Bruno Robert “Aussie Bob” Trimbole

Bruno Robert “Aussie Bob” Trimbole

Birth
Australia
Death 13 May 1987 (aged 56)
Spain
Burial Minchinbury, Blacktown City, New South Wales, Australia
Memorial ID 63019012 · View Source
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BRUNO ROBERT TRIMBOLE
19. 3. 1931 - 13. 5. 1987 56 YEARS
BELOVED FATHER OF CRAIG, GAYELLE,
GLENDA, ROBERT

WITH SO MUCH LOVE YOU HAVE GIVEN,
THAT WILL LAST FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS.
WE LOVE YOU ALWAYS AND WILL NEVER BE
APART, SO REST OUR DAD,
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN.
YOU ARE LOVE AND WE ARE YOUR LOVE
FOREVERMORE.

-----

The Calabrian Mafia cell in Griffith was still in the fruit and vegetable racket when 21-year-old Robert Trimbole married Sydney secretary Joan Eva Quested on 18 April 1952. Trimbole had moved to Sydney soon after leaving Griffith High School. He served his time as an apprentice mechanic with Pioneer Tours in Sydney.
Shortly after getting married, the young couple moved to Trimbole's parents' farm in Griffith, where they lived for seven months until the farm was sold and Mr and Mrs Trimbole senior moved to the Italian-dominated outer Sydney suburb of Fairfield.
Robert and Joan Trimbole then moved into a modest home in Olympia Street, Griffith. All four of their children were born while the couple lived in this rented house. The first, Gayelle Joan, was born on 17 January 1954, Glenda Julie was born on 21 May 1955, Robert Kenneth on 7 November 1956, and Craig Grainger on 15 March 1959.
Money was short in those early years of marriage and life was a struggle. Trimbole was working from 1953 to 1968 in leased premises adjacent to the Olympia Street address. Known as The Pool Garage it was initially just a repair shop, but Trimbole eventually installed petrol bowsers and the business expanded into panel beating and spray painting.
In mid-1959, the Trimboles moved into a rented house at 66 Macarthur Street, Griffith, where they lived for fourteen years until buying 56 McNabb Crescent, Griffith, for 500. Joan Trimbole, who divorced her husband in 1983, was still living in the McNabb Crescent home in early 1988, at the time of writing.
One of Trimbole's former employees in The Pool Garage – who, like many of those interviewed in Griffith in 1987, was not prepared to be named – said Trimbole was a brilliant mechanic and could have done well at the business:
His trouble was he wanted to be a mate to everybody and never charged enough for the work he did.
Customers took advantage of his good nature and he was always a soft touch for a hard luck story. He accepted all sorts of things in payment for work done, even down to race tips.
He was always a gambler – bet on anything, he would. He was forever nipping away from the garage to put a bet on and racing broadcasts were a constant background noise at work.
Those years in the garage were busy ones for Trimbole. He was struggling to make ends meet and, both he and his wife Joan being staunch Catholics, there was a regular increase in the number of mouths to feed, with a child a year being born in 1954, 1955 and 1956 and a fourth two and a half years later.
Trimbole became a regular visitor to the Coronation Club in Griffith in about 1958, a club largely frequented by Italians. Trimbole felt at home there and befriended the club's Secretary-Manager, Mr Archie Molinaro.
'I first met Bob Trimbole when he was running the panel beating business in 1958,' Mr Molinaro said.
He became a regular at the club and some Sundays would come in with the kids. He became a member on the board of directors of the club about 1960.
We became good friends. He used to fix my truck on the farm. He was battling, poor bugger. Everyone in town will tell you that if he had to fix your car and you were a friend he would just ask for a couple of bob or a beer. He did favours for friends and suffered for it.
It was common knowledge that he was a big horse punter. Whatever he used to collect he used to put on the horses. I used to lend him a bit, but he always paid me back. When he had a win he always came into the front bar of the club and shouted for everyone.
Things turned sour for Trimbole in 1968. He was made bankrupt on 1 November that year. His statement of affairs showed a deficiency of 986. The Pool Garage was burnt down about this time, thus destroying many of the business assets and any records then available. Police investigations were to classify the cause of the fire as 'suspicious'.
Although out of business, and bankrupt, Trimbole kept working on cars, usually at people's homes, and his wife worked to help make ends meet.
A turning point in the Trimbole fortunes came in about 1971 when two friends of Coronation Club manager Archie Molinaro approached Molinaro about disposing of their pinball machine selling, leasing and repairing business.
