RUMOURS swirled that an “evil” convicted wife-killer was involved in the 1975 execution-style murder of Perth brothel madam Shirley Finn, a nightclub owner from the era has told an inquest.
After hearings in 2017 and last year, the inquest into Ms Finn’s death resumed in the West Australian Coroner’s Court this week.
Bob Maher, who had interests in Gobbles, Pinocchio’s, Beethoven’s and a nightspot that became the popular Hip-E Club, told the court he had heard several times Walter “Wally” Coman was involved in the killing.
“He was an evil man,” Mr Maher said on Wednesday.
“He often was close to police, it seems … protected.
“He was pretty notorious out there – a scary dude.”
Mr Maher said Coman carried a gun and was known for his violence, once grabbing a man in a headlock and dragging his face along a brick wall.
“It was very difficult for anyone to intervene,” he said. “When I heard he might have been involved, it didn’t shock me.”
Mr Maher said he couldn’t recall who he first heard the rumours from.
“You hear whispers,” he said.
“There was talk of other people being involved. The policeman, the ex-premier.”
He confirmed he was referring to former vice squad chief Bernie Johnson, who has been named many times in the inquest, and former Liberal leader Ray O’Connor, who was jailed in the 1990s as part of the WA Inc scandal and was, according to some, a lover of Ms Finn’s.
Mr Maher had not heard rumours that other notorious names mentioned in the inquest, including Neddy Smith and Roger Rogerson, were connected to the madam’s murder.
He bristled at the suggestion he had told people at a restaurant a few years ago that he’d seen Mr Coman on the night of the killing, asked him why he looked dishevelled and was told he’d read about it in the next day’s newspaper.
Mr Maher said he was simply recounting what someone else had told him and could not recall who it was.
Ms Finn, a mother-of-three, was wearing a ball gown when she was shot four times in the head at point blank range in her distinctive Dodge Phoenix on the edge of Royal Perth Golf Club in June 1975.