The monstrous son ‘Granny Evil’ didn’t trust

 

Faruk Orman might become the first crook to win a get-out-of-jail card because he had the bad luck - now maybe good luck, after all - to be represented by Nicola "Lawyer X" Gobbo when she was telling police about her clients.

But even if Orman is released early, it won't alter the overwhelming likelihood he was the getaway driver for the trigger man Andrew "Benji" Veniamin the night they killed Victor Peirce in 2002.

It was a job straight from the Hitman's Handbook. Veniamin stepped from the anonymous, light-coloured Commodore stolen for the job, walked up to Peirce (in his own Commodore) and shot him like a man who'd done it before.

Before anyone in Bay St, Port Melbourne, could register what had happened, Veniamin slid back into the getaway car and "Coolhand Faruk" calmly drove away, not speeding or running red lights. As cold-blooded murder goes, it was smooth, from the choice of car to the burning of it afterwards.

Faruk Orman was very likely the getaway driver for the Andrew “Benji” Veniamin when Victor Peirce was killed.
Faruk Orman was very likely the getaway driver for the Andrew “Benji” Veniamin when Victor Peirce was killed.

Few grieved for the dead man, who had been controversially acquitted (with his half-brother Trevor Pettingill, Peter McEvoy and Anthony Farrell) of the murders of two innocent young policemen in Walsh St, South Yarra, in 1988.

If anyone was destined to die violently, it was Victor George Peirce. Five of his close associates were killed in police shootings - two of them as Walsh St suspects on the run - and he was lucky not to be, too.

Victor was the third of Kath "Granny Evil" Pettingill's sons to die, although the first to be murdered.

Victor Peirce being escorted into court in 1991.
Victor Peirce being escorted into court in 1991.

The oldest brother of six, Dennis Allen, the one dubbed "Mr Death", had died in hospital in 1987 of a rare heart disease linked to a life of drug abuse. Call it karma. By then, at age 35, Dennis had been tied to a dozen unsolved murders.

First of Kath's sons to die was Jamie Pettingill, who overdosed in 1985, aged just 21. No one knows if Dennis orchestrated his half-brother's death: he was paranoid and vicious enough to kill anyone who annoyed him and an expert at using heroin "hot shots" to do it.

No wonder Kath Pettingill's family inspired the chilling film Animal Kingdom with its central character of evil mother (and grandmother), the crime matriarch played by Jacki Weaver.

Kath once said of Dennis he "never trusted me 100 per cent and I never trusted him 100 per cent and he's my son." This says it all about the woman who once rescued a murder victim's tracksuit because it would fit one of "the boys": a touch of domestic horror no scriptwriter could make up.

Kath's grandson Jason Ryan, son of Kath's estranged daughter Vicki Brooks, would eventually give evidence against his evil uncles and the other Walsh St conspirators. The teenage Ryan saw Uncle Dennis kill three people at one of 16 houses he owned in what is now fashionable Cremorne, Richmond's southwest corner.

Kath “Granny Evil” Pettingill.
Kath “Granny Evil” Pettingill.

Each murder was ghastly in its own way, but the most grisly was Anton Kenny's. The sometime Hells Angel handed over his handgun as a show of trust when visiting on "business" in November, 1985.

Allen lulled Kenny into a false sense of security by taking his shirt off to show he was unarmed. But he had a pistol taped under the table. After he shot Kenny, he dragged him into the backyard and cut off his legs with a chainsaw so he could jam body parts into a drum to be dropped into the Yarra.

The Yarra also figured in the death of a drug-addicted prostitute, Helga Wagnegg, who had fallen out with the family. Dennis got buckets of water from the Yarra and poured it down Wagnegg's throat until she died. When her body was recovered from the river, it would look as if she had drowned "naturally".

Then there was the death of Wayne Stanhope in 1984. Jason Ryan knew something bad was going to happen when Uncle Dennis turned up his stereo player louder than usual. Allen emptied his handgun into Stanhope's head, then snatched Ryan's pistol and emptied another seven shots into Stanhope's skull.

Dennis Allen playfully pointing a pistol at the head of his mother, Kath Pettingill.
Dennis Allen playfully pointing a pistol at the head of his mother, Kath Pettingill.

Years later, acting on information from a source close to Wendy Peirce, police went to remote bushland west of Bacchus Marsh to find what was left of Stanhope. They found a pair of shoes and the label of a coat that once belonged to Stanhope's father.

A detective wondered what had happened to the body. A park ranger told them wild dogs would have eaten it, bones and all.

Dealing in huge amounts of drugs meant Allen rubbed shoulders with a lot of people in rock and roll and sport. One of his favourites, the former star VFA footballer Fred Cook, once persuaded him not to kill the heroin-addled rock singer Stevie Wright of the Easybeats over a drug debt.

Cook, an amphetamines addict, often had Allen at his (Cook's) Port Melbourne pub. Allen repaid the hospitality by firing shots through the floorboards, coming within inches of hitting a man in the cellar below. He behaved like that for years yet still avoided convictions and jail.

Allen's house backed onto the railway line between Richmond and South Yarra. His couriers would toss bags of drugs into his backyard from passing trains. Allen hung the bags high on a washing line between wet sheets, out of range of sniffer dogs.

At age 35, Dennis Allen had been tied to a dozen unsolved murders.
At age 35, Dennis Allen had been tied to a dozen unsolved murders.


Not that police raids were common - and were rarely a surprise. Allen was a police informer, currying favours for himself by dobbing in his competitors. He hedged his bets by paying massive bribes to bent cops, one being the rapist and bash artist Det Sgt Paul Higgins, who once supplied Allen with a bulletproof vest because he feared being killed as an informer.

Whenever Allen was charged with anything, his protectors would show up and persuade magistrates that the accused was too useful to be locked up. Or perhaps too valuable.

Whether other police, prosecutors or magistrates shared in cash "slings" to keep him out of custody is hard to know but the startling fact remains that this violent repeat offender was bailed for more than 60 offences over several years.

While Dennis ran drugs on the outside, his brother Peter Allen ran them inside prison, where he spent more than 28 years - about half his life - on charges ranging from rape to armed robbery.

Last time he was jailed, in 2013, he was "skin and bone" and probably dying, the result of a life of ugly excess.

It looks as if Granny Evil, now 84, will outlive all but two of the monsters she created.

Underworld hit man Andrew “Benji” Veniamin with Lawyer X, Nicola Gobbo.
Underworld hit man Andrew “Benji” Veniamin with Lawyer X, Nicola Gobbo.
Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom.
Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom.


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