True crime television is hitting us from all corners lately. Sitting at the top of the heap, at least in Australian productions, is Crime Investigation Australia. Hosted by Steve Liebmann, it shies away from emotive, sometimes even racist, sensationalism of other players.
CIA has also triggered viewers to come forth with new information – surely a measure of success for any in this genre. Hopefully, this week’s case study of several deaths of gay men in the Bondi area in the late 1980s and early 1990s will elicit the same response.
This is a grim tale of violent murders which took place in Marks Park, a picturesque cliff top walk by day, and a gay beat by night. Three men were murdered after homophobic assaults by young gangs. Each was brutally bashed and thrown on the rocks below.
One case involved Wollongong television newsreader Ross Warren, at a time when Sydney executives were courting him for bigger things. Warren would frequently visit gay friends in Sydney. On one weekend in 1989 he never returned home. Despite his car being discovered at Bondi, his body has never been found.
At the time, Bondi police ruled his disappearance a “probable accident”. Its investigation left many unanswered questions, leaving his mother to pursue a ten year campaign for the truth. The investigation of a second victim was similarly incomplete, with police even washing the victim’s clothes to dress a lookalike mannequin. The death of this gay man was ruled “death by misadventure”.
It wasn’t until some ten years later that Detective Sergeant Stephen Page re-opened the cases to link startling similarities of several attacks in a gay-hate spree across Sydney in the early 1990s. It is suggested many others went unreported.
The facts, re-creations and accounts from loved ones here are compelling stuff. In a story that is driven by homophobia and closeted gay men, it is somewhat ironic that one man remembering his friend is unwilling to be identified. That said, ultimately it’s better these stories are told to help bring about long, overdue justice.
Liebmann’s pragmatic presentation style is a perfect fit for important cold cases, brought to life by author Greg Callaghan, Det. Sgt Page and producer Graham McNeice.
CIA: Blood Sport – The Bondi Gay Murders premieres 7.30pm Thursday on Crime & Investigation.