FORMER Colac policeman Peter Goonan says he feels vindicated after an inquest into Hugh Wilson’s death acknowledged claims of police corruption.
Mr Goonan has stood by claims that at least one of his former colleagues was involved in the 1976 hit-run death of Colac man Hugh Wilson, despite a coronial inquest finding there was not enough evidence to prove his allegations.
Coroner Kim Parkinson delivered her findings this month at Melbourne Coroner’s Court but Mr Goonan was unable to attend.
He said he had expected the finding of insufficient evidence, but was pleased the coroner referred to a lack of police integrity in her closing statements.
Rumours circulated Colac after Mr Wilson’s death, including claims that a police car had hit Mr Wilson and the car had secret repairs at the city’s Laneway Panels.
Ms Parkinson said while witness statements showed that someone had repaired a police car at the panel shop “on the quiet”, the repairs were inconsistent with Mr Wilson’s injuries.
But she criticised the close relationship between a group of Colac police officers and Laneway Panels, claiming “the culture which appeared to prevail at the Colac Police Station at the time did a disservice to the Victoria Police and to the confidence the local community was able to have in the integrity of its policing”.
Mr Goonan, who was initially a suspect in Mr Wilson’s death, said Ms Parkinson’s criticism proved his allegations of police corruption.
“There were statements in her findings that backed up my submission to the inquest, which detailed the cultural corruption which was taking place at Colac Police Station at the time, which other police officers like myself had to put up with,” he said.
“Due to the passage of time, there are key records like the station rosters that are missing, not deliberately, but that has allowed whoever was driving the police car the night of Hughie’s death to remain undercover.
“So there’s no sense of relief with this outcome, but I’m very pleased to be cleared without a shadow of a doubt and for the coroner to use a lot of what I’ve said as part of her findings.”
Mr Goonan was among the first on the scene after Mr Wilson died on the Colac-Lavers Hill Road in September 1976.
He said he was writing a book about the case, including the 30 years of innuendo he endured as a rumoured suspect.