|Birth: ||Oct. 16, 1947|
|Death: ||Jul. 28, 1987|
A career criminal has been given two life sentences for the brutal murder of a couple executed in their Melbourne home in 1987.
Ramon and Dorothy Abbey, aged 40 and 39, were shot dead at their Heidelberg West home in July 1987.
The couple's three children were home at the time.
The killer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced in the Supreme Court today after a jury found him guilty of the murders.
In sentencing, Justice Elizabeth Curtain said they were committed in a callous, brutal fashion to serve his own interest.
"There is a chilling and fearsome resolve on your part and complete and utter lack of humanity and regard to the sanctity of human life,'' she said.
The career criminal, who has almost 60 convictions, will serve his two life sentences concurrently and will serve a non-parole period of 32 years.
There are crims who, despite possessing a chronic streak of dishonesty, can be quite charming. Rodney Charles Collins is not one of them.
At a time when many gangsters have become household names Collins remains nearly anonymous, partially because for decades he has kept a low profile and partially due to a raft of court suppression orders (finally lifted yesterday) that have forbidden his name to even be whispered in public.
But there is not a heavyweight crook in Victoria who doesn't know of Collins - reputed to be one of Australia's most prolific hitmen.
So it was with some alarm that word started to filter through the underworld that the man they call The Duke had been moved into protection in Barwon's maximum-security division.
This led to speculation that Collins, a notorious hardhead, had cracked and was talking to police about several unsolved murders.
Because if Collins (also known as Rodney Earle) decided to talk it would come from first-hand knowledge because in most cases he pulled the trigger.
He is alleged to have been involved in nine murders and was also responsible for the death of another man and rumoured to be part of an armed robbery team that killed a security guard.
However, the reason for his shift to 23-hour-a-day lockdown was less spectacular and much more logical.
As a prisoner Collins, 68, is difficult and fellow inmates find him a pain in the neck. In years gone by the fear of meeting him on the outside meant any crook with a brain (who wanted to make sure they weren't blown out) always wanted to keep on The Duke's good side.
But now that Collins is destined to die in jail they no longer need to treat him with caution. So the man who killed for a living now needs to be protected from those who once feared him.
Last year he was bashed in the shower block, although he told authorities his black eye was the result of a simple slip involving soap and a wet floor.
CCTV footage suggested otherwise.
Inside prison it is the little things that can grate and it is fair to say Collins is not at the front of the class when it comes to interpersonal skills.
In an environment where personal space is at a premium, Collins tends to get into people's faces in a most obnoxious way, to the point where he was allegedly found using someone's still damp toothbrush.
The reason he is in prison and the reason he won't be released is that Collins is a man who kills without hesitation, without conscience and sometimes without reason.
How many times he has ended a life only he really knows for sure, but police say he has killed three women, just because they may have been able to identify him.
In 2009 he was sentenced to life with a minimum of 32 years for the 1987 murder of Ramon Abbey and his wife Dorothy. It was a vicious, vindictive and pointless double murder that would have stayed in his past, if he wasn't greedy enough to commit a near identical crime for a payment of $150,000.
There was a gang of four that went to the Abbey's West Heidelberg house on the night of July 27, 1987 but it was Collins who was after blood.
One stayed in the car as the other three, dressed in police uniforms rumoured to have been stolen from a dry-cleaners, entered the house.
Collins suspected Abbey was a police informer, had failed to return a police badge and had pulled out of a planned armed robbery. This, plus the fact he owed Collins money over the sale of a second-hand car, created a spectacular falling out.
He also believed his victim had cash and drugs hidden in the house. In fact Abbey was broke and had tried to borrow money earlier that day.
Collins took him to a shed at the back and shot him three times in the head. Just before he died Abbey yelled out his killer's name. That shriek doomed his wife to the same fate.
Collins calmly walked back into the house and shot Dorothy Abbey twice in the head and cut her throat while she sat on the family couch. The couple's three young children were in the bedroom next door.
When asked why he had killed her, he replied: ''Dead men tell no tales.''
And there it would have remained but for the remarkably similar murders of police informer Terence Hodson and his wife Christine, who were shot dead in their Kew home in May 2004.
It was part of that investigation that led police to re-open the Abbey file.
When Collins was arrested in June 2008 for the 1987 double murder police found a loaded handgun, a balaclava, a burglary kit and surveillance equipment in his Northcote home. They also found the 58-page confidential police report on a major drug dealer.
Collins refused to say why he had the document and claimed he found it at a bus stop.
The similarities between the Abbey killings and the murders of the Hodsons were striking.
Again the male was the target, again the wife was killed because she could identify the killer and again the gunman was Collins. Now who paid him and why has never been tested in court because the star witness for the prosecution, Carl Williams, is not alive to testify.
Williams, who was serving a minimum of 35 years for four murders and other offences, was desperate to cut a deal with police and made a series of statements over the Hodson killings.
In his first statement, Williams said he was asked to help organise a hitman but another team carried out the murder.