'I told them I couldn't buy the business as I was not a mechanic and would not be able to fix the machines,' Mr Molinaro said.
These blokes said they knew a man in Melbourne who was a very good mechanic. His name was Tizzoni and he had worked with them before in the pinball business.
I met this Tizzoni character and disliked him from the start, so I said I would get another person I knew to help in the business. I approached Bob Trimbole because he was a good mechanic, he was battling and had a family to keep.
So the three of us, me, Trimbole and Tizzoni, became partners. I put most of the funding in and looked after the public relations side of things and Bob and Tizzoni serviced and maintained the machines.
They used to go to Melbourne or Sydney and buy up old machines for 0 or so, do them up and either re-sell them or lease them out to cafes and amusement halls in the Riverina district of NSW. We used to meet up once a month or so and split whatever profit had been made.
I found out later they had some machines they had not told me about and had been ripping me off. Actually Bob told me he had been doing that and apologised. He said he had needed some extra money to pay off some gambling debts. Those gambling debts were always going to be his downfall.
Whether it was gambling debts, greed or just a wish to better care for his family that got Trimbole started in the marijuana selling business is unclear, but get involved he did, in either late 1970 or early 1971.
His partner Tizzoni – full name Gianfranco Tizzoni, born in Nettuno, Italy, on 3 September 1934, and of whom much will be learned in following chapters – told police in June 1983 how Trimbole had first approached him about selling drugs. The statement was later tabled at the Nagle Inquiry in 1986.
'Continuous association with Robert Trimbole, professionally and socially, led to me having a great respect for him,' Tizzoni said in the statement, which was made to NSW detective Joe Parrington – someone else to be featured in great depth in later chapters – in the Mid City Motel, Dawson Street, in the Victorian town of Ballarat, on 8 June 1983. Tizzoni said:
During 1971, on one of our trips to service machines in Hay, Bob told me that he had to raise some money for an operation on the eyes of a friend's son, which was going to be a very costly operation.
He then asked me if I knew any person in Melbourne who could provide an outlet for the sales of marijuana. He explained to me that the money raised by the sales of marijuana was intended to be used for payment in relation to the operation. He told me he could arrange distribution in Sydney, but I could arrange the same in Melbourne.
I told him that perhaps I could do something about it, that I knew a person in Melbourne that would be able to assist, which I did. And that's how I start.
Detective Parrington then asked Tizzoni whether Trimbole had explained the extent of his marijuana operation. Tizzoni replied:
He told me there was an endless supply from the Griffith area, that Tony Sergi was organising the growing part of it and the supply part of it.
Different farmers were growing it for him, Tony Sergi . . . and Tony Barbaro was supervising the farmers. Bob Trimbole was organising the distribution and my job was to organise the distribution in Victoria under Bob's instructions.
In the early 1970s it became obvious to many in Griffith that Trimbole, and various other Italians in the town, were doing something that was bringing in unexplained income. It is now known Trimbole was heavily involved in the marijuana trade during those years. Profits from it enabled him to open a licensed restaurant, the Texan Tavern, in 1972, although the licence was in his wife's name as Trimbole was still officially bankrupt at this stage.
The Tavern, being in the heart of Griffith, became a favourite meeting place for both the Italian and Australian community. It remained open long after other drinking holes had put up shutters for the night. Steaks were a speciality, cooked personally, and with a good deal of flourish, by master chef Robert Trimbole. Various members of the Trimbole family, including his wife Joan, worked in the Texan Tavern. Fine wines became a trademark, although unlabelled bottles from local wineries were also on offer at a much reduced rate. Trimbole often brought complimentary bottles of wine to tables, particularly if police officers happened to be sitting at those tables.
Within weeks of opening the Texan Tavern Trimbole set up the Texan Butchery, which supplied the Tavern, and other Griffith establishments, with meat on a wholesale basis.
In February 1973, Mrs Trimbole made an application for finance from the Rural Bank to assist in the purchase of the property at 56 McNabb Crescent, Griffith. To support this application she produced a set of accounts for the Texan Tavern and Texan Butchery showing a net profit of 17 after six months' trading. Further examination showed Mrs Trimbole had ploughed 00 worth of private assets into the business and that 00 was owed in undrawn wages – leaving a real net profit of only 7. Not surprisingly, the bank manager refused the loan application.
