had been the previous afternoon, a man was shot dead. It would have been the talk of the office. You and your colleague would have consulted … urgently. You’d have asked yourselves whether you’d seen anybody passing, or heard a gunshot. And then you’d have called the cops and told them what you’d seen … or not seen. Because, for example, the fact that you hadn’t seen anybody hurrying past you would mean that the killer probably fled in the other direction.
And anyway, you’d want to clear up your situation. You’d want to get in quick before a couple of big boofy Ds with Glocks and cheap suits came around wanting to know why you hadn’t called them like a good citizen. Yes Constable, I was in Cranbrook Avenue, but honest, it wasn’t us … ha, ha. I’ve never even held a gun. Me and Ralph were inspecting this property we had up for auction and we were walking back to the office and I know it must have been about 6.30 because I had to get home and no, I don’t remember seeing anything.
But they’re still wanting to talk to these blokes.
The third man was seen “lurking” across the road between noon and 3 pm on the same day. He was of Asian appearance, perhaps aged in his 30s, about 173 cm tall, of medium build, with a broad face and dark short hair. He wore a blue or black zip-up jacket, khaki shorts and work boots.
So he was posing as a tradesman or technician, right? Otherwise, what was he doing? Just sitting there? For three hours? Think about this. Six weeks after the killing he hadn’t come forward and the cops hadn’t traced him? The first old-fashioned shoe-leather investigative thing the Ds would have done was to go and knock on the doors across the road and ask if anybody had a gardener, or a handyman working there that day. And somebody would have been sent to check with Telstra and Sydney Water and whatever it is we call the folks who deliver the electricity these days whether they’d had a man working in the street.
If there was a perfectly simple explanation for this bloke, it would almost certainly have emerged by now. The serious money is on the theory that the third man was casing the joint.
Now the cops won’t say whether any of the three have come forward so let’s speculate on the basis that they haven’t. What are we looking at here – an assassination team of at least three men? It’s beginning to look like it. Three implies a serious conspiracy – something bigger and better-paid than the usual contract killing, of which there are an average of 12 a year in Australia and for which the average price is $12,700.
This was a very neat, professional, job. The hitman was so confident of his work he didn’t bother with a follow-up shot. Then he pocketed his pistol and walked away. If you have a look at the gallery of News Limited photos of the investigators at work the following day, you’ll notice a lot of peering under cars and searching of gutters and a cop with a metal detector. What they’d be looking for is a cartridge case and a bullet. Did they find them?
Semi-automatic pistols eject a cartridge case after each shot. With revolvers, it remains in the weapon’s cylinder until removed. An ejected cartridge is evidence. It links your weapon to the crime. A real pro would use a revolver for a job like this, or pick up the spent cartridge if he chose an automatic. In the heat of the moment, that would take serious cool.
Apparently there are two copies of the tapes of meetings that McGurk made – the cops have one copy and ICAC has the other. It’s whispered that the Premier’s Department tried to get a copy but the cops wouldn’t give them one. We live in interesting times.