SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 31: Lucky Gattelari is escorted to a police car under special security at King Street court on January 31, 2017 in Sydney, . (Photo by Daniel Munoz/Fairfax Media) Photo: Daniel MunozAfter nearly three weeks of deliberations, the jury in the murder trial of property developer Ron Medich has been unable to reach a majority verdict.
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Mr Medich, who celebrated his 69th birthday on Tuesday, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Cremorne wheeler dealer Michael McGurk and the subsequent intimidation of his widow Kimberley.

Shortly before 4 o’clock on Thursday afternoon, the jury of seven men and five women sent a note to Justice Geoffrey Bellew indicating they had not been able to form a unanimous verdict. “This does not look likely to change,” the note said.

Because the voting patterns disclosed to the judge were so far apart, he decided it would be pointless to offer them a chance to reach an 11-1 majority verdict.

The accused frowned while his daughter Pamela cried.

Mrs McGurk comforted her two daughters in the King Street court room as they wept.

It had all come down to the word of one man.

The Crown’s star witness and Mr Medich’s once close friend, Fortunato “Lucky” Gattellari, gave evidence that Mr Medich was “the big boss” who had ordered and paid for the 2009 murder of Mr McGurk.

The NSW Supreme Court heard that Mr Medich was enraged over a string of lawsuits in which he and Mr McGurk were embroiled.

Accusations of fraud flew back and forth with each claiming the other owed him millions of dollars. The pair were feuding over soured property deals, a loan company and mortgages linked to a house in Point Piper.

According to Gattellari, by early 2009, Mr Medich had had enough.

After a series of losses in court, Mr Medich complained bitterly to Gattellari that Mr McGurk was making “a fool of me, the laughing stock of the eastern suburbs”.

“I want it done,” Mr Medich allegedly told Gattellari.

Gattellari, a former professional lightweight boxer and one-time Qantas steward, told the court he hoped Mr Medich’s desire for the ultimate revenge would blow over. But Mr Medich allegedly continued to badger him about whether he had found a prospective hitman.

Gattellari’s lifestyle, which kicked off each morning with a cognac and cigar, was funded by Mr Medich’s astonishing largesse. Not only did Mr Medich fund their daily boozy lunches, visits to brothels and overseas jaunts, Mr Medich also poured $16 million into Gattellari’s failing electrical companies.

With his younger brother Roy, Mr Medich had made his fortune developing industrial sites in Liverpool.

In 2008, the brothers fell out and, after selling their interest in Leichhardt’s Norton Street Plaza for $112 million, Roy and Ron went their own ways.

Around the eastern suburbs, Mr Medich had the unfortunate nickname “Cottee’s” after the Thick’n’Rich ice-cream topping. The portrait painted of Mr Medich’s business acumen throughout the trial was not a pretty one. He squandered millions of dollars on questionable business deals, with dubious partners and without any documentation.

He invested in an Aboriginal funeral business (which was shut down by the corporate regulator), a failed property development with an Aboriginal land council (which was referred to ICAC) and had offered a $25 million loan facility to a pay-day lending company.

On top of that, there were the millions of dollars he had invested in Mr McGurk’s property deals, the $16 million in Gattellari’s companies as well as a host of unsecured and undocumented personal loans to associates and hangers-on.

The cycle of Mr Medich’s business failures meant that whoever became his new “best friend” was asked to try to recoup Mr Medich’s investments, usually by way of menace, according to the evidence.

Gattellari’s predecessor was the Scottish-born Mr McGurk who was dispatched to Hawaii by Mr Medich to threaten Paul Mathieson, the founder of Amazing Loans, the court heard.

In November 2008, Mr McGurk firebombed the home of Adam and Sally-Anne Tilley in Point Piper.

The waterfront house in Wolseley Road had been owned briefly by Mr Medich and his then-wife Odetta. The Medichs had found a superior residence up the road so they lent the Tilleys the money to buy their redundant mansion.

However, the Tilleys fell behind with the payments so Mr Medich handed this problem to Mr McGurk to fix.

When legal action against the Tilleys failed, Mr McGurk went to plan B, firebombing their house. Mr Medich posted his $100,000 bail when Mr McGurk was charged with arson in January 2009.

