Academic reveals causes of bikie warfare

Academic reveals causes of bikie warfare - 9th August 1999 - PM
(Credit: Australian Broadcasting Authority)

Reporter: Mark Willacy

COMPERE: Let's go now to the suggestions that Australia's biker gangs are on the verge of all out warfare. Just like recent behaviour by companies, the unions and the professional footballers, it seems it's all about amalgamation with a hopeful business plan well and truly behind it. A trusted academic, who's the eyes and ears of bikie behaviour outside their own secret world, tells PM that there will be more incidents in the turf wars, as about 35 of the clubs are rolled back into just six. In Victoria over the past 24 hours members of the Bandido Group have been targeted with bomb attacks. These follow the torture and murder of a Comanchero and the firebombing of the gang club house in Sydney.

In Adelaide, too, there've been arson and bashing incidents over the past couple of weeks. So serious is the game becoming that the Victoria Police Service has set up a special task force to deal with it. But the National Crime Authority is holding back for the time being, saying at this stage it's maintaining a watching brief as State police services deal with the action. Mark Willacy in Melbourne:

MARK WILLACY: Before he was murdered and dumped on his estranged wife's driveway, Peter Ledger suffered hours of torture. The body of the 44-year-old Comanchero's member was found last Wednesday with several broken limbs consistent, police say, with a severe bashing with a blunt object.

A day later a Sydney club house belonging to the Rebels' Motorcycle Gang was burnt down in what investigators believe was an attempt to implicate the rival club. The Rebels have also suffered losses in Adelaide. Last month the club's headquarters was bombed. Now, it seems, the trouble has spread to Victoria.

KAREN EASTWOOD: We just heard one almighty loud bank. That was it. The whole house shook - the windows, everything. Just, the whole car was just totally gutted. Unbelievable.

MARK WILLACY: Geelong resident, Karen Eastwood, who awoke about 4 o'clock this morning to the sound of her neighbour's car exploding. Inside her neighbour's house were five people who police say are associated with the Bandidos Motorcycle Gang. Just 24 hours before, another bomb had exploded outside the Bandido's Geelong club house.

Victoria Police today announced the establishment of a special task force to investigate the two blasts. The head of the organised Crime Squad, Inspector Andrew Allen.

ANDREW ALLEN: Well obviously the last thing we want to see is some form of retribution by different people. The concern is that whilst there may be internal problems within a motorcycle club, as they would term it, other people can get involved. We've seen that historically and we don't want to see that again.

MARK WILLACY: But according to Australia's leading expert on bikie gangs, the violence is all part of a dramatic shift in power between the different clubs. Professor Arthur Veno is the Director of Monash University's Centre for Police and Justice Studies, and he's been researching and surveying gangs and their members for 16 years.

ARTHUR VENO: The main reason is that there's an amalgamation in process, which has been going on for about four years now, and it's ... the reduction of the number of large formal outlaw motorcycle clubs from around 35 to 6, and the battles that are occurring are occurring around control of space and, you know, who's the dominant sort of groups based upon ... and also a survival of the patches, as it were, the colourful patches the outlaw motorcycle clubs wear.

MARK WILLACY: Gang researcher, Arthur Veno. However, a former member of an outlawed gang who's now a director of Geelong's Harley Owner's Club, Gavin Rowe, told ABC radio today that fears of all out warfare are totally unfounded.

GAVIN ROWE: You know, we've got quite a large number of different clubs around Australia but I would say all in all most of them, when you get to know these guys, they're no different to anyone else. But as far as who was involved in it or who actually did it, I haven't got a clue.

MARK WILLACY: The Bandidos are just one gang trying to assert their dominance in this war of attrition. The other big players include the Coffin Cheaters and the Comancheros. But Monash University's Arthur Veno says it's the rebels which have the largest Australian presence.

ARTHUR VENO: There's no doubt that the Rebels are numerically the largest club and are winning the battle, as it were, for the numbers.

MARK WILLACY: So, how long do you think it will take to sort out these amalgamations, and how much more violence do you think we'll see before it is sorted out?

ARTHUR VENO: 2001 should be when it all settles down. That was predicted a number of years ago as the amount of time it would take for this to actually settle down. I'd say there's ... it's a real cause for concern because it's a sort of a crescendo right at the moment and I would suspect over the next two years we'll probably see a bit of a presence in the violence in those particular clubs while they sort this matter out.

JOHN HIGHFIELD: Professor Arthur Veno is Director of Monash University's Centre for Police and Justice Studies in Melbourne. He's also a well known researcher of what goes on inside the motorcycle gangs there. He was speaking with Mark Willacy.


Media websites

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

The Sydney Morning Herald


Brothers at War (movie website)

Bandidoes MC Australia - The History of The Bandidoes

Bike Tour websites

Australian Harley Tours and Motorcycle Rentals

Eastcoast Motorcycle Tours


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Bandidoes MC Australia - The History of The Bandidoes



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