A new investigation into the Luna Park Ghost Train fire has pointed to the involvement of a corrupt policeman in the original investigation to link the crime to the notorious crime Sydney boss dubbed ‘Mr Sin’.
Leading investigator Detective Inspector Doug Knight blamed the blaze that killed six children on an electrical fault just 17 hours after the fire tore through the ride on on June 9, 1979.
However, an investigation by ABC’s EXPOSED has revealed Inspector Knight was a ‘fixer’ who would alter or suppress evidence for court matters, including intimidating witnesses to help criminals and political figures.
Key witnesses statements also describing the smell of kerosine and a group of men who spoke about setting the ride alight were never followed up, and site was abruptly cleared hours later.
Notorious King Cross gangster Abe Saffron (pictured) ordered the 1979 Luna Park Ghost Train fire because he wanted to collect the coveted land, according to his niece
Police officers close to the investigation of the June 9, 1979, inferno at the Sydney amusement park have always claimed King Cross figure Abe Saffron orchestrated the fire but got away scot-free because he was in cahoots with corrupt cops.
The gangster, whose pursuits included illegal gambling, prostitution, liquor and property throughout Sydney, allegedly had his eye on the funfair’s land on one of the most prime spots on Sydney’s harbour.
This theory was backed up by Anne Buckingham, Saffron’s niece, who told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, that her uncle ordered the fire because ‘he liked to collect things’, but ‘I don’t think people were meant to be killed’.
However, she later retracted her statement.
‘There is no doubt Saffron was behind that [fire] at Luna Park,’ Steve Bullock, a retired police analyst said.
‘He could cover his tracks very, very, very well.’
On June 9, 1975 a fire on the Ghost Train ride at Luna Park in Sydney (pictured) killed seven people and changed the lives of a community forever
The Luna Park Ghost Train fire in June, 1979 claimed the lives of John Godson, and six children – Damien Godson, Craig Godson, Richard Carroll, Michael Johnson, Jonathan Billings and Seamus Rahilly
School boys Richard Carroll, Jonathan Billings, Seamus Rahilly and Michael Johnson, all 13, and John Godson, 29, and his young sons, Craig, four, and Damien six, all died after becoming trapped in the inferno.
A coronial inquiry held later that year was unable to determine the cause, and the tragedy has since been shrouded in mystery, sparking conspiracy theories of arson and cover-ups.
In the years after the fire, rumours circulated that it was the cause of arson organised by crime figures to buy out the lease-holders and build a lucrative development.
In 1987, an inquiry by the state government’s Corporate Affairs Commission found no evidence of links between the company owning the land and Saffron, who died in 2006.
Mr Bullock had submitted a report to the the licensing squad superintendent in 1986 calling for a reinvestigation after digging into Saffron’s links to the company that purchase the land after the fire.
The police analyst found Saffron’s nephew Sam Cowper, was the financial controller, his cousins, Colman and Harold Goldstein, were shareholders and directors, and Saffron’s Arcadia gaming machine company also had 100 machines at the park.
At the time, Mr Bullock said: ‘There appears to have been a determined effort to hide the true family and business involvement of Saffron in this company.’
Speaking on the program, Mr Bullock said NSW Police failed to act and the report went ‘nowhere’.
Senior police officers close to the investigation claim the led investigator of the blaze, Detective Inspector Doug Knight (pictured), was a ‘fixer’ who would manipulate court cases by changing evidence to help criminals and political figures
The site was cleared immediately after the fire under the authorisation of Inspector Knight and key witness statements were not followed up
He said he is ‘100 per cent’ sure of Saffron’s involvement in the fire and other members of the force had the same opinion.
James Swanson, who was the NSW licensing magistrate at the time of the licensing squad’s investigation, said there were high-levels of police corruption in the force.
He said politicians and police protecting Saffron shutdown the suggestion of an licensing squad’s reinvestigation the blaze.
‘The senior police and the senior ministers of the crown did not do anything with it. They left it in the lurch… because they were corrupt and some of them are very corrupt,’ he said.
Paul Egge, a former detective senior sergeant and analyst with the NSW Police Bureau of Crime Intelligence, looked into Saffron’s affair, echoed claims the crime kingpin was involved.
Mr Egge said he was certain Saffron had ordered a group of men to set light to the ride to make way for his business endeavours.
Jason Holman was the lone survivor and has broken his silence for the first time since the tragedy rocked the nation in 1979. Pictured: The entrance of Luna Park today
Pictured are four of the children who died in the fire, including Richard Carroll (second from left)
Alan Saffron, his son, has always denied his father was responsible, but like Ms Buckingham, her sister Beryl, said Saffron had always wanted to take control of the land.
A report by the National Crime Authority investigation into Saffron, who was linked to seven other blazes, concluded that it could not be established that he took possession of the park, but he had shown intention.
‘Luna Park, it was alleged, had been coveted by Saffron for over 20 years and the fire in the ghost train had been lit as a trigger to evict the incumbent tenants and gain control of the park lease for himself,’ the report read.
Former NSW Police prosecutor and magistrate Wayne Evans and former police prosecutor, sergeant Colin Wedderburn, who both dealt with Inspector Knight, said the police boss was a ‘fixer’.
Mr Wedderburn said he spent a lot of time deleting evidence in places and changing evidence in places for court cases.
Inspector Knight had a chequered history of alarming accusations levelled against him dating back to 1954.
The allegations include assaulting a suspect during questioning and attempting to coerce a suspect into signing a confession.
Five years before the fire, Inspector Knight made headlines after The Royal Commission into Organised Crime in Clubs heard that Inspector Knight had cleared organised crime figure Jack Rooklyn of having links to the American Mafia.
Around the same time, Inspector Knight had accepted a job from Rooklyn, a close associate of Suffron. He was also allegedly paid off by one organised criminal.
Jenny Godson’s lost her entire family on the chilly winter night in 1979. She had gone to buy an icecream, but when she returned to the ride to meet her husband and sons, flames were spewing out of the ride.
Jason Holman, now 54, was dubbed ‘the luckiest boy alive’ by the media after he survived while his four best friends perished.
The then 12-year-old and his 13-year-old friends were on their first night out without parental supervision after many months nagging their mums and dads for permission.
Mr Holman was eagerly sitting in a separate carriage behind his friends who he watched excitedly roll through the ride’s entrance doors inscribed ‘Hell’s Doorway’.
Jonathan and Richard had piled into the first carriage, and Micheal and Seamus into the next, leaving Mr Holman to sit alone in one behind them.
Luna Park reopened in 1982 under the name Harbourside Amusement Park before relaunching under its original name in 1995
Mr Holman was seconds from entering the ride, which at 10.15pm was to be their last for the night, when the Guardian Angel whisked him to safety.
It was the last time he would ever see his beloved friends.
Mr Holman has believed it was the work of arsonists after speaking with Australian artist Martin Sharp who repainted Luna Park’s iconic face after the blaze.
Before his death five years ago, Mr Sharp had carried out his own makeshift investigation and collected pieces of evidence which lead him to believe the theme park was deliberately set on fire.
Mr Holman said it was now his mission to get justice for those who perished in the flames on that winter’s night when laughter was replaced with screams of terror.
He said he will never forget the sight of the empty carriages emerging from the ride along the mechanical track completely engulfed in flames.
The theme park, which opened in 1935, was shutdown immediately after the incident but reopened in 1982 under the name Harbourside Amusement Park, before later reclaiming its original name and relaunching in 1995.