The charges were dropped not long before Mr McGurk was murdered.

But within weeks Mr Medich had withdrawn the bail surety and the duo were now at war. This meant the vacant position of consigliere to Mr Medich was free for Gattellari to fill.

Keen to keep his benefactor happy, Gattellari said he recruited brothers Haissam and Bassam Safetli to murder Mr McGurk.

The brothers, who were doing odd jobs for Gattellari’s electrical company, set the price for murder at $300,000 plus expenses.

“F—, that’s a lot of money,” Mr Medich complained, according to Gattellari.

After initially baulking at the cost, Mr Medich eventually forked out between $500,000 and $600,000 for the murder of Mr McGurk, the court heard.

And, when Mrs McGurk didn’t pay the millions Mr Medich felt her husband owed him, Mr Medich instructed Gattellari to have her threatened.

Gattellari’s evidence was that he organised the murder on behalf of Mr Medich. However, complicating matters for the Crown was that he was recently charged over trying to extort $15 million from Mr Medich to change his evidence (using the now convicted murderers Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara as go-betweens).

“Lucky Gattellari is never going to be awarded n of the Year,” Crown prosecutor Gina O’Rourke, SC, told the jury.

“But who do you go to if you want to arrange a murder and an intimidation?” she posed. “If you are the accused, ladies and gentlemen, you go to Lucky Gattellari. That is exactly what he did.”

On the evening of September 3, 2009, Haissam Safetli, then 45, and Christopher “The Kid” Estephan, 19, fortified with Jim Beam bourbon from the local Cremorne bottle shop, waited for Mr McGurk.

At 6.25pm Mr McGurk and his nine-year-old son arrived home with a takeaway chicken and chips for dinner. As Mr McGurk alighted from his Mercedes he was shot in the head.

His terrified son ran up the side path of the family’s Cremorne home screaming, “Mummy, mummy, dad’s been hurt. There was a pop and there’s blood.”

Mrs McGurk rushed out to find her husband, half out of the car, a bullet hole behind his right ear.

At 8.03pm, Bassam Safetli sent a text to Gattellari’s right-hand man Senad Kaminic, saying: “Job’s done.”

Kaminic told an earlier hearing that Bassam complained to him about his brother’s stupidity, including that, on the night of the murder, Haissam had burned his clothes, forgetting that some of the murder money was still in his pocket.

“Look at this idiot. And they believe it was a professional hit,” Bassam is alleged to have told Kaminic.

The Director of Public Prosecutions will now decide whether Mr Medich will face a new trial, a likely prospect according to his barrister Winston Terracini, SC. Mr Medich left the court without speaking.

Shouts could be heard from the jury room after they left the courtroom. Whether it was from relief or joy was not clear.

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Waiting for a tragedy Concerns: Margarete Ritchie on the side of Brandy Hill Road early this year as trucks drive to and from the Hanson-owned Brandy Hill Quarry. Residents fear more crashes if the quarry expands.
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Fatality: A car driven by a man, 27, who died at the scene of a crash on the intersection of Clarencetown Road and Brandy Hill Road at Brandy Hill on Thursday. Picture: Simone De Peak.

Warnings: Residents were horrified by the fatal crash only a week after they filmed the intersection because of crash concerns. Picture: Simone De Peak.

Expansion: The intersection where a man died in a crash on Thursday is likely to see much greater use if quarry expansion plans go ahead.

Fatal: The car in which a man died on Thursday.

TweetFacebookIt was going to happen. We knew it was going to happen.

Brandy Hill resident Margarete RitchieTraffic accident data showed five crasheswithin a 500 metre radius of the intersection within the past six years, including one fatality, with only one crashat the intersection itself. No crashes involved quarry trucks.

It recommended increasing road safety by reducing the Clarence Town Road speed limit to 80kph.

At a meeting on March 22 involving the Department of Planning, Brandy Hill and Seaham Action Group and Brandy Hill Quarry representatives, action group member Deb Fisher spelt out residents’ concerns about the intersection.

“There is insufficient time for a car to stop when a truck is passing through the Clarence Town Road and Brandy Hill Drive intersection,” she said.

