The true story of how the scenic clifftops at Bondi, Sydney became the epicentre of a series of gay hate murders is the focus of new true crime podcast Bondi Badlands.
The podcast investigates the series of violent murders and disappearances in Sydney in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The victims of the crimes were gay men, and the true crime series looks at the deaths of four – TV reporter Ross Warren, barman John Russell, Thai national Kritchikorn Rattanjurathaporn and Frenchman Gilles Mattaini.
All met their grisly deaths at the bottom of the cliffs between Bondi and Tamarama beaches.
The five-part Bondi Badlands series, produced by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, is created by journalist Greg Callaghan. It’s based on his 2007 book of the same name.
The brutal violence occurred on the clifftops near Marks Park. At the time, the area was a gay beat and notorious for targeted gay bashings.
Gangs would regularly lie in wait and randomly attack those on the headland under the cloak of darkness, using the cliffs as murder weapons.
Some victims, like Kritchikorn in 1990, were discovered in the water. Others, like Ross in July 1989, were never seen again.
Tragically, these crimes and others remained unsolved and garnered little police attention.
Gay hate crime victim’s mother pleaded police for closure
In May 2000, Detective Sergeant Stephen Page from Paddington Police Station discovered letters from Ross Warren’s mother Kay.
In them, Ms Warren pleaded for police to formally declare her son deceased so she could find some closure.
“What caught my eye [in May 2000] was that attached to the file was a letter from Kay,” Page, who’s now retired, said.
“There were many other letters that Kay had kept asking NSW Police for assistance and support and nothing had been done.
“I just felt for Kay. I had a young son myself and I thought how horrible as a parent to have a child missing.
“You just want some support to find out what’s happened to them. I took it up then and there.”
Detective Sergeant Page’s interest in the case started Operation Taradale, which eventually led to an inquest by the Deputy State Coroner.
Over four decades, there were at least 88 murders of gay and transgender people in Sydney. Around 30 are still unsolved.
“Either side of the disappearance of Ross Warren – about 18 months either side of July 1989 – there was a lot of violence associated around Marks Park,” Page said.
“There was one victim that survived, and that was in December 1989. We refer to him as the one that got away.”
Each episode of Bondi Badlands centres on one of the unsolved murders of the gay Bondi men.
Episode four also examines the 2005 coronial inquest, prison phone taps by police, and survivor David McMahon’s story.
NSW Police charge man with murder of gay man Scott Johnson
The final Bondi Badlands episode covers the case of Scott Johnson. Johnson’s body was found at the base of cliffs near North Head, Manly, in 1988.
NSW Police arrested a man in May 2020 after a key informant came forward with information.
Earlier this year, the man pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. The case is still ongoing.
In May, a NSW parliamentary inquiry found NSW Police “failed to properly investigate” the historical crimes and called for a judge to head a new investigation.
The Bondi Badlands podcast contains interviews with key players including Detective Sergeant Stephen Page as well as friends and family of victims.
Many of them have never received justice or closure after the “senseless and tragic” crimes.
“It’s been a slow road to justice for most of the victims’ families,” journalist Greg Callaghan said.
“The victims were good, loving men killed only because they were gay.”
The Bondi Badlands podcast is supported by LGBTIQ organisation ACON as well as Waverley Council.
The first episode of Bondi Badlands is streaming now on Apple, Google and Spotify with new episodes each week.
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.