Four decades after she was murdered the death of campaigning Sydney journalist Juanita Nielsen remains one of the great mysteries of Australian crime.
Not the killing itself: Tony Reeves and I resolved this many years ago, when we uncovered the nuts and bolts of the plot; who, how, when and where Juanita was murdered.
Nor is the police cover-up a mystery. That was easily exposed and we have the evidence to prove its connection to organised crime, which Juanita was investigating.
We also established irrefutable links to the killing of a second campaigner, Donald Mackay in Griffith, murdered in an identical plot two years after Juanita’s heinous death. Naturally, Police HQ denied this and the media didn’t bother to follow it up….
` No, the great mystery is why no one wants to hear our story; why no one wants to know the truth about Sydney’s crime of the 20th century: although they have been offered evidence of the evil scenario and its background, to the book publishers and the media the Nielsen murder is a non-story, a cold case of no interest…
To some extent the publishers’ response was predictable. Their lawyers have a major influence on the selection of works submitted by hopeful authors and always err on the side of safety in matters of possible defamation. More, those whose job it is in publishing to evaluate incoming manuscripts are too young to know the Juanita story and its significance. In at least three instances I suspect that the book I submitted a few months ago was rejected without being read….
As for the lawyers, I have long advised anyone interested that all the principal players in the Nielsen plot have passed on, that thus there is no reason to fear an action for defamation. Disdain has been the sole response to my assurances. The ambivalence towards this story could not be more obvious, more blatant.
Aside from which, it’s no secret that Tony and I uncovered the whole sordid plot and have the evidence to prove it was covered up. In law this is recognised as a defence in truth and we would have welcomed any challenge.
The cops certainly know this because, apart from tapping our ‘phones, they had us under constant daily surveillance for the four years of our investigation; they saw who we interviewed and then denigrated every allegation we made when the then Attorney General demanded answers to our charges. These days this is known as disinformation, or fake news.
In other words, they lied through their teeth as our evidence will prove, given the opportunity of public exposure. Even when we accused them of collusion they refused to respond. They didn’t want to know because to do so would bring some embarrassing questions.
The fact is that organised crime in Sydney is all-encompassing, so common it is accepted as the norm. It plays a part in State politics and the police department; its tentacles are an open secret and part of every day life.
The Sydney media too has some questions to answer, principally why collectively they closed their eyes and ears to our allegations about the Juanita case. Initially disinterested, certain of our erstwhile colleagues became downright hostile and in some cases worked against us by writing nebulous stories about the case whenever we had a major breakthrough. At no time did they attempt to question us about our investigation and its findings, to establish the veracity of our claims. Supporting us was never on the cards. Like the police reaction, it was almost as if we were the enemy.
A possible reason for this was disinformation by the cops, an excuse which can be rationalised: when the Attorney General demanded answers, members of the Serious Crimes Squad denigrated every disclosure we made and the media swallowed this whole, without the bother of contacting us for a comment. The cops put it about that “its something those two reporters have dreamed up,” and “their claims don’t hold water” Both statements appeared in the daily press but no reporter contacted us to substantiate them, as journalistic practice demands.
Had they done so we would have explained that the muddy water of the Nielsen plot was alive with red herrings released by PHQ to distract us and denigrate our campaign. We identified most of them but one had us fooled for several years and could have been counter productive in the event of a court case.
Fortunately, it was identified in time, just as a Sydney literary agent had agreed to take on my book in an effort to have it published. In other words, in matters of crime Police HQ generally pulls the strings via their daily news conferences.
But there are two glaring examples of media indifference which were utterly unprofessional and unforgivable. The first concerned the magistrates’ court case subsequent to our being beaten up, abducted, falsely arrested and jailed on spurious charges of “being drunk and disorderly.”
This happened early in the piece, after we had traced Eddie Trigg, the night manager of the Carousel Cabaret and reportedly the man with whom Juanita had kept an incongruous “advertising appointment” at the Carousel on the day she disappeared. To all intents and purposes he was the last known person to see Juanita alive and, intending to pose a few questions, we had been searching for him for some weeks.
We traced him to the Laramie, another joint owned by the crime lord Juanita had been investigating, but within minutes we were abducted, arrested and jailed! It was a frightening experience but it proved to be a major breakthrough: it confirmed our suspicions that the cops were involved in the Nielsen plot.
With two pro bono barristers, we defended ourselves at the subsequent court case which lasted for eight days over eight months, set two legal precedents, involved four barristers and produced a transcript of some 550 pages and 175,000 words. Nine cops gave evidence against us but the magistrate saw through their duplicity and dismissed the case.
A good yarn involving colleagues, any self-respecting journalist would opine, but there was more. Though we frequently raised Juanita Nielsen’s name in our evidence, not one of those 175,000 words appeared in the Sydney media. The trial might never have happened. The court reporters of the day, like their crime writer colleagues, chose to ignore the unfolding events connected to a major current story.
Nor was this the only example of media indifference. We had been contacted by Juanita’s father who, suspicious of the police investigation, wanted to know our findings and also post a reward for information that would help establish his daughter’s fate. He requested our help in this and on the second anniversary of Juanita’s death, the Sydney Morning Herald published a full page reward notice we had designed and negotiated, the latter not without considerable difficulty.
The notice compared our findings with the police version of events, pointed out the misleading police photograph of Juanita’s appearance in her equally contrived final sighting, and virtually accused the cops of collusion in a murder! Once again, the media remained silent: not one of the seven major Sydney newspapers deigned to contact us for comment or an interview.
Our investigation ran its course, to the point where we had exhausted our list of questions and could do no more. The judicial enquiry we demanded into our findings was refused for reasons nebulous and political and, in the face of continued death threats, for the safety of our loved ones Tony and I finally left Sydney, bowed but unbeaten.
Tony passed on in 2013 but, now living in England, I have continued the campaign we began four decades ago, constantly writing about the case on the internet and in magazines and up-dating my book as further developments took place.
I returned to Australia recently, spending several weeks following-up a major discovery and trying to interest publishers and the media, both without success.
Juanita was loved and admired for her work and a community centre and a city garden carry her name. The case still merits frequent headlines when the official version of events, the cover-up, is exhumed to explain her “disappearance.”
The crooks and their contract killers have all gone now, as have the investigating cops and their media chums of the era. But the mystery remains and, except for a few knowing friends, the truth is a distant country.
This is simply another chapter in a mystery that defies comprehension. There’ll be more to come; I can’t surrender. Whether it is five months, five years or fifty years, murder is still murder, the truth it still the truth and must be made public. The memory of Juanita insists upon nothing less.

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