While it took a loaded truck and trailer up to 20 seconds to cross the intersection from a standing start at the stop sign leading from the quarry, cars travelling at 100kph on Clarence Town Road towards the intersection had only six seconds to brake after cresting a hill at which the intersection became visible.

“There are safety concerns not only for residents but the truck drivers themselves,” Mrs Fisher said.

Mrs Ritchie said she was invited to spend a day with a truck driver several years ago when the quarry’s increasing operations caused alarm for residents because of the number of trucks using Brandy Hill Drive.

“The first thing we did was pull out of the intersection and the truck driver said to me ‘This is where I start praying’ because they pull out and cars crest the hill at speed and the trucks can’t drive any faster,” Mrs Ritchie said.

Residents strongly opposed increasing the quarry’s operating hours from 6am to 6pm to 24 hours a day, and said the combined impact of an expanded Brandy Hill Quarry and an expanded Martins Creek Quarry on roads that were not designed to accommodate hundreds of heavy truck movements a day would make the area inherently unsafe.

A record of the March 22 meeting shows Department of Planning team leader Colin Phillips told residents that “at this time it is agreed that the current intersection analysis (including the Clarence Town Road/Brandy Hill Drive intersection) is not sufficient”.

Mr Phillips also agreed that bus stops along Brandy Hill Drive where Brandy Hill and Martins Creek quarry trucks travel were “not big enough”, which Mrs Ritchie described as an understatement.

“The increase in truck traffic is enormous. The current 340 trucks per day will be increased by 505 to844 truck movements per day. At peak this will be 110 trucks per hour,” Mrs Ritchie said.

“Add to this the same number of truck movements from Martins Creek Quarry with itsproposal of 1.5million and you can see that the residents of Brandy Hill Drive will find it very hard to exist.”

In its environmental impact statement Hanson said the truck movements would have low to moderate impact on residents.

Hanson has identified more than 78 million tonnes of available material within the proposed new extraction area of more than 78 hectares.

”The ability to continue supplying the Hunter region with products from Brandy Hill Quarryensures a competitive market in the region. The high cost of transporting materials creates the need for quarries to be in close proximity to large existing markets, such as the Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast areas,” Hanson said.

The crash on Thursday was “very sad”, and its traffic reporthad been independently assessed, a Hansonspokesman said.

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Barnaby Joyce has been called “irresponsible” by one of ‘s most senior conservationists after the Deputy Prime Minister dismissed wetlands adjoining Adani’s Abbot Point coal port as little more than a “duck-shooting pond”.
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The brawl over Adani’s threats to the onshore environment and the Great Barrier Reef escalated as Liberal backbencher Sarah Henderson broke ranks to question a potential $1 billion government loan to develop rail infrastructure for the Indian conglomerate’s proposed Carmichael mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

n Conservation Council president Geoff Cousins said Mr Joyce had “failed to check his facts” on the Caley Valley wetlands, a 5000-hectare bird habitat that environmentalists say was damaged by coal dust contamination from the Adani terminal during cyclone Debbie.

Mr Joyce this week played down the wetlands’ ecological value, describing it as a “swamp” built for duck shooters.

Minister for Resources and Northern Matt Canavan repeated the claim on Wednesday, saying the area was “a man-made swamp that was created for duck shooting in the 1950s”.

The first member of the government to make the claim appears to have been Dawson MP George Christensen, who was quoted in 2015 as saying “the area the extreme greens pretend to care about was actually a dry flat plain until two gun clubs got together in the 1950s to divert a watercourse and create a pond where they could shoot ducks”.

According to the federal government’s Directory of Important Wetlands in , Caley Valley is a diverse and permanent wetland “exceptionally important for waterbirds” and eligible for international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

It estimates that just 0.2 per cent of the wetlands have been modified by humans.

The directory, issued by the Department of Environment and Energy, places the hydrological history of the area as “post-ice age” when sediments from the Euri Creek and the Don River met the “recently inundated (by a post-ice age sea level rise) coastline”.

A 2010 baseline report to the Queensland government acknowledged that the wetlands were modified in the 1950s to increase fresh water to “promote recreational waterfowl hunting”, but that was banned in 2005.