The Trimbole family was committed to buying the McNabb Crescent home, having signed a contract to do so before applying for the bank loan, and had to sell the Texan Tavern and Butchery to finance the deal.
As Mr Justice Woodward was to note in his drugs Royal Commission report of October 1979, this indicated either optimism for the future on the part of Trimbole or 'a certain assurance that other assets or income would be available for the purchase and would provide for future living expenses of the family'.
The Texan Tavern and Butchery were sold to Giuseppe Sergi in March 1973 for 000, which Mr Justice Woodward said seemed particularly generous considering the two businesses had made a profit of only 7 in six months trading and had a net worth of 24. He said he doubted the true nature of the transaction between Sergi and Trimbole was a simple purchase and sale. Several members of the Griffith Sergi clan were named in Justice Woodward's 1979 Royal Commission report as being members of the Calabrian Mafia cell that was responsible for the 1977 disappearance and murder of anti-drug campaigner Donald Mackay, including Giuseppe Sergi and Griffith winery owner Tony Sergi.
Very soon after disposing of the restaurant and butchery to the overly generous Giuseppe Sergi, the Trimboles bought a supermarket called Casula Foodlands in Casula, near Sydney, and a clothing store in Griffith, known as the Pant Ranch. Within a year they had set up Casula Cellars next to the supermarket. At the same time as Casula Foodland was being established, the Trimboles rented a home unit at 56/79 Memorial Avenue, Liverpool, as accommodation for the family while in Sydney. A few months later, this unit was purchased for 500 in the name of Trimbole's daughter Gayelle.
The purchase of Casula Foodlands caused Robert Trimbole to spend a lot of time out of Griffith and the relationship with his wife Joan suffered because of it.
In early 1973 he met and befriended a 27-year-old Englishwoman by the name of Ann-Marie Presland, who had recently left her husband. She helped out in Casula Foodlands and regularly accompanied Trimbole to the Sydney racetracks, where he was developing quite a reputation as a big punter. She and Trimbole moved in together and lived as man and wife from late 1973 until the day Trimbole died. Trimbole doted on Ms Presland's daughter Melanie Jane, born in Melbourne on 29 October 1969, and acted as a father to her.
Although effectively separated from his wife Joan, Trimbole continued to stay with her whenever he spent time in Griffith – and Trimbole needed to spend time in Griffith to attend regular monthly meetings of La Famiglia and play his part in the marijuana business, which was flourishing in Griffith during the early 1970s.
Justice Woodward nominated Trimbole as the first grower of marijuana in Griffith and said he only remained in the growing side for about 18 months before moving up into the more lucrative distribution side. Justice Woodward's report said the Griffith marijuana growing operation was then taken over by the Sergi family, with Antonio Sergi (known by most as Tony), from the winery at Tharbogang, being described as 'The Operator'.
Two of the first marijuana crops discovered in Australia were found near Griffith in February 1974. Those finds were to spark off the sequence of events that led to the identification of a strong Calabrian Mafia cell in Griffith – and Robert Trimbole's involvement as one of its leaders.
The first find was on the farm of Rocco Barbaro, born 23 December 1949 in Plati, Italy. In July 1973, Barbaro commenced negotiations for the purchase of Farm 1774, Tharbogang, near Griffith, for 500. Justice Woodward found the farm was not of sufficient acreage to provide a legal living.
'The purchase was made and organised with a view to the subsequent harvest of the crop of marijuana. In the purchase he was assisted, by 'loans' totalling 000 from relatives . . . he was financed by a firm of fruit agents at Fairfield, near Sydney, named Trimboli, Sergi & Sergi, although he grew no crops nor disposed of any produce to them. He was arrested and charged on 2 February 1974, in relation to the cultivation of marijuana upon that farm,' the Royal Commissioner's report said.
The Barbaro crop was worth at least million.
The second Griffith find, also valued in excess of million, was made by NSW Department of Agriculture Inspector Patrick Joseph Keenan. He told police he had visited, during the course of his duties, Farm 20, at Hanwood, which is about eight kilometres out of Griffith, at 2 p.m. on 18 February 1974. In his statement to police, which was tabled at the Woodward Royal Commission, Mr Keenan said:
