Forty years on from Australia’s first political assassination the events leading up to the murder of NSW businessman Donald Mackay remain “vivid” for many in his hometown of Griffith.
Mr Mackay – an anti-drugs campaigner – is believed to have been murdered after telling police the whereabouts of marijuana farms owned by Australian-born mafia.
A coronial inquest found he died of gunshot wounds but the body of the father of four has never been found.
“Forty years is a long time and yet those events are quite vivid in our minds,” Griffith mayor John Dal Broi told AAP this week.
Mr Mackay – a one-time Liberal Party candidate – vanished from the car park of a hotel in Griffith on the evening of July 15, 1977. He was 43.
Three bullet casings were found and blood was smeared on the door of his locked van.
“We all feel for the family and, as I’ve said before, some of us perhaps should have taken more notice of what Don was saying,” Mr Dal Broi said.
“But what you’re up against at the time, there were some corrupt police, people felt hopeless to do anything about it.”
Mr Dal Broi hopes the mystery of Mr Mackay’s murder can still be solved and his remains found.
“Mrs Mackay died not knowing where he was or what happened, she suffered deeply,” the mayor said.
The editor of the local paper, Ben Jones, says the public wants answers.
“I find it hard to believe there aren’t still people in town who know what happened and who was involved,” the editor of the Area News told AAP.
“It’s the darkest chapter in Griffith’s shady history … the public still wants to know what happened.”
In 2007 the discovery of human remains in an orange grove outside of Griffith sparked hope Mr Mackay had finally been found, while in 2013 a tip-off saw forensic officers excavate a farm near Hay in the NSW Riverina. Both were false leads.
Since Mr Mackay’s disappearance, three men have been convicted of conspiring to murder the once-Liberal party candidate while a royal commission named six others who may have ordered the killing.
NSW Police remain committed to finding answers for his family.
“Donald Mackay was a highly-respected member of the community and became well-known throughout Australia as an anti-drugs campaigner and his murder – Australia’s first political assassination – shocked us all,” Griffith commander Detective Superintendent Michael Rowan said this week.
“Investigators remain in contact with the family … I can’t tell you the pain they feel for not knowing where his body is.”
The NSW government’s reward for information leading to Mr Mackay’s remains was increased to $200,000 in July 2012.