Mr Cousins said the bund walls made by shooters were never effective and did not significantly alter the wetlands.

“Barnaby Joyce showed a complete lack of effort to check the facts,” he said.

“He’s acting irresponsibly and damaging the credibility of the government. I don’t think this person is a fit person to be a minister of the crown.”

A spokesman for Mr Joyce said nothing in Mr Cousins’ comments changed the wetlands’ history as a duck-shooting pond. “You can’t pretend a historical fact doesn’t exist simply because you don’t like the fact,” he said.

Despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s pledge that the loan decision process would be done “scrupulously independently”, Mr Joyce and Mr Canavan have been enthusiastic about the prospect of Adani’s Carmichael mine receiving the $1 billion concessional loan from the government.

Fairfax Media revealed on Wednesday that comments by Adani saying the finance was not “critical” to the project could rule it out of receiving the loan via the $5 billion Northern Infrastructure Fund (NAIF).

Ms Henderson, who holds the marginal Victorian seat of Corangamite, has become the second Liberal MP to raise concern about Adani receiving a public loan, after Queenslander Bert van Manen said the rail line should not be in the hands of one company.

Following a meeting with representative from GetUp, Ms Henderson wrote to the activist group outlining her concerns and saying she had contacted Mr Canavan over them.

“I too share your concerns on commercial grounds,” she wrote.

“I am advised that the project has now been significantly scaled back and involves just an open-cut mine, and no underground collieries … Due to the scale back, total investment has been reduced significantly as have the number of new jobs forecast.

“I note the NAIF’s Investment Mandate Direction 2016, which provides a number of important investment safeguards. Notwithstanding, I am concerned about the commercial risk involved in the government providing such a significant loan to Adani under these circumstances.”

GetUp director Sam Regester claimed people were “outraged” at the prospect of the loan to Adani.

“Queensland needs a lot of money for reconstruction from cyclone Debbie,” he said. “But this government would prefer to pay for infrastructure that only benefits foreign coal companies.”

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CREATING HISTORY: Artist Gino Volpato, the creator of the Munmorah Mural, inspects the work in the power station’s foyer. Picture: Volpatohatz苏州夜总会招聘
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Support for saving the mural at the decommissioned Munmorah Power Station is coming from afar – but remains close to the heart of the artwork.

The facility is being demolished, with the power station’slandmark 155-metre high twin stacks alreadytoppled by a controlled explosion in March.

Agroup of former power industry workers, calling itself the Munmorah Reunion Committee, is trying to rescue the 9-metre long mural from the old administration building before it is demolished.

The‘Munmorah Mural’ was created from more than 800 ceramic tiles by artist and architect Gino Volpato in 1966, when the power station was being built. It depicts the electricity generation process.Mr Volpato died in 2008. Buthis son, Marco Volpato, who is an architect based in Switzerland, said thefamily was delighted that there was a push to save the mural,as he and his sister had been trying for five years to garner support.

“We were pretty much in despair about what to do,” Mr Volpato said from his officein Basel. Mr Volpato said they had approached several state government departments, the Powerhouse Museum, councils and businesses, “but we kept hitting dead ends”.

Mr Volpato said his father was “immensely proud” of the mural, because of its scale and thathe had portrayed the importance of the power industry.He and his sister were “lost for words” when they received an email from committee members in Lake Macquarie, explaining their campaignto have the mural rescuedand rehoused.

“There is still some hope out there to be able to preserve history,” Mr Volpato said. “We can provide backing, both on the historical and technical side of things.”

Committee member Bob Porter, who had worked at Munmorah Power Station, said “it was startling news to us” to learn from MarcoVolpatothat the familyhad been trying for years toarouse official interest to savethe mural.

“We’re very keen to further the alliance and to garner the family’sexpertise in the preservation of the mural,” Mr Porter said.

Steve Saladine, the managing director of Generator Property Management, the NSW Government business that owned Munmorah Power Station, told the Herald in March that experts had advised him it would be difficult to remove the mural without damaging it.However, Mr Volpato said he saw the mural three years ago, and “I think it’s salvageable”. He saidit would require further inspection and may have to be removed piece by piece.

As for finding a new home for the mural, the committee is already receiving offers, including from the CFMEU’snorthern district office.

