National

WA coroner unlikely to name Finn’s killer

By AAP Newswire

A West Australian coroner says it is unlikely he'll make a finding about who killed Perth brothel madam Shirley Finn, but has flagged adverse findings against police.

After a long-awaited inquest that ran intermittently over 19 months, Coroner Barry King said there were too many suspects and some witnesses had been unreliable.

He told counsel representing WA Police to expect potential adverse findings, saying there was a lot of evidence of corruption in 1975, when the mother-of-three was shot four times in the head at point blank range.

She was found dressed in a ball gown, slumped in her car on the edge of Royal Perth Golf Club.

The inquest heard many allegations and rumours the assassination-style murder was arranged or executed by police top brass, with then-vice squad chief Bernie "The Bear" Johnson's name repeatedly popping up.

Mr Johnson died last year and did not give evidence at the inquest, which began in 2017, as he had dementia.

Other notorious names regularly mentioned included former detective and convicted killer Roger Rogerson and Sydney hitman Arthur "Neddy" Smith.

The inquest also heard several times that WA's then premier, Ray O'Connor, who was the police minister in 1975, had an affair with Ms Finn.

It was common knowledge she was paying kickbacks to police in exchange for not being raided, wanted help paying a big tax bill and was silenced when she threatened to name names, the inquest heard.

Ms Finn's driver Leigh Beswick testified she overheard Mr O'Connor tell her to "f*** off" after she said "'you know I'm in trouble with the tax man and if I go down, I'm taking you with me".

Mr King also ruled on Monday he would not accept any more witnesses despite submissions calling for five more.

"At some stage, this inquest has to stop. And in my view, this is that stage," he said, prompting tears from Ms Finn's daughter Bridget Shewring.

One of the people she wanted to testify had information about a rifle pulled from the Swan River on a fishing line that was destroyed in 1976.

According to the person who found the gun, a newspaper article about it had a photo of an officer holding a different rifle, a misrepresentation suggesting "something nefarious", Mr King said.

He told the police lawyer he would likely find the initial investigation into the murder "was at least incompetent".

Mr King said a car seat cover, potentially from Ms Finn's distinctive Dodge, was also pulled from the river around the same time as the rifle.

Efforts were underway to find it, he said, but it would probably not help him answer the key question: Who was the murderer?

THE INQUEST INVOLVED:

* 30 sitting days from 29 August, 2017, to 4 April, 2019

* 70 witnesses giving evidence

* 124 exhibits tendered, some of which contained multiple documents

* Five interested parties represented including Ms Shewring.