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Donald Bruce Mackay (13 September 1933 - 15 July 1977) was an Australian anti-drugs campaigner who came to fame in 1977 through the circumstances of his murder.

Mackay was born in Griffithmarker and raised in Sydneymarker. He and his family ran a local furniture business called Mackay's Furniture.

His wife Barbara (1935-2001) was an active member of the Uniting Church in Griffith and directed a great number of musicals for young children in Griffith, including Spindles and the Lamb and It's cool in the Furnace. Today, the Mackay family still has a property in Griffith. Donald Mackay's son, Paul, runs the family furniture store.

In 1974, Mackay stood as a Liberal Party candidate for the House of Representatives against Al Grassby. He also stood for political office in 1973 and 1976 but was never elected.

Missing person

Concerned about the growing drug trade in his local area, and learning of a large crop of marijuana in nearby Coleamballymarker, Mackay informed Sydney drug squad detectives, resulting in several arrests and the conviction of four men of Italian descent.

At the trial of the arrested men, Mackay was identified as the whistleblower. An attempt was made to lure Mackay to Jerilderiemarker by an unidentified man who wished to make a large order of furniture from Mackay's family business. Mackay, busy with other matters, sent an employee who travelled to Jerilderie to meet the man who never arrived. This is believed to have been an attempt to assassinate Mackay.

On 15 July 1977, Mackay disappeared from a hotel car park after having drinks with friends and has never been found. His locked van was found to contain bloodstains, his car keys and three spent .22 caliber shells. Mackay's disappearance made headlines around the nation and many made the correct assumption that gangland figure, Robert Trimbole, was responsible for the apparent contract style killing. Trimbole had previously made death threats against Mackay. The killing fuelled the perception of Griffith as full of mobsters and "Australia's marijuana capital".

The Mackay case led to the then premier Neville Wran appointing Justice Philip Woodward to lead the Woodward Royal Commission into the illegal drug trade in New South Walesmarker. In 1979, Woodward found that Mackay had been murdered by a hitman acting on instructions from the "Honoured Society", a Griffith-based cell of the 'Ndrangheta, a Calabrian criminal organisation. Wran did all he could to stall charges and bury the issue. Justice Woodward requested for police to search Griffiths "grass castles" but this was denied.

In 1980, Al Grassby was charged with criminal defamation when it was alleged that he had asked New South Walesmarker state politician, Michael Maher, to read in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly a document that imputed Mackay's wife Barbara and her family solicitor were responsible for Mackay's disappearance. An inquiry by John Nagle Q.C. found that "no decent man" could have spread the "scurrilous lies" that Grassby had. Grassby maintained his innocence and fought a 12-year battle in the courts before he was eventually acquitted on appeal in August 1992 and was awarded AUD$180,000 in costs.

In 1984, the coroner ruled Mackay had died of "wilfully inflicted gunshot wounds".

In 1986 hitman James Frederick Bazley was charged over the death. Bazley claimed he was innocent, blaming allegedly corrupt former Sydney detective Fred Krahe as the killer, but Bazley was convicted of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The annual Donald Mackay Churchill Fellowship was inaugurated in 1987. The Fellowship awards between 80 and 100 fellowships each year for Australians to investigate projects that focus on improving the Australian lifestyle and community.

In late 2008, the Rotary Club of Griffith erected a memorial in Banna Avenue, the main street of Griffith, to honor the 30th anniversary of Donald Mackay's murder.

Australian actor, Andrew McFarlane portrayed him in the 2009 television series Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities.


  1. Bottom, B, Shadow of shame - how the mafia got away with the murder of Donald Mackay, Sun Books (South Melbourne), ISBN 0725105585
  3. Mackay, Donald Bruce (1933 - 1977) Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University
  5. Patrick Bellamy: "The Rise and Fall of Drugs Lord Robert Trimbole"

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