News, Culture & Society

Neddy Smith takes his secrets to the grave after bodies found in killing field

Between Sydney Airport and Long Bay jail is a clump of sand dunes at Botany where the bullet-riddled bodies of two minor criminals were planted in the 1980s.

Across Botany Bay at Kurnell are more dunes where the remains of another small-time crook killed in the same decade stayed hidden in the sand for more than 20 years. 

These burial sites, which may yet give up more skeletons from unsolved homicides, are referred to by some police as Neddy Smith’s killing fields. 

Smith, who died at Long Bay on Wednesday aged 76, can no longer defend himself against claims he used these lonely spots to dispose of gangland corpses.

Neither can the families of his alleged or suspected victims expect much chance of getting the answers they crave.  

Neddy Smith has been linked to the murders of three criminals found buried at Botany and Kurnell in Sydney’s south-east. He was convicted of killing one, cleared of a second and interviewed but never charged over a third. Smith is pictured in prison with his daughter Jaime

Police believe Sydney model Mark Johnston was killed by gangster Neddy Smith, who died in prison on Wedneday. Johnston disappeared in 1986 and parts of his skeleton were found at Kurnell in Sydney's south-east in 2007 but were not identified until last year

Police believe Sydney model Mark Johnston was killed by gangster Neddy Smith, who died in prison on Wedneday. Johnston disappeared in 1986 and parts of his skeleton were found at Kurnell in Sydney’s south-east in 2007 but were not identified until last year

Police believe an area near Foreshore Road at Botany (above) was used as a body dumping ground by Neddy Smith. The remains of brothel keeper Harvey Jones and drug dealer Bruce Sandery were found there in 1995 and 1988 respectively

Police believe an area near Foreshore Road at Botany (above) was used as a body dumping ground by Neddy Smith. The remains of brothel keeper Harvey Jones and drug dealer Bruce Sandery were found there in 1995 and 1988 respectively

Smith was cleared of murdering one of the men whose cadaver was found at Botany and convicted of murdering a second whose grave was found 13 years after he was killed.

He was interviewed over the disappearance of a third man who went missing 36 years ago and whose partial skeleton was eventually found at Kurnell.

Those bones, belonging to model and cocaine dealer Mark Arthur Johnston, were not uncovered until 2007 and only formally identified in February last year.

One of Johnston’s relatives told Daily Mail Australia on Thursday she did not wish to discuss Smith’s death or the slim chance anyone would now be charged with her loved one’s slaying. 

‘I have absolutely nothing to say about that man’s passing,’ she said.

The woman had been surprised last year to be told by homicide detectives they had identified the bones at Kurnell as Johnston’s and wanted only to quietly take receipt of his remains. 

‘This whole sorry saga has been going on far too long and, there has been an overkill of sensational interest in the affair by the press that has spread over years,’ she said.

It has been speculated that hitman Christopher Dale Flannery, who disappeared in 1985, could also be buried near the airport but Neddy Smith is not his suspected killer. Flannery is pictured

It has been speculated that hitman Christopher Dale Flannery, who disappeared in 1985, could also be buried near the airport but Neddy Smith is not his suspected killer. Flannery is pictured 

Mark Johnston was last seen by friends leaving the Bellevue Hotel at Paddington in Sydney's eastern suburbs about 7pm on September 1, 1986. The Bellevue is pictured

Mark Johnston was last seen by friends leaving the Bellevue Hotel at Paddington in Sydney’s eastern suburbs about 7pm on September 1, 1986. The Bellevue is pictured

Johnston, who once appeared in television commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken, was dubbed the ‘playboy punter’ when he disappeared.

The 36-year-old was last seen by friends leaving the Bellevue Hotel at Paddington in Sydney’s eastern suburbs at about 7pm on September 1, 1986.

It is believed he had gone to the home of his solicitor, the late Graham Valentine ‘Val’ Bellamy, to collect $60,000 in drug money the criminal lawyer was holding for him.

Eight days later, Johnston’s hired Holden Commodore was found at Maroubra, about 10km away, after an anonymous telephone call. 

Police located 465 grams of cocaine in the boot of the car and 52 grams of the same drug in the glove box. 

