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The unsolved murder of a Nazi piece of work

TWENTY-FOUR years ago this month a man who wanted to be underworld king was shot dead. His murder remains unsolved.

TWENTY-FOUR years ago this month a man who wanted to be underworld king was shot dead. His murder remains unsolved.

Phillip Grant Wilson was a big man with big dreams. The trouble was he was a little bit mental.

First the positives. Phil had a bit going for him physically imposing at more than 200 centimetres, articulate and, at the age of 34, he was the owner of a profitable engineering firm.

Now the negatives. What the man they called "the Iceman" had going against him was his dual desires to become a major gangster and neo-Nazi cult hero.

As a history buff, Phil should have realised pretty quickly that those two interests would probably result in him failing to live long enough to collect his superannuation either in German marks or Aussie dollars.

He went as far as to dream of his own funeral strangely a German one held in the Melbourne CBD, where his body would be carried on the back of an armoured personnel carrier flanked by adoring supporters.

In one letter (why nutbags insist on putting pen to paper is a constant mystery) he dreams of the prime minister saying: "Once in a lifetime someone comes along who is allowed to bend the rules." . . . "Would God let him into heaven?" the PM is asked flippantly. "No," he says to the lightweight reporter, his reply captured on national television. "Only the likes of you end up in Heaven. HEROES GO TO VALHALLA!." (Ever noticed how loons love CAPITAL LETTERS?)

He told his followers he received personal messages from the Fuehrer, which really shouldn't have filled them with confidence since Hitler lost his last home game back in 1945.

But as we are graphically reminded by the tragic massacre in Norway, megalomaniacs with fanatical leanings (either left or right) are so dangerous because their political views are not taken seriously by anyone with an IQ equal or superior to that of a guinea fowl.

In their twisted world they equate infamy with influence when in real life they are destined to be deposited in the dustbin of history.

With virtually no criminal record (and as there were no appropriate TAFE courses), Wilson embarked on a bizarre plan to teach himself to become a crime boss and took to using the cunning alias of Kurt Sepp Philippe Hessler.

He surrounded himself with the physically strong and mentally feeble. According to one police report, "This group undertook intense physical fitness training for the purpose of establishing a physical and mental advantage over police, especially the Special Operations Group, against whom they fully expected to come up against at some time in the future."

Big Phil had it a little right and a lot wrong. Yes, they would confront the SOG but, like Hitler, they were doomed to lose the big one.

Wilson's (lunatic) right-hand man was an insecure security guard named Tommy Messenger. At 180 centimetres and 102 kilos he should have been able to look after himself, but just to be sure he took to sleeping with a .32 pistol and a carbine rifle, which was surely taking the Neighbourhood Watch message a little too far.

So when the SOG raided his Wantirna house in January 1985 he decided to shoot it out. Stark naked and stark-raving bonkers, he fired at the first policeman through the door, Big Jimmy Venn, hitting him flush in the chest. Only Venn's ballistic vest saved him.

Venn fired and missed, but another SOG member, Bruce Knight, didn't miss. Messenger died at the scene.

Police soon gathered intelligence that Wilson was planning a revenge attack and was trying to buy a light plane in Mansfield to kidnap Knight and throw him to his death.

Meanwhile, the Iceman continued his forays into criminal enterprises.

According to a confidential police report, his team "intended to embark on a campaign of crime, which would make all members very rich by a young age. Some of the crimes they had already committed consisted of burglaries, armed robbery, motor vehicle theft, criminal damage by the use of explosives, serious assaults on victims of armed robbery."

They started a protection racket, bombed businesses, stole handguns and organised stick-ups.

Police watched as the gang used a surveyor's theodolite from Wilson's business as a front while they watched a series of factories as part of a planned payroll armed robbery.

They bought a rundown backpackers hotel where they recruited drug addicts to commit welfare frauds and armed robberies. They smuggled heroin into prison, then forced inmates when released to commit stick-ups to pay their drug debts.

Police say Wilson's paramilitary goof-balls were prepared to kill without compunction.

So when two couriers, Lina Galea and Ricky Parr, screwed up a drug deal worth $150,00 the response was swift and lethal.

Detectives claim Wilson invited them for a country picnic at a property about 65 kilometres from Melbourne.

As they sat on a picnic rug Wilson walked up behind Parr and shot him in the head. A source told police that Galea, recovering from a car accident, hobbled off on crutches, desperately trying to escape. Wilson followed, laughing and goading her to go faster before shooting her dead. Their bodies have never been found.

Detective Sergeant John Morrish of the armed robbery squad was one of the key investigators who worked on Wilson. Morrish was known to have an intense dislike of people who used guns to terrorise members of the public. He wasn't too found of Nazis either.

Within the job he was known as "the Pope" because when he chatted to suspects in an interview room they were invariably filled with an overwhelming desire to confess their considerable sins.

Wilson claimed that when police raided their private hotel Morrish charged in and and used the butt of a shotgun to knock him to the ground. He then alleged the detective stuffed the gun barrel in his mouth asking, "How do you like this, big fella?"

It must have been a rhetorical question as it is rude to speak with one's mouth full. Morrish quite rightly denied the allegation as the rantings of a madman.

Wilson also complained that police drank soft drink taken from the hotel vending machine without payment. This claim is clearly false as the last time Morrish was seen drinking such a product he was still in short pants and Menzies was prime minister.

Wilson declared that claims that he was a right-wing loon-bag were well off the mark and a story peddled by police determined to destroy his businesses.

"I've got a pretty good personality . . . no bloody personality defects," he once told your correspondent. "I don't need to bash people to prove myself. I'm not a bad sort of guy. I don't need to hurt people. I never have. I don't hate anyone. I've got a forgiving nature.

"I am not a Nazi. My politics are really only left of centre."

If that's true then Mussolini was just a misunderstood tree-hugger who only wanted to make the trains run on time to avoid the carbon tax.

Morrish saw Wilson in a harsher light. "He was an intelligent man who wanted to be a major underworld player. He was violent, ruthless and cold-blooded. Even the crooks hated him."

Wilson wanted to be a star but wasn't prepared to learn his trade off Broadway. He was a novice while most career crooks have been in the system for years. Many can hardly write their own names but they survive on rat cunning and underworld connections.

Wilson was bright but proved to be a big man out of his depth. And a few nutter mates who thought the Third Reich got a bad rap were never going to cut it as a crime gang.

Police say Wilson was a goose-stepping goose who was always going to be cooked by his own deluded ambitions.

On August 4, 1987, the Iceman was shot dead in an ambush outside a South Yarra chiropractic clinic. The murder remains unsolved.

As a matter of completeness, investigators made quiet inquiries about the whereabouts of Mr Morrish on the night in question.

Luckily he was in the Police Club and therefore had around 200 witnesses to corroborate his story.

One was your columnist, who bought him a beverage about 9 o'clock that night. Which, coincidently, was around the time Wilson was shot.

And it certainly wasn't a soft drink.

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