IT IS the Hunter bikie war being fought by police on two fronts – on the streets and in the courtroom.
After Thursday’s massive show of strength, during which 280 officers raided 31 properties and charged 13 members and associates of the warring Nomads and Finks, police will take their battle to eradicate the gangs and stop the violence back into the NSW Supreme Court.
The Newcastle Herald can reveal that senior police are seeking to impose the same tough conditions on five members of the Finks that their bitter rivals, the Nomads, have been fighting in court.
Police have applied for Serious Crime Prevention Orders, labelled “draconian” by a judge, against Hunter Finks members Mitchell Alexander Cole, Benjamin James Main, Andrew Robert Manners, Matthew Maybury and Troy Vanderlight.
The orders include restrictions on associating with other gang members, moving around at night, entering licensed venues and using encrypted messaging apps. The matter is listed for hearing next week.
Gangs squad commander Detective Superintendent Deb Wallace said police had been “relentless” so far but would “reach out a little further” and use the legislation against both gangs.
“We’d tried everything we already had in our tool box … but the violence continued,” she said. “The legislation was designed for these situations.”
She added: “Are they getting tired of doing it? It doesn’t appear so and neither are we.”
Thursday’s sweeping dawn raids were a massive show of strength: an unequivocal message to the gangs that police were not going away.
Police raided 31 properties, between Maitland and Muswellbrook, and arrested nine members and associates of the Finks and four of the Nomads.
They were charged with various offences, including participating in a criminal group, possession of a prohibited drug, supplying a prohibited drug, possession of a prohibited weapon and resisting arrest.
Police seized drugs, a taser, an extendable baton, firearm parts, ammunition, a knuckle duster, explosive detonators, a crossbow and five arrows and a python snake at a property at Hunterview.
“We’ll be relentless in our pursuit of stopping and oppressing this activity… not only is the conflict between Nomads and Finks but it is now impacting on community members and family members. Innocent people are now getting caught up in this,” Detective Superintendent Wallace said.
And police haven’t let up in their attempt to incapacitate the gangs using legislation usually reserved for terrorism suspects.
Police have sought to impose Serious Crime Prevention Orders against Nomads members James Quinnell, Blake Kevin Martin, Bradley Bowtell, Dylan Patrick Britliffe, and Kane Benjamin Tamplin.
The five men have opposed the orders and deny they are engaged in “open warfare” with the Finks.
Justice David Davies has reserved his judgement.
But police will bring similar orders against the Finks next week and say the escalating acts of violence and tit-for-tat shootings have left them no choice.
Documents tendered in the NSW Supreme Court as part of the application against the Nomads reveal there was a meeting held between police and at least one of the gangs to try and resolve the ongoing dispute.
How the Hunter turf war ignited
IT BEGAN as an internal dispute between three mates that would escalate into an all-out turf war.
Senior police believe they can trace the Hunter bikie war to a single event two years ago when one member of the Newcastle City Nomads “patched over” to the rival Finks following a falling out with his former gang.
According to documents lodged with the NSW Supreme Court, the defection of Zakary Ross in October, 2016, was the “catalyst” for acts of violence becoming more frequent and dangerous.
Over the next few months, the bad blood would bubble away in tit-for-tat attacks, including one instance where a Finks nominee on his motorbike was rammed from behind, suffering serious injuries a month after Ross started flying the Finks flag.
Then there was the brawl in a Wallsend pub where one Nomad was alleged to have pulled out a gun.
A week later, on December 9, 2016, Nomads and Finks bikies again started brawling at a service station on Thomas Street in Wallsend. There were allegations a Fink used a baseball bat to strike a former mate of Ross, Nomad Blake Martin, across the head.
The festering feud continued into 2017 as Allan Arnold, who police believed was an unconfirmed member of the Nomads but is now a patched member of the Finks, was attacked by Martin and fellow Nomad James Quinnell with a barbell at a Kotara gym.
The assaults escalated into firebombings and drive-by shootings.
Shots were fired into clubhouses before gang members began targeting their rivals’ homes and loved ones.
Ross, the sergeant-at-arms of the Newcastle City Finks, was first. His home was fired upon while his partner and two children were inside.
James Quinnell, a Nomad, was next – with more than 30 shots fired into his Wallsend unit and passing through into the units of two neighbours. Police set up a Hunter-based strike force but the retaliations persisted.
This year, after multiple shootings on the homes of various gang members, police were grappling with an “emergency”, with the conflict in the Hunter now the most “significant” dispute between rival bikie gangs anywhere in the state.
That an innocent member of the public would become involved was only “a matter of time”, a senior Strike Force Raptor investigator said in an application to the Supreme Court.
“The level of violence is now at the most dangerous levels I have witnessed in this conflict,” he said.