A coronial inquest in 1999 heard Smith, who was then in jail for two murders, told a cellmate about garrotting a man in Bellamy’s home in a description police believe fits Johnston’s murder.

Neddy Smith (left) is pictured with brothel-keeper Harvey Jones and his then wife Debra. Smith was convicted in 1998 of murdering Jones in 1983. Jones was found buried off Foreshore Road at Botany in 1995

Neddy Smith (left) is pictured with brothel-keeper Harvey Jones and his then wife Debra. Smith was convicted in 1998 of murdering Jones in 1983. Jones was found buried off Foreshore Road at Botany in 1995 

Skeletal remains from several people were dug up during construction of the desalination plant at Kurnell. A shin bone was first uncovered by workers in early October 2007. A week later ribs and other smaller bones were found 300m away in scrub off Sir Joseph Banks Drive (pictured)

Skeletal remains from several people were dug up during construction of the desalination plant at Kurnell. A shin bone was first uncovered by workers in early October 2007. A week later ribs and other smaller bones were found 300m away in scrub off Sir Joseph Banks Drive (pictured)

Parts of Johnston’s skeleton were found during construction of the desalination plant at Kurnell but were not unidentified for 13 more years. 

Skeletal remains from several people were dug up during plant excavations, not all of which belonged to the missing drug dealer.

A shin bone was first uncovered by workers in early October 2007. A week later ribs and other smaller bones were found 300m away in scrub off Sir Joseph Banks Drive. 

Further searching unearthed a pelvis and foot bones, some of which were in a sock, at what detectives have described as underworld body dumping ground.

It has been speculated that hitman Christopher Dale Flannery, who disappeared on in 1985, could also be buried near the airport but Smith is not the main suspect in that crime. 

The Kurnell site is across the water from Foreshore Drive, Botany, where the body of brothel-keeper Harvey Francois Jones was found buried in 1995. He had been shot twice in the chest 12 years earlier.

Eight days after Mark Johnston visited his lawyer Val Bellamy at Dover Heights his hired Holden Commodore was found at Maroubra, about 10km away, after an anonymous telephone call

Eight days after Mark Johnston visited his lawyer Val Bellamy at Dover Heights his hired Holden Commodore was found at Maroubra, about 10km away, after an anonymous telephone call

Jones, an associate of Smith’s, was said to have last been seen in the armed robber and drug baron’s company in the Star Hotel at Alexandria on July 15, 1983. 

Smith, who had been convicted in 1990 of murdering tow truck driver Ronald Flavell in 1987, was charged while he was behind bars with killing 29-year-old Jones and six other underworld figures.  

Those charges were based on his supposed confessions to a heroin-addicted cellmate dubbed Mr Brown who Smith claimed had set him up on behalf of police.  

Smith maintained he was simply ‘talking s***’ to the informer Mr Brown but tapes of their conversations helped convince a jury to convict him of murdering Jones.

Mr Brown said in evidence: ‘He told me that Jones was crying and he said, “I’d die for you, Ned”, and Ned said, “Well, you’re about to, ya c***”.

“Ned told me then that, “I blew his heart out with a big 357”.’

For Jones’s murder Smith was sentenced in 1998 to life in prison.

Ten years earlier the remains of drug dealer Bruce Douglas Sandery had been found in a shallow grave about 200m from where Jones was buried. 

The remains of drug dealer Bruce Douglas Sandery (above) were found in a shallow grave about 200m from where Harvey Jones was buried

Bruce Sandery was last seen alive at the Zetland Hotel on April 12, 1988. That night residents in nearby in Hansard Street reported hearing gunshots

The remains of drug dealer Bruce Douglas Sandery (above) were found in a shallow grave about 200m from where Harvey Jones was buried. He was last seen alive at the Zetland Hotel on April 12, 1988. That night residents in nearby in Hansard Street reported hearing gunshots

Coroner John Abernethy found Mark Johnston was killed at Dover Heights on September 1, 1986 and forwarded a brief of evidence to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions. No one was ever charged with Johnston's murder

Coroner John Abernethy found Mark Johnston was killed at Dover Heights on September 1, 1986 and forwarded a brief of evidence to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions. No one was ever charged with Johnston’s murder

The 37-year-old drug dealer was last seen alive at the Zetland Hotel on April 12, 1988. That night residents in nearby in Hansard Street reported hearing gunshots and seeing three men lift a body into a white van.

