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The Michael Marshall hit was the beginning of the end for Carl Williams.

The hit that unravelled Carl Williams’ crime empire

ON A Sunday morning 15 years ago, then-Assistant Commissioner Simon Overland fronted a packed press conference at Victoria's Flinders St police headquarters.

The previous evening, a man called Michael Marshall had been shot dead in front of his young son in Joy St, South Yarra.

It was a killing which had all the hallmarks of being the latest addition to a long chain of gangland killings and was swiftly followed by the arrests of two men.

The October 26, 2003, conference - unusual in itself when homicide arrests had already been made - quickly took an unexpected turn.

Mr Overland publicly named the two men charged, veteran crime figures whose identities have since been suppressed.

 

Police search Joy St after the murder of Michael Marshall.
Police search Joy St after the murder of Michael Marshall.

 

The Michael Marshall murder came at a time when public concern about underworld executions had gripped Victoria.
The Michael Marshall murder came at a time when public concern about underworld executions had gripped Victoria.

 

The move was clearly at odds with Victoria Police's traditional protocols.

But it was indicative of the significance of what had unfolded at a time when concern about public underworld executions was gripping Victoria and police seemed powerless to apply the brakes.

Police had finally made a breakthrough and, although its full worth would not be realised for years, wanted it known this was a big development.

Others would die in coming months - most notably Graham Kinniburgh, Lewis Moran and Andrew Veniamin - but this was the beginning of the end for Williams, the architect of the bloody madness.

One of those detained - a man later to become known as The Runner - was suspected of being the triggerman in the shootings of Jason Moran and Pasquale Barbaro at a footy clinic earlier in year.

The Runner was a key henchman of drug boss Carl Williams and had a long criminal history of armed robberies, escapes and other serious offending.

 

Judy Moran weeps at the murder scene of her son Jason Moran.
Judy Moran weeps at the murder scene of her son Jason Moran.


Earlier on the day of the Marshall murder, he took a bag containing two guns to meet his getaway driver at Crown Casino.

If he wasn't expecting Marshall's five-year-old boy to be present, it did not put The Runner off his stroke.

The drug-dealing hotdog salesman was executed as coldly as so many of the others dispatched during this unprecedented era of gangland warfare.

It could have been another challenging and protracted investigation.

But a homicide squad crew, led by Sen-Sgt Rowland Legg, had months earlier identified the Marshall killers as the likely hit team in the Moran and Barbaro slayings.

They had The Driver and The Runner under surveillance in the period before they made their move on October 25.

Investigators knew another execution was imminent but did not know when, where or who would be the victim.

As they drove away from the Marshall scene, the gunman phoned Williams with a poorly coded messages for he and his father.

"Listen, I think that horse got scratched, the one that, ah, you and George tipped me for," the Runner said.

The surveillance material and phone taps were game, set and match for the Marshall killing.

First, The Driver decided to assist investigators, a hammer-blow for Williams.

The Runner provided some admirable loyalty before caving in.

 

Tony Mokbel. Picture: AP
Tony Mokbel. Picture: AP


At one stage, the resistance extended to he and Williams smearing themselves with their own waste - a practice known as bronzing up - to avoid a court date.

But it was a case of all dressed up with nowhere to go when they were told the matter was not to be heard that day.

By early 2006, The Runner had decided to come clean.

He outlined a meeting at a suburban Red Rooster restaurant attended by drug lord Tony Mokbel, as well as Carl and George Williams.

The Runner's statement said Mokbel was enraged at the murder of his drug-trafficker mate Willy Thompson at Chadstone some months earlier.

He held Marshall responsible and was prepared to pay Williams $300,000 to have The Runner eliminate him.

Mokbel was clearly in the dark about Williams being the real culprit in the Thompson killing.

Now, Williams was cashing in on avenging his own dirty work by condemning Marshall to death.

It was to end badly for all concerned, some coming off worse than others.

The Runner and The Driver have served stretches in jail for gangland killings.

Williams was later convicted of murders and drug crimes, in no small part due to The Runner's testimony.

Williams was beaten to death inside maximum security Barwon Prison

Mokbel fled Australia after learning he was to be charged over the Marshall killing.

He was later arrested in Greece and, despite never being convicted over the events of South Yarra, is doing a long stretch in prison for high-level drug offences.

Carl Williams.
Carl Williams.