In this first version Williams claims he was offered $150,000 for the job but writes himself out of the actual murder. Williams made that statement in April 2007 just a few weeks before he was to be sentenced in the hope it would reduce his sentence. He was wrong.
Nearly two years later and at a low ebb, Williams decided to have another go. This time he said he had taken the contract and organised the eager Collins to do the hit.
''Rod Collins was always asking for work and I thought he might do it. Rod was in the back of my mind as someone I could use on a job like this.''
He said he had previously asked Collins to kill Williams' enemy Jason Moran but the older man didn't take up the offer. "I thought that maybe he was a bit past it."
This time he took the contract to kill Terry Hodson. There was no mention of killing his wife.
A few days after the murders Williams said he met Collins at the Marriott Hotel to deliver the $150,000.
"Rod said, 'Quick hey?' and smiled and chuckled. I said to him, 'What happened with the sheila?' He said 'That's not for you to worry about'."
The Williams secret statements were seen as a massive breakthrough in the murders police desperately wanted to solve.
As a result of "Carl's Confessions" Collins and the man alleged to have paid the money were charged with the murders.
But only Collins was charged with the double murder as the man said to have ordered the hit had asked only for Terry to be killed.
But when Williams was bashed to death in Barwon Prison in April 2010 the case against the two collapsed.
He remains on the shortest of short lists as a suspect in the murders of Mike ''Lucky'' Schievella, and de facto wife Heather McDonald, who were murdered in their St Andrews home on September 16, 1990.
The couple was tortured and their throats slashed in what appeared to be a drug ripoff. The killers have never been found.
At a February 1983 party in a Reservoir home, Collins turned on a young Irishman too drunk to sense danger.
He shot and killed Patrick Brendon Coghlan before shooting the party's host, Ronald Longmuir, in the leg.
At first witnesses were too frightened to talk but months later some of the party-goers made statements, including one who said he had seen Collins with a gun some time earlier.
It was enough to arrest the suspect. The special operations group later smashed through a window in his Broadmeadows house to arrest him. The window had been covered with a plastic film, which delayed the arrest team for several seconds.
Later police found a loaded revolver near the window with bullets in the cylinder dented by the firing pin. Tests showed the gun was faulty and that the suspect had tried to fire rounds at the police through the window before throwing the weapon to the other side of the room and giving up.
When asked by homicide squad detectives if he had fired at police, all he would say was "I didn't know it was you".
Collins was committed for trial but the case collapsed after Longmuir died from complications from his gunshot wound.
Collins is under investigation over the murder of Melbourne standover man Brian Kane, who was shot dead in the Quarry Hotel in Brunswick in 1982.
Police say Collins and his partner Russell ''Mad Dog'' Cox, burst in and fired .38 snub-nosed revolvers in the ambush.
Cox, who spent 11 years on the run after escaping from a Sydney jail, now lives quietly in Queensland and has refused to help police.
Just three months after the Quarry Hotel hit, police received intelligence that Collins was "believed running with Russell Cox".
Certainly the gunman and Cox were seen chatting over coffee in Hawthorn just months before the Kane hit.
Cox and Collins were part of a notorious armed robbery crew in the 1980s. It was Cox, using inside information, who organised one of those jobs, a raid on a Brunswick Coles supermarket in July 1988. A security guard was confronted. When Dominic Hefti refused to give up the cash tin he was shot in the chest and leg but managed to return fire, shooting one of the robbers through the hand.
It would be years before police would find the names of the team and use DNA technology to establish Hefti's killer was Santo Mecuri - a sausage maker turned gunman.
Mecuri was a known associate of both Collins and Cox.
There is one further murder linked to The Duke. Mario Condello, a member of the Carlton Crew and an enemy of Carl Williams and Tony Mokbel, was shot dead by a lone gunman as he returned to his Brighton home in February 2006. Around that time Collins was living with Joan McGuire, whose daughter Danielle was Tony Mokbel's partner.
Collins has repeatedly got away with murder and if not for the Abbey conviction he would be laughing.
But now, unless he is blessed or cursed with longevity in his genes, he will die in prison. If he survives he will be in his 90s when first eligible for parole.
He is a hard nut but history shows that prison time often erodes even the strongest will.
- by John Silvester, September 24, 2012, the age.com.au
Dorothy Jean Abbey (1948 - 1987)*
In Loving Memory Of
Raymond Edward Abbey
17.5.1920 - 4.4.1968
16.10.1947 - 28.7.1987
Dorothy Jean Abbey
14.2.1948 - 28.7.1987
Loved Parents of Elicia, Stacey & Damon
Fawkner Memorial Park
Plot: Fawkner Memorial Park wishes to advise that the location of the buried remains of the late Ramon Abbey who passed away on Tuesday, July 28, 1987, aged 40 are located at Protestant Compartment E Grave 170.
Created by: graver
Record added: Jan 31, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 64954243
Added: Dec. 23, 2012
Added: Nov. 18, 2012
Added: Feb. 2, 2011