Smith was charged with murdering Sandery but the case was dropped in 1996 at committal. He was also cleared of having murdered drug dealers Lewton Shu (1983), Danny Chubb (1984), Barry McCann and Barry Croft (both 1987) at the same hearing.

The notorious gangster was acquitted of sex worker Sallie-Anne Huckstepp’s 1986 murder three years later. The bodies of Chubb, McCann, Croft, Shu and Huckstepp were found at the time they were killed.

Johnston’s fate remained a mystery for two more decades. The bones found at Kurnell in 2007 were subject to further forensic examination in 2019 following technological advancements and the implementation of new testing systems.

The coronial inquest in 1999 had found Johnston died on September 1, 1986, at Dover Heights, a 15-minute drive from where he was last seen. 

The inquest heard evidence Johnston had gone to Bellamy’s home at Dover Heights the night he disappeared. No one has ever been charged with his murder but Smith was interviewed by detectives.

In a prison conversation with this reporter 15 years ago Smith named another (obscure) criminal as being involved in Johnston’s death and wrongly suggested his body was buried in the Royal National Park.  

During the inquest the missing man’s father Arthur Johnston told Coroner John Abernethy he believed Smith killed his son and Bellamy ordered him to do it. 

Mr Johnston thought Mark was murdered because Bellamy, who has since died, wanted to cover up keeping the $60,000 his son gave the solicitor to hold.

Gangster Arthur Stanley 'Neddy' Smith allegedly told a cellmate he had killed a man in solicitor Val Bellamy's Dover Heights home. Police believe that man was Mark Johnston

Gangster Arthur Stanley ‘Neddy’ Smith allegedly told a cellmate he had killed a man in solicitor Val Bellamy’s Dover Heights home. Police believe that man was Mark Johnston 

In a conversation recorded in 1994, Smith told his cellmate Mr Brown that Bellamy had paid him $60,000 to kill an unnamed man from whose death the solicitor stood to gain $500,000.

Smith allegedly said that while Bellamy’s wife and daughters were out of the house he had handcuffed the man and slowly garrotted him with a cord.

He allegedly said he chose to strangle the man instead of shooting him because Bellamy would not want to see blood on his new carpet.

Neddy Smith was charged with seven underworld murders during the 1990s but was convicted of only one

Neddy Smith was charged with seven underworld murders during the 1990s but was convicted of only one

Bellamy told police in 1986 that Johnston had spent 15 minutes in his home the night he disappeared, collected his $60,000 in cash and left in a taxi.

He also told detectives he was constrained by client confidentiality from fully discussing his financial arrangements with Johnston. 

Mr Johnston told the inquest he called Bellamy a week after his son’s disappearance to express concern about Mark’s welfare and whereabouts.

‘Mr Bellamy appeared to me very reluctant to engage in any verbal dialogue with me,’ Mr Johnston said.

Mr Johnston, a World War II veteran who has also since died, said he believed Bellamy was ‘motivated by greed and avarice’ and took his son’s money.

‘To ensure concealment of this misappropriation, Bellamy had only one course of action and that was to remove my son from the scene.’

‘I hold no grievance against Mr Neddy Smith. I regard him as the implement that Mr Bellamy used to remove the evidence of his misdemeanours.’

Mr Abernethy terminated his inquiry after two days and ordered a brief of evidence be handed to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which decided to take no action.

Mr Johnston, who flew 73 sorties over the Western Desert and Europe, spent his last decades hoping his son’s body would be found and buried.

Strike Force Brompton was established to re-investigate the presumed murder of Mark Johnston but its chief suspect has taken whatever he knew to the grave.

Netflix is currently screening a remastered version of the award-winning television series Blue Murder which dramatises the crimes of life and crimes of Neddy Smith.

The remains of Harvey Jones and Bruce Sandery were found off Foreshore Road, Botany

The remains of Harvey Jones and Bruce Sandery were found off Foreshore Road, Botany

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