Inside the mind of Lawyer X

As a childcare committee president, Lawyer X is "skilled and selfless".

A mum of two, her tireless work saved a kindergarten from closing three years ago.

So goes a September citation for the woman at the centre of the legal storm engulfing Victoria.

She received a Premier's award for her volunteer work; to many people's surprise, given death threats against her over the years, she turned up for the ceremony and beamed for the media cameras.

As a gangland lawyer, she presented a tougher side.

Sharp and defiant, she shredded unprepared police officers.

Underworld kingpins such as Carl Williams and Tony Mokbel were not only clients. They were friends, too.

At the christening of Williams' daughter Dhakota in 2003, Lawyer X commanded the stage with the proud Dad.

Mum, Roberta, not known for her retiring side, felt left out.

As a police informer, she presented yet another side.

Lawyer X represented jailed Melbourne underworld kingpin Tony Mokbel.
Lawyer X represented jailed Melbourne underworld kingpin Tony Mokbel.

Here, we delve into layered motivations and psychology that no one, from schoolmates to clients to police officers, feels qualified to assess.

They knew her, yes, but they do not claim to understand her. In this role too, as informer 3838, her work ethic was unquestioned, if not her professional ethics.

Lawyer X furnished Victoria Police with 5500 information reports and 128 contact visits in five years as an official informer.

She was hidden, in plain sight, in an audacious subterfuge that has now exploded as the biggest crisis in Victoria's legal history.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced a Royal Commission into the scandal on Monday after it was revealed that the convictions of some of the nation's biggest criminals might be tainted because police used a defence barrister as an informant.

Lawyer X herself claims her information led to the arrest and charging of at least 386 people when she turned informer in 2003 at the height of Melbourne's gangland war.

The war had started in 1998. A city would be captivated, a police force confounded; to this day, most of the gangland deaths - almost three dozen deep - remain officially unsolved.

The criminals hoping to walk from prison or see their jail sentences drastically cut include drug baron Tony Mokbel and other members of his empire called "The Company"; Rob Karam, who is serving 37 years for drug importation; Calabrian Mafia boss Pasquale Barbaro; and outlaw bikie gang head John Higgs.

Carl Williams was so close to Lawyer X he invited her to his daughter’s christening.
Carl Williams was so close to Lawyer X he invited her to his daughter’s christening.

Throughout all of this, Lawyer X was the master compartmentaliser.

The facts are remarkable, the rumours so excessive that they would be scrubbed as silly if the TV series comes to be written.

Who has the breadth to play so many guises? Invalid and illusionist. Mother and Machiavellian mercenary. Shapeshifter and survivor - with a scorpion's sting.

If Lawyer X was tight with the biggest criminals, she was tighter with the top cops who wanted to jail them.

The villains shot each other in front of kids. There was torture, burnings and the odd body stuffed in a wheelie bin.

Lawyer X dined with the crooks and had her photo taken with them.

Tales say she mothered a child to a drug trafficker and was engaged to a drug cook. Yet she deceived them, too.

She turned them on one another. She shared their secrets with the police who itched to put them away.

Everyone knew that she got information from all sides, Roberta Williams says, and that her information was always right.

But the extent of her duplicity remained an extraordinary secret, known to few beyond her police handlers, who included long-time overseer and one time top cop, Simon Overland.

She was a hidden master stroke in the Victoria Police's determination to purge the gangland swamp.

Roberta Williams, left, wife of slain Melbourne underworld kingpin Carl Williams says everyone knew Lawyer X got information from all sides.
Roberta Williams, left, wife of slain Melbourne underworld kingpin Carl Williams says everyone knew Lawyer X got information from all sides.

Lawyer X once wanted to be Prime Minister, instead, she had to settle to be the missing piece in the gangland puzzle.

A seasoned detective stumbled across the Lawyer X enigma when he was asked to take a witness statement from her in 2010.

They met in a Bali hotel room, and she was playing yet another (if familiar) role - the difficult person.

Yes, she was happy to be interviewed, notwithstanding the constant breaks for coffee and cigarettes.

Between the officer and the witness stood a stack of informer intelligence sheets.

"I crossed the line a long time ago,' she said in explanation.

"I've been working in the interests of Victoria Police and not my clients."

Such dangerous choices conflict with her privileged background.

She grew up in Melbourne's leafy inner east in a blue blood legal family.

She attended an exclusive private girls' school, where she starred in legal studies.

A knack for getting noticed, or what some observers call attention-seeking, goes back to childhood, when she wrote letters to the editor about the plight of governments.

There was a drug bust at her home in the early 1990s but she was not charged.