CFMEU northern mining and NSW energy district president Peter Jordan said many members had worked at Munmorah Power Station, and he believed a covered area near the memorial wall at the union’s Cessnock office could offer apossible site for the mural.

“We’d pride ourselves to show off that bit of history for ever and a day,” Mr Jordan said.

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Long road to Testers solution | PHOTOS Testers Hollow was blocked for almost five days in January 2016. Picture: Nick Bielby
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OVERDUE: Great-granddaughter of William Tester June Hirst believes the flooding problem should have been fixed long ago. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

FRUSTRATION: Cliftleigh resident Sonia Warby and daughter Kirra-lea after the January 2016 storm closed Testers Hollow for almost five days.

Testers Hollow was blocked for almost five days in January 2016. Picture: Nick Bielby

Testers Hollow was closed from April 21 to May 7, 2015 due to flooding. Photo: Sage Swinton

Testers Hollow was closed from April 21 to May 7, 2015 due to flooding. Photo: Sage Swinton

Cars contend with flood waters as Testers Hollow rises during the April storm. Photo: Sonia Warby.

Boat crews help send supplies to Gillieston Heights, which was cut off by floodwater on both sides in April 2015. Photo: Sonia Warby.

Boat crews help send supplies to Gillieston Heights, which was cut off by floodwater on both sides in April 2015. Photo: Sonia Warby.

Testers Hollow was closed from April 21 to May 7, 2015 due to flooding. Photo: Sonia Warby.

Testers Hollow was closed from April 21 to May 7, 2015 due to flooding. Photo: Sonia Warby.

Boat crews help send supplies to Gillieston Heights, which was cut off by floodwater on both sides in April 2015. Photo: Sonia Warby.

Testers Hollow was closed from April 21 to May 7, 2015 due to flooding. Photo: Sonia Warby.

A bus trapped in floodwater at Testers Hollow in 1929.

A bus trapped in floodwater at Testers Hollow in 1929.

Passengers from the stranded bus were rowed to dry land.

Testers Hollow

East Maitland, across from golf course. Picture by Charles Willacy

Morpeth. Picture by Charles Willacy

No through road, Morpeth. Picture by Charles Willacy

Morpeth park. Picture by Charles Willacy

Horseshoe Bend, Maitland. Picture by Charles Willacy

Morpeth. Picture by Charles Willacy

East Maitland. Picture by Charles Willacy

TweetFacebookRelated contentFairfax Mediahas pushed with its Raise the Road campaign, community members have collected signatures on petitions calling for action and local politicians have exerted pressure on the ruling party.

Newspaper archives from as early as1927contain reports of the chaos caused when rain flooded the major road between Maitland and Cessnock–twohubs of the Lower Hunter.

The Maitland Weekly Mercuryreported on New Year’s Day, 1927, that the water had cut the road after rising two metres.

A couple of years later, in October, 1929, aCessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorderreport contained details of five people being rescued after the bus they were travelling in hit strife on the inundated road on a journey to Kurri Kurri.

In that same month, theNewcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocatecalled Testers Hollow a“flood menace”.

“Since the opening up of the Maitlandcoalfield and the construction of the existing road from Maitlandthrough KurriKurri to Cessnock,the necessity for raising that part of the road, known as TestersHollow, hasbeen stressed by localgovernment bodies, progress associations,and engineers,” the newspaper reported.

Asearch of Trove–the National Library of –shows there has been ongoing talk about raising the road for at least 90 years.

Most recently, the issue came to a head in the aftermath of the April super storm in 2015, when the road at Testers Hollow was cut for more than two weeks.

Thiswas part of the reasonthe suburb ofGillieston Heights was isolatedfrom the remainder of the community forseveral days.

The road didn’t make it another year before it went under again.In January, 2016, the road was closedfor several days.That’s whenmomentumbehind the community campaign andFairfax Media’s Raise the Road campaign started tobuild.

Within months it became a key federal election issue in the seat of Paterson, with Labor promising $10 million to fix the road and the Liberal Party pledging $15 million.

The state government has been tight lipped on its plans, but a joint announcement with federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chesterthis week means that, after decades, a timeline for a fix is on the table.

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