I was aware at this time that this farm was owned by Mr Giuseppe Scarfo. I had visited this farm on numerous occasions in the past. Upon arrival there in my motor car I went to a house on the farm and after knocking at the door of the dwelling I spoke to a woman I believe to be Mrs Giuseppe Scarfo. I said to her, 'I am an inspector from the Department of Agriculture, are any of the boys about?' She said something in a foreign tongue and I formed the opinion that she did not understand what I had said. I said, 'Espatore Departmente Agriculture', to which she then replied, in broken English, 'There is nobody here.' I said, 'Okay', and I walked away towards the farm proper, down a track which leads towards the centre of the farm.
At this stage I did not see any other person on the farm and as I was walking down the track I heard a car horn and as I turned around I saw the woman I had just left standing beside the door of a car and I saw her in a position blowing the horn of this car several times for a very short period. I continued walking down the track towards a shed which was about the size of a nine or ten square cottage. I had been to this shed on prior occasions and I think it is used for machinery and fruit packing . . . As I got closer to the shed I heard voices coming from within. This shed is about in the centre of this 50-acre farm and I think is about 300 yards from the house.
As I got closer to the entrance of the shed I saw about seven or eight sheets of hessian each of about 6 foot by 3 foot dimensions at the front and far side of the shed . . . On each sheet of hessian I saw some dried plants which I first thought were beans but as I drew closer I identified these plants as Indian hemp . . . The next thing I saw was a .22 cal. rifle leaning against the wall just inside the sliding door. I then felt a bit nervous.
I then walked inside the shed and as I did so I saw a number of persons inside the shed, to the best of my recollection there were three male adults, two women adults and two or three young children, I am not sure, maybe only two. I immediately identified Giuseppe Scarfo, the owner of the farm; his son, who I think is about 18 but I don't know his first name; Antonio Sergi, who I know as Tony Sergi, the owner of the winery at Tharbogang. The two women I did not know but I formed the opinion that they were Italian. The two children I did not know.
At the time I saw these persons, Mr Scarfo and his son were not doing anything I could describe, however, Tony Sergi was filling green plastic bags, these were bags which are normally used and similar to the normal size garbage bin liner, with Indian hemp plants similar to the plants I had seen lying on the hessian prior to my entering the shed. The two women were doing the same work.
There were two or three filled plastic bags near the sliding door and about half a dozen similar plastic bags near the far wall . . . Also in the shed I saw about fifty to one hundred Indian hemp plants of about 3ft to 5ft in length, hanging suspended from wire traces in the shed.
As I walked into the shed, all the adult persons I have mentioned stopped working and talking and I formed the opinion that they were surprised to see me. I walked towards Giuseppe Scarfo's son as I knew I could communicate with him in English . . . It was about this time that I saw Tony Sergi walk out of the shed hurriedly with a boy of Italian appearance . . . I then walked with young Scarfo to the shed entrance as I was interested to see where Tony Sergi was going in such a hurry. A few moments later I saw Tony Sergi driving up the track that I had previously come down.
Keenan goes on to say he left the Scarfo farm and went directly to Griffith police station to report the marijuana find. He spoke to Sergeant John Kenneth Ellis, who was later found guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Keenan said Ellis only asked a couple of questions and did not take a statement, although Keenan told Ellis of all he saw. Keenan said he got the impression the Griffith police were not particularly impressed with his information and that he had felt 'rather let down' by their attitude.
The next day, a nephew of Tony Sergi called at Keenan's Griffith home and told Keenan he knew Keenan had told police about Tony Sergi being at the Scarfo farm and that Keenan must have been mistaken as Sergi was at his winery all day. The nephew told Keenan that Sergi had a young family and 'this sort of thing could ruin him'.
Scarfo was arrested and charged on 19 February 1974.
A few weeks later the body of a Patrick Joseph Keenan was found face down in a canal. His blood alcohol reading was 0.225. He had the same name, was from the same town, but was unrelated to the Patrick Joseph Keenan who reported the marijuana crop.
