Convicted murderer Bandali Debs has told a trial he fired the shot that killed a police officer in 1998 out of fear for his safety, and that lawyer Nicola Gobbo previously advised him to argue he acted in self defence.
Debs has told the Supreme Court that Jason Roberts was with him when Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller were fatally shot in Moorabbin after midnight on August 16, 1998. Silk died at the scene and Miller died in hospital after colleagues found him critically injured.
Sergeant Gary Silk (left) and Senior Constable Rodney Miller.
But Roberts, 41, argues he wasn’t there and has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder. However, he has pleaded guilty to 10 charges of armed robbery and admits he and Debs robbed restaurants and small businesses in Melbourne’s suburbs over the previous five months.
Silk and Miller were on stakeout outside the Silky Emperor Chinese restaurant as police investigated the hold-ups, and followed a Hyundai Excel from the car park and intercepted it in Cochranes Road. They were shot moments later.
Roberts’ trial resumed on Monday after pausing for a week while a juror was unwell, and Debs, giving evidence for a fourth day from the Goulburn Correctional Complex in NSW, said he shot Miller but didn’t shoot Silk. He previously told the trial he heard the shots that killed Silk but didn’t see what happened, as the police officer and Roberts were away from the Hyundai.
Debs, now 68, said he was asked by Miller to open the Hyundai boot and that as he did, he fired two shots through his cardigan because the police officer had his gun drawn.
Jason Roberts (right) outside the Supreme Court.Credit:Jason South
“I wasn’t going to be shot,” Debs told Roberts’ barrister, David Hallowes, SC.
Asked if he feared being shot even though there was nothing in the boot, Debs said, “Bloody oath. I was only thinking about my safety.”
Hallowes asked if Debs was acting in self-defence. Debs replied, “You could call it that.”
Debs said he had “no idea” whether he intended to kill Miller. “That didn’t enter my mind. I just wanted to get him because he pulled a gun out.”
Bandali Debs in 2002.Credit:Simon Schluter
Debs said that before his trial in 2002 he was advised later disgraced lawyer Nicola Gobbo to run a self-defence argument.
“Nicola Gobbo tried to run a thing that it was self-defence at the first trial … she told me to run self-defence,” he said.
But Debs agreed that he ultimately told Christopher Dane, QC – his barrister at the 2002 trial – to run a defence that he wasn’t in Moorabbin.
Justice Stephen Kaye has told the jury Debs and Roberts were convicted of the murders in 2002, but the Court of Appeal had granted Roberts a retrial.
Debs on Monday said he didn’t see how Silk died.
“I don’t know what Roberts did at the scene because I was not at Silk’s bloody scene,” he said.
Roberts was 17 at the time of the shootings and was the then-boyfriend of Debs’ daughter, Nicole.
Debs previously described Roberts as “sort of the mule” during the hold-ups because it was his job to carry equipment and tape up victims.
The trial has also heard Debs’ conversations with family members in 2000, recorded by police listening devices, in which he discussed killing other police officers, and Miller’s wife and son, to distract the investigation into the Silk and Miller murders.
Debs on Monday agreed it was him speaking in the recordings but said he couldn’t recall the conversations.
He agreed with Hallowes’ suggestion he had done “evil” things, which included the separate murders of Kristy Harty in the Dandenong Ranges and Donna Hicks in Sydney’s western suburbs.
But he rejected Hallowes’ suggestions that he was the only person in the Hyundai in Moorabbin, that he shot both Silk and Miller, and that he was a liar.
“The mule was with me. Roberts was there,” Debs said.
The trial continues.
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