Silk–Miller police murders

The Silk–Miller murders (also known as the Moorabbin Police murders) was the name given to the murders of Victoria Police officers Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller in Cochranes Road, Moorabbin, Victoria, Australia, on 16 August 1998.

Silk–Miller police murders
Victims Gary Silk and Rodney Miller
LocationCochranes Road, Moorabbin, Victoria, Australia
Date16 August 1998 (1998-08-16)
c. 12:08 AM (UTC+10)
TargetSergeant Gary Silk, Senior Constable Rodney Miller
Attack type
Weapons.357 magnum, .38 calibre handgun[1]
Deaths2 police officers
AccusedJason Roberts, Bandali Debs

On the night of the murders, the police officers were staking out the Silky Emperor Restaurant near the corner of Cochranes and Warrigal Roads, Moorabbin, at approximately midnight when they were gunned down at close range.

Murders edit

On the night of 15 August 1998, Sergeant Gary Silk, 34, and Senior Constable Rodney Miller, 35, were seconded to a Victoria Police Armed Robbery Squad operation, named Operation Hamada, investigating a series of armed robberies committed in at least ten restaurants over a seven-year period, starting on 20 February 1991.[2] Silk and Miller, operating an unmarked patrol car (callsign Moorabbin 404), were assigned to stake out one of the potential targets: the Korean BBQ “Silky Emperor”.[2] At 10:50pm, Silk and Miller drove from the Korean BBQ when it closed for the night and joined two more officers sitting in another unmarked patrol car (callsign Moorabbin 403) parked outside the Silky Emperor Restaurant, arriving at 11pm and taking position in an underground car park next to the Silky Emperor. At 11:28pm, Silk and Miller spotted a dark blue Honda Civic pulling into the underground car park.[2] Upon seeing Silk and Miller, the Honda then reversed out of the car park at high speed, leading to a brief chase, only for Silk and Miller to lose the vehicle on the back streets.[2] After losing the Honda, Silk and Miller drove back to the underground car park and continued the stakeout.[2]

At 12:08am on 16 August, Silk and Miller spotted a dark-coloured Hyundai Excel X3 hatchback pulling in and out of the car park, prompting them to follow the vehicle.[3][2] After following the vehicle a short distance, Silk and Miller pulled the vehicle over. With Miller standing between the vehicle and the unmarked police vehicle, Silk walked over to the passenger side of the vehicle.[2] As he asked for the driver's details, the driver produced a revolver and fired through the Hyundai's passenger window, hitting Silk in the chest and pelvic area, sending Silk to the ground.[2] Miller, seeing Silk being shot, pulled out his service revolver and went to return fire, but a shot fired through the Hyundai's rear window caused Miller to duck, only for a second shot to be fired through the shattered rear window and hitting Miller under his left arm and exiting through his hip. After shooting Miller, the gunman got out of the vehicle, walked over to Silk lying on the verge next to the passenger side of the Hyundai, and fired a third shot to the head, killing Silk instantly. Despite being wounded, Miller returned four shots at the Hyundai as it was speeding off.[2]

Upon hearing the shots over the two-way radio, Silk and Miller's fellow officers in Moorabbin 403 responded to the scene, arriving at 12:11am and finding Silk dead and Miller missing; despite being mortally wounded, Miller had managed to walk the short distance back to the restaurant before collapsing on the verge, where he was found by a uniformed officer, still alive.[2] As Miller was loaded into the ambulance, he told responding officers that he and Silk had been shot by two gunmen. Miller was taken to Monash Medical Centre and later died of his injuries at 4:39am.[citation needed]

Operation Lorimer edit

The police team investigating the murders was code-named Operation Lorimer. Victorian Police Minister Andre Haermeyer announced a A$500,000 reward for information about the murders, and later said he would consider increasing the reward.[4]

Evidence left at the scene of the crime included pieces of glass, suspected to be from the getaway car used by the killers. Police tested this glass and discovered it came from a late-model Hyundai hatchback.[citation needed] After extensive investigations, which took the team to the Hyundai factory in South Korea to obtain vital prosecution evidence, police narrowed down the exact make and model of the vehicle involved in the shootings from the glass samples. The vehicle was registered to the daughter of known criminal Bandali Debs. Police also recovered three spent bullet casings matching those fired from Miller's service revolver, indicating Miller's fourth shot likely hit the gunmen's car.[2] Ballistics testing on the bullets recovered from the bodies of Silk and Miller revealed that two different firearms were used in the murders.[2] Ballistics also revealed the bullets matched those recovered from the scenes of the armed robberies that Silk and Miller were investigating as part of Operation Hamada.

Arrests edit

On 24 September 2001, Debs, a father of five from Narre Warren, Victoria, and Jason Joseph Roberts, boyfriend of Debs' daughter, an apprentice builder, of Cranbourne, Victoria, faced charges relating to the murders of Silk and Miller as well as 13 other charges of armed robbery relating to offences alleged to have occurred between March and July 1998.

