top of page

Good man's death leaves a legacy

Sometimes there are tales to be told, where there are no final remains to visit. There is no grave, as the person in question has disappeared and no trace of them has been found. This is the case of a young business and family man from Griffith.

Donald Mackay was a businessman who campaigned heavily against the drug trade. He was born in Griffith, in south-west New South Wales in 1933 and was raised in Sydney.

Donald Mackay

With his wife Barbara, they had four children and were running a furniture business in in the country town. He was obviously a community-minded man and felt he could do good for his area via politics. In 1974 he stood as a federal Liberal candidate in the Riverina electorate. He was up against Labor's Al Grassby and the Country Party candidate John Sullivan. With his preferences going to Sullivan, Mackay was able to help unseat Grassby.

His main concerns focused around the illegal drug trade that was literally growing in his area. When he learnt of a large crop of marijuana growing in nearby Colleambally, he informed Sydney police. He was revealed as the whistleblower at the trial of four men of Italian descent, who were convicted in relation to the information Donald provided.

It is believed an attempt to assassinate him occurred before Donald's disappearance when a 'Mr Adams' from Jerilderie wanted to make an order for a large amount of furniture. Donald was busy at the time and sent employee Bruce Pursehouse, but no one turned up.

Then on 15 July, 1977, after having drinks with friends, Donald disappeared from a hotel car park in Kooyoo Street, Griffith and has never been seen again. He was 43 years old. There were stains from his blood group on his van and on the ground nearby. His car keys were found under the van, along with drag marks, hair and three spent .22 calibre cases. It wasn't looking good.

There were six prime suspects to the disappearance and alleged murder of the anti-drug campaigner. However, on the night in question each man conveniently had an alibi.

Donald's disappearance was not in vain, with the then NSW Premier, Neville Wran appointing Justice Philip Woodward to head a royal commission into the illegal drug trade in the state. The results of the Woodward Royal Commission in 1979 concluded that Donald had been murdered by a hitman acting on instructions from a Griffith-based cell of a Calabrian criminal organisation, called Ndrangheta.

In 1986 hitman James Frederick Bazley was charged over Donald's death but he blamed a corrupt former Sydney detective, named Fred Krahe. However, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In an effort to give the family closure and find Donald's body, in 2012, the New South Wales police offered a $200,000 reward for information on his whereabouts.

Donald Mackay memorial in Griffith. Courtesy Wikicommons.

“We would very much like to provide some closure to Donald Mackay’s family, and want to hear from anyone with previously undisclosed details about those events 35 years ago,” Detective Chief Inspector John Lehmann of the Unsolved Homicide Team said.

Regardless of what evil people did, Donald's legacy continues. The annual Donald Mackay Churchill Fellowship was inaugurated in 1987 and provides awards annually for journalists and detectives to study methods of investigating and bringing to light organised crime.

A statue of Donald Mackay was erected in Griffith in 2008, 30 years after his disappearance/murder. It has a plaque inscribed with "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Anyone with information that may assist police is urged to contact Griffith Local Area Command on 02 6969 4310 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. The reward of up to $200,000 is payable for information that leads to the recovery of Donald Mackay’s remains.


  • 'Donald Mackay' , Wikipedia, accessed on 5th August, 2022, Donald Mackay (anti-drugs campaigner) - Wikipedia

  • 'Murder of Donald Mackay', NSW Police, accessed on 12th August, 2022,

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page