Detective Ellis was the officer in charge of the investigation into the death of Patrick Joseph Keenan. At an inquest Ellis said the dead Keenan had been an alcoholic and that he was satisfied there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. The coroner in Griffith called it accidental death, but a different inquest found that, in light of changed circumstances, substantial doubt existed as to whether the finding of accidental death was a proper one.
Both Barbaro and Scarfo pleaded guilty to the drug charges against them and on 21 May 1974 were sentenced, released on a bond to be of good behaviour and ordered to pay a fine of 0 and 0 each respectively. Justice Woodward later found that substantial compensation had been paid to each of them, including their fines and legal expenses, through the accounts of Messrs Trimboli, Sergi & Sergi.
Justice Woodward also found that the police behaviour in the handling of the Scarfo matter left much to be desired. He also said he was satisfied it was Detective Ellis who informed Tony Sergi that Keenan had made a complaint about him. Keenan was not called to give evidence against Scarfo. Justice Woodward found that Ellis was involved in covering up for Sergi and said he was 'comfortably satisfied' that Ellis was able to assure Sergi that there would be no difficulty in keeping the fact of his involvement in the Scarfo marijuana crop out of the proceedings against Scarfo, and that 'in due course Ellis was no doubt rewarded'.
Justice Woodward also found that the court hearing the cases of Barbaro and Scarfo was manipulated and that the accused were treated leniently because of information wrongly given to the court and that Ellis was the person responsible for bringing about such a situation.
The drugs Royal Commission closely examined the finances of Ellis and found that between May 1973 and March 1977 Mr and/or Mrs Ellis deposited cash amounts of more than 000 in various NSW bank accounts. The couple had combined net assets of 184 at 30 June 1973. Their net assets at 17 March 1978 had increased to 1,084, an increase of 900 over the 1973 figure. Justice Woodward concluded that as Ellis could not satisfactorily explain the improvement in his financial situation it was reasonable to assume the improvement had come from 'unaccountable and therefore improper sources'.
Ellis, and two other former Griffith policemen, were sentenced tojail terms in August 1982. Each had been found guilty on 8 July 1982, of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to the Barbaro and Scarfo marijuana plantations.
In the District Criminal Court, Judge Muir sentenced Det. Sgt. John Kenneth Ellis, 52, of Kempsey to six years imprisonment with a non-parole period of two years; Sen. Const. John Francis Robbins, 40, of Boston Street, Moree to four years with a non-parole period of one year; and Det. Sgt. Brian James Borthwick of Queensbury Road, Penshurst to three years with a non-parole period of nine months.
Judge Muir said the three officers constituted the detective office of Griffith in 1974. He said they had entered into an agreement to pervert the course of justice after the discovery of two crops of Indian hemp. The discovery of the crops called for prompt and proper investigation by the detectives to determine who was involved. Judge Muir said the lack of investigation and the destruction of the evidence of one of the crops caused a situation where other persons apparently involved were not investigated, arrested or prosecuted.
The three Griffith officers benefited from the short-lived, and eventually discredited, prisoner early-release scheme. Ellis ended up serving only eleven months, Borthwick four months and Robbins five months.
The lack of investigation, and lenient sentences handed down on Barbaro and Scarfo, were to bring the Mackay family into the drug debate that eventually led to Donald Bruce Mackay being murdered on 15 July 1977. Justice Woodward found that the Griffith cell of the Calabrian Mafia was responsible for the disappearance and murder of Mackay.

By: Keith Moor

------

Outside Aussie Bob's funeral


Inscription

BRUNO ROBERT TRIMBOLE
19. 3. 1931 - 13. 5. 1987 56 YEARS
BELOVED FATHER OF CRAIG, GAYELLE,
GLENDA, ROBERT

WITH SO MUCH LOVE YOU HAVE GIVEN,
THAT WILL LAST FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS.
WE LOVE YOU ALWAYS AND WILL NEVER BE
APART, SO REST OUR DAD,
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN.
YOU ARE LOVE AND WE ARE YOUR LOVE
FOREVERMORE.

Flowers

In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees

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  • Created by: graver
  • Added: 17 Dec 2010
  • Find a Grave Memorial 63019012
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Bruno Robert “Aussie Bob” Trimbole (19 Mar 1931–13 May 1987), Find a Grave Memorial no. 63019012, citing Pinegrove Memorial Park, Minchinbury, Blacktown City, New South Wales, Australia ; Maintained by graver (contributor 47037760) .