It was a seemingly innocuous meeting between friends.
At a Melbourne coffee shop in December 2008, former drug squad detective Paul Dale chats with defence lawyer Nicola Gobbo for about an hour.
- The conversation was later used as evidence against Mr Dale
- Ms Gobbo asks her companion about allegations Mr Dale murdered police informer Terence Hodson
- Mr Dale has today argued the conversation should have been protected by privilege
They talk about the weather, his wife, parking restrictions and at one point Ms Gobbo complains about the delay in getting her skinny flat white.
“You must be milking the cow or something,” she tells the waitress.
Two friends shooting the breeze, or so it would seem.
What Mr Dale doesn’t realise is Ms Gobbo is a police informer, has been for years, and is secretly recording their conversation.
He’s anxious as two weeks earlier he’d been interrogated by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) about his meetings with convicted murderer Carl Williams, one of Ms Gobbo’s clients.
It’s an offence to disclose such a hearing has taken place, but as they chat Ms Gobbo eases his mind.
She tells him: “You are entitled to talk to a lawyer about it.”
The taped conversation will later be used by police against him.
Two months later, Mr Dale is charged with the murder of police informer Terence Hodson.
Pair discuss murder allegations
The transcript of the taped conversation has been tendered at the Royal Commission into Management of Police Informants, which is examining the way police used the gangland lawyer to inform on her clients.
Here’s how it unfolded.
Paul Dale: I tried to, I, I claimed privilege several times in relations to me and you about that. They played a number of phone calls between me, you and Carl Williams.
Nicola Gobbo: Yeah.
PD: Back in 2004, years, you know years old … all they are trying to show is that I had a relationship with Carl, that’s what they’re trying to say. Carl’s clear and made a very in-depth statement against me.
He’s right. Williams has spoken to police and implicated the former cop in the murder of police informer Terence Hodson.
NG: Accurate or not? Or you haven’t got the statement so you don’t know.
PD: Very accurate.
NG: Very accurate? Okay.
PD: Very accurate to the point of every single time we met he seems to have had documented it…
At his appearance before the ACC on November 26, 2008, Mr Dale told examiners he met with Williams, endeavouring to be “a top-notch detective”.
But his chat with Ms Gobbo reveals he’s suspicious about just what they might have been told.
PD: Look no there are some things that came out that clearly only him and me knew…
NG: Why would he have kept a record of them?
PD: No, he hasn’t it’s just what he’s gleaned from memory. It was think like, you know, remember things like locations where we might have met and, um, you know, like in Noddle Box over in some street…
‘Where did you get the $400,000?’
He goes on to say he’s been interrogated about chatting with Williams while wading through water at a local swimming pool and drunk phone calls they both had with Williams during a boozy night at the casino.
He then gets to the crunch — the allegations he paid for gangland hitman Rodney Collins to kill Hodson.
NG: So you paid who?
PD: So the theory is that I met with Rod Collins.
PD: …I paid him 400 grand to do the Hodsons.
PD: $400,000 yeah.
NG: Right. And where did you get the $400,000 from?
PD: I’d love to know. I wish I [had] 400 grand, ya know, I’d be.… So anyways, so that is the bottom line what I got out of that latest hearing, that’s their latest you-beaut information.
PD: I said, I’ve never met Rod Collins in my life, don’t know him, can’t help you. And I haven’t, never met him in my life.
Seven minutes later, Ms Gobbo returns to the alleged contract.
NG: I mean the $400,000 thing, it must be, someone must have made a statement.
It’s utter crap, according to Mr Dale.
He says he’s never met with hitman Rod Collins and “never had $400,000” to offer someone.
PD: … they are of the opinion that he did the murders, that I arranged it, um, and that’s their theory…
PD: And [former police chief] Overland said we are very close to making charges, you know.
But it was more than one murder the ACC examiners had asked Mr Dale about.
NG: So you’re not being accused of Jason Moran’s murder anymore?
NG: Cause at one stage they were, um…
PD: I, um, I took the contract to do Jason.
NG: I remember.
PD: I was paid $30,000 to do, um, find Jason and provide information to Jason’s whereabouts and all that sort of stuff… that was put to me again.
PD: Um, yeah.
NG: So you’re a serial killer now?
PD: Yeah, yeah.
Police have never formally alleged Mr Dale had any involvement in Mr Moran’s murder.
Conversation fell under privilege, Dale argues
Questioned for a third day at the royal commission today, Mr Dale, who claims he was set up by Victoria Police, repeatedly stated the whole conversation fell under client-lawyer privilege.
“I have never wavered from the fact that I sought Nicola Gobbo out for legal advice,” Mr Dale testified.
“She was a high-profile criminal barrister.”
But the inquiry was told he had a different lawyer at the time, one that warned him against speaking to Ms Gobbo about the ACC interrogation.
In hindsight, he wishes he had listened.
“I’m sitting there like a dead duck thinking I’m talking to a legal adviser,” he said.
Mr Dale has always denied any involvement in the murder of Mr Hodson.
The charges against him were dropped when Carl Williams was bludgeoned to death at Barwon Prison.
In 2013, a Supreme Court jury acquitted Mr Dale of 12 counts of lying to the ACC over his relationship with Williams.