IN 2001 the body of Terry Falconer was found in the Hastings River on the north coast. It had been cut up and pack into a number roof parcels, of which eight were found. After a major investigation lasting decade, two brothers named Anthony and Andrew Perish were convicted of the murder. It turns out that Anthony was one of Sydney’s biggest criminals, and yet at the time of the murder the authorities knew almost nothing about him.
The brothers and their four siblings grew up in semi-rural Leppington in south-western Sydney, the grandchildren of Croatian immigrants. Their father, Albert, ran the family’s egg business. In 1993, the children’s elderly grandparents were shot dead in their home, a crime that remains unsolved.
By then Anthony was on the run after a warrant was issued for his arrest the year before for supplying amphetamines, which he’d been cooking in a shed on the family property. He was 23 at the time and spent the next 14 years hiding out at various places, including Turramurra, Queensland, a property at Girvan (between Bulahdelah and Scone in the Hunter Valley) and South Australia, where he had connections with the Gypsy Jokers and the major amphetamine manufacturer and disgraced solicitor Justin Birk Hill.
Andrew joined the Rebels Outlaw Motorcycle Club and in 1994 was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture amphetamines. In those less punitive times, he just received a fine of $2,500.
In 2001, the Perishes arranged for Terry Falconer to be kidnapped. There appear to have been two motives, each possibly based on a mistaken belief. One was that he was informing on the drug-dealing activities of the Rebels. The other was that he had killed the Perish’s grandparents back in 1993.
Falconer was in prison but on work-day release. Anthony hired three men to abduct him, for a fee of $15,000. On November 16, 2001, a lookout phoned Anthony to say Falconer was at work. The three kidnappers, posing as police officers, abducted Falconer and locked him in a metal toolbox, which was delivered to Anthony at Turramurra.
There, according to evidence later given in court, the box was opened and Falconer was still alive. The box was shut and taken to Girvan, by which time Falconer was dead. Anthony, his employee Matthew Lawton, and another man put on protective suits and laid a big sheet of plastic on the ground. After Falconer’s teeth were removed, his body was hoisted up inside a shed with a block and tackle, and cut up. The pieces were wrapped in black plastic, weighed down with stones and thrown into the Hastings River, where they were found a month later near Wauchope.
According to Strike Force Tuno’s chief, Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin, ”It was like a who’s who of NSW’s hardest criminals as to who had a motive and means to murder Falconer. We had a list of about 70 people of interest early in the investigation.” But no one was saying much. ”The brutality of the crime sent out a message to other criminal informants about the consequences of assisting the authorities.”
Strike Force Tuno began to suspect the Perishes of Falconer’s murder in mid-2002. An informant told them he’d been hired to dispose of Falconer’s body at sea, although the disposal had not gone ahead. It took another eight years to put the case together.
After the Perishes were arrested, police visited the remote property at Girvan where Anthony Perish had hidden, drugs had been made, and Terry Falconer had been dismembered. The perimeter was protected by machine guns and buried explosives. The approaches were covered by cameras linked to a control centre inside the house.
The Perish investigation, called Strike Force Tuno, was one of the most successful investigations in Australia’s history. Fourteen people were charged with more than 100 offences, with convictions achieved for every charge, including another murder and several attempted murders. Six other murders and two suspicious deaths are still being investigated.
For more information and pictures see the item on Anthony Perish in the Twenty Crime Bosses section of the museum.