Commander Stuart Bateson. Picture: Aaron Francis
Commander Stuart Bateson. Picture: Aaron Francis

Detective destroyed hitman’s witness statement

A top detective has admitted he destroyed statements from a gangland hitman turned star witness after they were altered with the help of his snitching lawyer, Nicola Gobbo.

The killer's statement at the height of Melbourne's underworld murders - and a year before Gobbo was registered as a police informer - implicated Carl Williams and other members of his crew.

Commander Stuart Bateson told the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants that his practice was "the final product is the only product" when it came to witness statements and he did not consider earlier "drafts" as evidence because they were not signed.

The Lawyer X royal commission on Wednesday heard defence lawyers and a magistrate were unaware during the 2004 murder trial that Ms Gobbo had advised her client to change his statement about his prior knowledge of the slaying.

Commander Stuart Bateson. Picture: Andrew Tauber
Commander Stuart Bateson. Picture: Andrew Tauber

The commission previously heard Ms Gobbo reviewed the gangland hitman's statement before he signed it.

Mr Bateson said Ms Gobbo and he had both expressed scepticism about the hitman's claim in the statement that he had not known about the murder prior to it occurring and this was revised before the committal.

Mr Bateson, a key investigator in Purana Taskforce and a central character in the Underbelley TV series, denied the original statements were significant to the court case and lawyers were aware that the witness had altered his statement throughout the investigation and he was cross-examined on this issue.

Asked by counsel assisting the commission Chris Winneke QC if the court should have known the full extent of Gobbo's involvement in procuring the statement, Mr Bateson said he did not think it was important.

"I never thought her involvement was particularly significant and still don't to this day," he told the commission on Wednesday.

"You don't want anything that's not the final exhibit floating about," Mr Bateson said.

"One for security reasons, and two because I never believed it was evidence until (the hitman) was willing to sign it," he said.

Mr Bateson said he made notes about the alterations, but the commission heard these notes were never provided to the court.

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The commission also heard evidence Ms Gobbo began providing the then-detective with information about fellow gangland lawyers and barristers and believed they were being paid with their client's proceeds of crime.

The intel came as Purana taskforce was investigating a "cadre of lawyers" who were helping keep major drug players, including Tony Mokbel, out of jail.

"They were willing to do things that others were not," Mr Bateson said.

Ms Gobbo said one solicitor was living in an apartment owned by Mokbel and cashed $150,000 in casino chips swiped from the drug kingpin.

Mr Bateson said he believed her motivation to snitch on her colleagues was "personal animosity" rather than "personal gain".

genevieve.alison@news.com.au