Guilty verdict edit

On 17 February 2003, the trial began in the Supreme Court of Victoria (VSC 30), heard by Justice Philip Cummins.[1] On 23 February 2003, Debs and Roberts were found guilty of the murders and sentenced to life imprisonment.[5][6] Debs served part of his sentence at maximum security Victorian prison HM Prison Barwon[citation needed]; and, during the 2022 retrial of Roberts, he appeared via video-link from Goulburn Supermax Prison in New South Wales.[7]

Operation Gloucester edit

In 2015, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) started investigating improper practices during Lorimer Taskforce, but it was closed due to lack of evidence.[8] In November 2017, IBAC reopened Operation Gloucester after new evidence was obtained via media reports supporting the original allegations of misconduct. On 12 December 2018, IBAC announced it would hold public hearings on 4 February 2019 into "alleged serious misconduct" by Victoria Police officers.[9][10]

Jason Roberts retrial edit

On 23 June 2020, Roberts' retrial was held (VSCA 277), heard by Justice Terry Forrest, Justice Robert Osborn, and Acting Justice Lesley Taylor.[3] In November 2020, Roberts had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal and a retrial was ordered based on evidence tampering by the Victorian police. The appeal judges said the misconduct of one officer had corrupted the initial trial "as to poison it to its root".[11] It was found that Senior Constable Glenn Pullin destroyed his original statement, submitting a backdated statement instead, indicating that there were two offenders.[11] A fresh trial was ordered for Roberts, running for four months,[12] featuring 90 witnesses, 200 exhibits, and hours of recorded conversations.[13]

On 11 July 2022, the Supreme Court jury delivered its verdict after five days of deliberation, finding Roberts not guilty of two charges of murder, with Justice Stephen Kaye granting bail.[7][12][13] Kaye commended the jury for its effort, noting that in his whole experience "this case has been the hardest one I’ve seen for a jury, and I really mean that".[14]

Roberts spent a total of 22 years in prison and is due back in court to hear the sentence for 10 charges of armed robbery he has admitted to.[13]

In a statement via the police union, the families of the victims said they were "absolutely devastated by the decision".[15]

Aftermath edit

The Silk–Miller memorial plaque in the garden at the Prahran Police Station, Malvern Road, Prahran

Former police officer Joe D'Alo was a member of the task force investigating the shootings. He left the force and wrote a controversial book titled One Down, One Missing (ISBN 1-74066-141-9) about the crime.[16] Assistant Commissioner of Crime at the time, Simon Overland, said of the book,

"Victoria Police does not endorse or support this book. We were only told of the book after it had been written and the deal finalised with the publisher. We're extremely disappointed that a serving police officer would be involved in this publication without the knowledge or support of many of his task force colleagues."

Further convictions – Debs edit

In May 2007, Debs was convicted of a third murder of a teenager named Kristy Mary Harty in Beaconsfield Upper, Victoria, around June 1997. Debs was sentenced to a third term of life imprisonment without parole.[17] Debs was also found guilty of the April 1995 murder of Donna Ann Hicks, a mother of three from New South Wales, on 12 December 2011. Debs received another life sentence.[18]

Blue Ribbon Cup edit

Australian rules football clubs Hawthorn and St Kilda have played off for the Blue Ribbon Cup since 1999. The cup is dedicated to those who have died while on duty. The best player from the match receives the Silk–Miller Medal. Both men were passionate supporters of the sport. This annual game ensures that the legacy of the two men continues to live on in the lives of Victorians.[19]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b DPP v Debs & Roberts, 1527 30 (VSC 2003).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Underbelly Files: Tell Them Lucifer Was Here
  3. ^ a b Roberts v The Queen, 277 (VSCA 2020).
  4. ^ Breakthrough in police murder investigation
  5. ^ Pair found guilty of police murders
  6. ^ DPP v Debs & Roberts [2003] VSC 30 (24 February 2003), Supreme Court (Vic).
  7. ^ a b "Jason Roberts, jailed for decades over police murders, leaves court after not guilty verdict". ABC News. 11 July 2022. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  8. ^ "Background: Operation Gloucester" (PDF) (Press release). Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission.
  9. ^ Koob, Simone Fox (12 December 2018). "Corruption watchdog to hold public hearings into 1998 Silk-Miller murders". The Age. Retrieved 13 July 2022.
  10. ^ "IBAC to examine aspects of the Victoria Police investigation into the Silk-Miller murders" (PDF) (Press release). Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission.
  11. ^ a b "Jason Roberts's conviction for Silk-Miller murders overturned by Victorian court". the Guardian. Australian Associated Press. 10 November 2020. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  12. ^ a b "Jason Roberts walks free after being found not guilty of 1998 murders of two Victoria police". the Guardian. Australian Associated Press. 11 July 2022. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  13. ^ a b c Jaeger, Adam Cooper, Carla (11 July 2022). "Silk, Miller families 'devastated' after Jason Roberts found not guilty of murdering police officers". The Age. Retrieved 11 July 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Cooper, Adam (11 July 2022). "Judge commends Jason Roberts' jury after 'hardest' case". The Age. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  15. ^ Kristie Sullivan [@kristiesulliv] (11 July 2022). "Statement from the Silk and Miller families on the Roberts verdict" (Tweet). Retrieved 12 July 2022 – via Twitter.
  16. ^ Detective 'faces sack' over book
  17. ^ Police killer gets life sentence again
  18. ^ "Guilty of killing two prostitutes and two policemen". The Age. Australian Associated Press. 12 December 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  19. ^ "Blue Ribbon Cup".

External links edit