She wrote an affidavit about student politics at her university that would double as a political issue.

She partied hard, and was at Tunnel nightclub on the night that Collingwood footballer Darren Millane drank, drove home and died in a car accident.

Her uncanny proximity to events would be a signature move.

Calabrian Mafia boss Pasquale Barbaro is hoping the Lawyer X reveal will see his sentence cut or, even better, he will walk free.
Calabrian Mafia boss Pasquale Barbaro is hoping the Lawyer X reveal will see his sentence cut or, even better, he will walk free.

Lawyer X would hawk for Tony Mokbel's business by visiting him in prison.

But by one police officer's account, she had already also established a secret rapport with police. Her motivation? Disgust, apparently.

"I can't look in the mirror, I can't stand working for these scumbags," the officer reports her as saying.

She says in evidence revealed by the Court of Appeal this week, that she was approached to become a police informer in 2005, after informally helping Purana taskforce detectives from mid-2003.

She was motivated by fear that she would be charged as an accessory because she had gained knowledge about crimes, she claims.

She wanted to get the "Mokbel monkey" off her back.

She was frustrated by the likes of Carl Williams, the heavies who sought to control what suspects and witnesses could or could not say to police.

A competing theory goes that she was compelled to help police in 2005 after she was recorded on a surveillance tape picking up a brown paper bag near the Melbourne Club on Collins St.

It should be noted, however, that Lawyer X says she did not approach police to inform because she had committed a crime and needed a "get out of jail card".

She became the police's secret weapon in the gangland war, speaking to her police handlers daily for a couple of years. No criminal, topic or crime was off limits.

Lawyer X would hawk for Tony Mokbel’s business by visiting him in prison.
Lawyer X would hawk for Tony Mokbel’s business by visiting him in prison.

The relationship was bountiful: she boasts of at least 386 arrests and charges resulting from her informing.

Prize among them drug baron Tony Mokbel, charged with importing 2.9kg of cocaine and whom she had allegedly warned of gangland murder charges prompting him to flee to Greece in 2006.

"Fat Tony" was caught, arrested and brought back to Australia just over a year later.

One of Mokbel's associates Rob Karam has also been told his conviction might be tainted.

He was sentenced to 37 years behind bars for his part in the celebrated Tomato Tins investigation of 2007 that resulted in a world record seizure of 15 million ecstasy pills concealed in cans of the fruit shipped from Naples, Italy.

Lawyer X claimed that $60 million of assets and property was seized through her intelligence. She turned criminals against one another, citing Williams's convictions over four murders.

All she received in return, bar some token thanks, was a pen, she complains.

In 2008, it can be revealed that she even wore a wire for a conversation with former cop Paul Dale that was intended to be used against him at his trial for the murders of Terence Hodson and wife Christine.

Terry Hodson was an upcoming star witness in a trial against two accused corrupt cops - David Miechel and Paul Dale.

Former drug squad detective Paul Dale.
Former drug squad detective Paul Dale.

The Hodsons were under police protection when they were murdered in their Kew East home - shot dead while they were watching TV in 2004.

Their father's lawyer? Lawyer X.

The legal fraternity was shocked by her choice.

Here again, she surprised. After death threats and extravagant police protections, she refused to testify, a trauma she was spared when the other star witness for the trial, Carl Williams, was killed in prison.

She also turned on Victoria Police, which settled a compensation claim she made against the force with what was believed to be a $3 million payout.

By then, given her secret role, she could expose the force as readily as she had exposed the baddies.

She knew the law, but she also excelled under the rules of leverage.

Lawyer X continued to practise law for years afterwards, in a period that some clients now say that she misled, informed or entrapped them.

But she says, after a Herald Sun revelation of her informing in 2014, that she became a "persona non-grata" in the legal profession.

The few who suspected the breadth of her duplicities wondered at the tangle of contradictions. Why did she help criminals, perhaps fall in love with some of them, and yet help put them away, too?

Zarah Garde-Wilson, a colleague and foe, offers as good a guess as any.

"She wanted to be wanted," she says.

Terence and Christine Hodson, who were found dead in their East Kew home.
Terence and Christine Hodson, who were found dead in their East Kew home.


Storms poised to strike the Coffs Coast

Storms poised to strike the Coffs Coast

Hail and damaging winds are a possibility.

Come to the Coffs Coast Christmas Carols

Come to the Coffs Coast Christmas Carols

Celebrate the joy of the festive season at Carols

Fears airport users may be stung under privatisation

premium_icon Fears airport users may be stung under privatisation

Locals concerned privatisation of airport will see sky high prices.

Local Partners