By Anthony Thirlwall
MELBOURNE — A coronial hearing into the 1989 police shooting of Gary Abdallah has heard allegations from the victim's family and counsel that the shooting was an execution carried out by members of the Victorian police force.
On April 9, 1989, 24-year-old Abdallah was killed by police in his Carlton flat after being arrested by Senior Constable Clifford Lockwood and his partner Constable Dermott Avon. Police claim that Abdallah was taken to his flat to be questioned over the 1988 murders of constables Damien Eyre and Steven Tynan in Walsh Street, South Yarra. Abdallah is said to have produced an imitation pistol, prompting Lockwood to shoot him six times in self-defence.
Abdallah's family says an execution had been ordered by Detective Inspector John Noonan, head of the Ty-Eyre task force investigating the Walsh Street murders. The family claims Noonan ordered the execution because he believed Abdallah was involved but couldn't get enough evidence for a conviction.
Dyson Hore-Lacy, counsel for Abdallah's family, cited forensic evidence that Abdallah was kneeling with his hands behind his head and was shot in the back at least four times. He says the imitation pistol was planted, and had been seen at the City West police station in 1988.
Hore-Lacy says a listening device planted in Abdallah's flat had not produced any useful information and had been closed on the morning of the shooting. Noonan told the inquiry the closure had been due to limited resources, but Hore-Lacy says the Ty-Eyre task force had unlimited resources.
The lawyer also said there was no need for police to go to Abdallah's flat, because he had been reporting three times a week to Coburg police station on probation.
Geoff Horgan, counsel for the attorney-general, said the fatal shot to the back of Abdallah's head had been fired after the victim had been wounded several times and was on his knees with his back to Lockwood and his forehead resting against the wall. He said a police inquiry had been inadequate, but dismissed claims that the shooting was planned.
Graeme Morrish, counsel assisting the coroner, said Lockwood's claim that he shot in self-defence was "unsupported, unsworn, untested, self-serving and discredited". He agreed there was evidence that either Lockwood or Avon planted the imitation pistol after Abdallah was shot.
Nicole Feeley, from the Flemington and Kensington Legal Service, says Noonan lied to the inquiry when he said Abdallah was not a Walsh Street suspect "to avoid suggestions that the shooting was a pay-back". On December 12, 1988, a telex message had been sent to every police station in Victoria calling for Abdallah's arrest in the Walsh Street killings.
Feeley said Abdallah was the second person shot dead by police over Walsh Street. On November 17, 1988, Jedd Houghton, 23, was shot in Bendigo.
Feeley has called for a public inquiry into the role and funding of the police media liaison, accusing it of feeding reporters an inaccurate version of the shooting and trying to link Abdallah with violent crime to reduce public sympathy for him. The inquest is part of a wider coronial inquiry into police shootings in Victoria.