Intelligent, ambitious and born with the legal profession in their blood, the Gobbo sisters were destined to become high-flying lawyers.
In the 1990s Nicola made her name as fearsome criminal defence barrister before Catherine worked in the same courts as a commercial lawyer.
But their lives diverged when Nicola started snitching to police on her notorious Melbourne gangster clients.
Over 14 years from 1995, she brought down dozens of Australia’s most dangerous criminals including underworld kingpin Carl Williams.
To protect her from reprisal, Nicola’s identity was kept secret with the codename Lawyer X – but on Friday she was finally unmasked as part of a inquiry into police handling of informants.
Intelligent, ambitious and born with the legal profession in their blood, the Gobbo sisters were destined to become high-flying lawyers. Left: Nicola Gobbo. Right: Catherine Gobbo
She is now on the run and thought to have fled the country, fearing the families and friends of the gangsters she locked up have put a price on her head.
Meanwhile, her sister Catherine, who was admitted to the bar in 2000, still regularly appears in trials in the County, Supreme and Federal Courts.
Specialising in contract law, bankruptcy, and professional negligence, her work may be less glamorous than her sister’s, but is certainly less dangerous.
Sir James Gobbo (pictured) who was a Supreme Court Judge and later the 25th Governor of Victoria, is Nicola Gobbo’s uncle
The pair have been estranged for some time although it is unclear what drove them apart.
Nicola’s extended family have also disowned her.
Her late father’s brother Sir James Gobbo, who was a Supreme Court Judge and later the 25th Governor of Victoria, released a statement on Friday saying he knew nothing of her work as an informer.
The statement, also signed by the 87-year-old’s wife Libby and their five children, said none of them have spoken to Nicola in ‘many years.’
It read: ‘As a family, we have been disturbed by the revelations leading to the establishment of a Royal Commission into the management of informants by Victoria Police.
‘We understand that the royal commission will, in part, look into the actions of Nicola Gobbo, the daughter of Sir James’ late brother.
‘No members of our immediate family have seen or spoken to Nicola in many years and have no knowledge of the matters to be investigated or her actions.’
Nicola’s identity was revealed last week after High Court judges lifted a suppression order.
Victoria Police argued that identifying Ms Gobbo as ‘Lawyer X’ would put the lives of her and her two children at risk.
Nicola Gobbo (pictured) was frequently seen enjoying a coffee while supposedly living in fear of being revealed as a rogue lawyer who had turned on the crooks she represented
The full bench of High Court judges agreed that she may be in danger but decided there was more at stake.
‘Large though those considerations may be, they do not detract from the conclusion that it is essential in the public interest for the information to be disclosed,’ they told the court.
Nicola Gobbo’s greatest snitch jobs
1. Rob Karam, John Higgs, Pasquale Barbaro and 33 co-accused for the largest ever seizure of ecstasy in the world. The drugs came into Australia in tomato tins.
2. Tony Mokbel’s brothers Horty Mokbel and Milad Mokbel.
3. David Ilic was arrested in 2013 after police raided a Port Melbourne Kennards storage facility and discovered $3,735,890 in cash as well as kilograms of cocaine, methmphetamines and ecstasy.
4. Joe Mannella (and Karam) for the multiple seizures of hundreds of kilos of cocaine and other drugs that were not the subject of charges, but were intercepted and seized by Australian Customs.
5. Faruk Orman (for the murder of Victor Pierce)
6. Mick Gatto and the infamous Carlton crew. The crew consisted of convicted criminals including Alphonse Gangitano, Mario Condello and Graham Kinniburgh – all whom were killed during Melbourne’s gangland war.
The unmasking has allowed convicts who were represented by Nicola to find out that they may not have had a fair trial because she may have snitched on them.
A Royal Commission is asking anyone in this position to come forward, fearing that several trials may be been unfair because the defendants’ lawyer may have shared privileged client information with police.
Nicola has insisted she did nothing wrong and maintains that any information about future crimes that her clients told her about was not protected by client privilege.
Up until two weeks ago she was still posting photos of her children on Instagram and happily mingled among the cafe dwellers just a short ride from where she used to practice law in Melbourne’s CBD.
Immediately after her identity was revealed, Ms Gobbo and her two children went into hiding.
This might have been the first time the police informant had explicitly expressed any concern for her own personal safety.
For years she shared the secrets of ruthless underworld gangsters with police with scant regard to the the lethal repercussions she faced if she were ever found out.
Paradoxically, it seems that Ms Gobbo’s double-dealings were found out by several of her ex-clients – who had long suspected she was playing both sides.
But while the Sword of Damocles dangled precariously above Ms Gobbo’s platinum locks she continued to hide in plain sight.
Carlton Crew boss Mick Gatto (left) was once a client of lawyer Nicola Gobbo (right). Gatto shot dead Carl Williams’ hitman Andrew ‘Benji’ Veniamin in self defence at the height of the gangland war
Carl Williams (left) was right when he wrote from jail that his lawyer had turned rogue. He was murdered in jail the day information was splashed across a newspaper calling him a snitch
Bizarrely, she even became a respected member of the local community.
In September, she attended the Victorian Premier’s Volunteer Champions Awards where she was recognised for her efforts at the local kindergarten.
The smiling crowd at Government House, in Melbourne, heard how the volunteer-run Brighton Playroom was ‘thriving’ thanks to ‘Nicki’s’ skills and ‘selfless leadership.’
Nicola began working for police in mid-2003 when she met about six times with a Detective Sergeant of the Purana Taskforce, which was investigating Melbourne gangland crime.
She went onto work undercover for police until 2009.
It was later revealed police actually registered Ms Gobbo as an informer while she was still a law student at the University of Melbourne in 1995.
It is unknown if her recruitment was connected to drug charges she faced as a university student two years earlier – although she denies any connection.
From respected barrister to gang target: The life of Nicola Gobbo
1995: Nicola Gobbo is arrested over drug offences and is registered with police an an informer
2003: She meets with a Detective Sergeant of the Purana Taskforce and begins ratting on her clients
2004: Terrence Hodson and his wife Christine are shot dead in their Kew East home. Policeman Paul Dale is implicated
2005: Gobbo becomes aware of high-level drug trafficking, money laundering, witness tampering, firearm offences and works to bring them down
2005-2007: Gobbo informs to police practically every day generating about 5,500 information reports to police.
2008: Gobbo covertly tapes a conversation with the former drug squad detective
2009: Assistant Commissioner Simon Overland decides to utilise Gobbo as a witness against Dale and her world falls apart
2010: Gobbo sues Victoria Police for exposing her and settles for $2.9 million
2014: Gobbo writes to police outlining her fears that the media was about to expose her. She was right
2014: The Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission investigates her snitching
February 2015: IBAC make 16 recommendations to Victoria Police, including to improve its policies, systems and practices for the management of human sources.
June 2015: Gobbo writes to police telling them she was motivated by altruism rather than personal gain
2018: A royal commission into how police deal with police informers is announced
2019: Gobbo is exposed as Informer 3838 as the royal commission into how police handle informers like her are treated. Court imposed gag orders protecting her identity are lifted