A TOP cop turned private investigator uncovered a trail of unauthorised cash sales and deceit at the Queensland crayfish farm where a young scientist died in mysterious circumstances.

In an explosive report, obtained by The Courier-Mail, the respected private eye found the worker's colleagues "were intent on making a great deal of money before leaving the farm for good''.

Former detective superintendent and head of the Brisbane Homicide Squad Warren Smithers knew nothing about the death of Jeffrey Brooks before taking on a job for owners of the Beenleigh Crayfish Farm.

Jeffrey Brooks died from a gunshot wound in 1996. Picture: Supplied
Jeffrey Brooks died from a gunshot wound in 1996. Picture: Supplied

Police determined Jeffrey, 24, had accidentally shot himself on March 13, 1996, while trying to remove an old shotgun - barrel first - from a vehicle, possibly to shoot at a bird swooping on stock.

However, his parents Lawrie and Wendy, friends and the property's owners believe he was the victim of foul play and want the case reopened.

They say he had uncovered the cash sales, too, and been threatened. They say he told them he thought he might be shot and the incident made to look like an accident.

His compelling story is being featured in The Courier-Mail's high-ranking podcast, Dead Wrong.

After the tragedy, the business was to be closed, but co-owner Greg Milham, from northern NSW, struck trouble with the farm manager and his wife.

The couple refused demands to leave, with the manager indicating he wouldn't go because he considered the farm was his.

He also had made an offer to buy the property at a vastly discounted price, which was refused.

Enter Mr Smithers, a mountain of a man and former boxer, who was engaged to conduct surveillance on the couple and a farm worker.

He had set up his own private security firm after serving as a police officer for 32 years - 30 as a detective - throughout Queensland.

In his investigation report, he details Mr Milham's suspicions that crayfish were being stolen and sold to hotels and restaurants.

In the report, Mr Smithers notes that "to aggravate the position further, a former employee (Jeffrey Brooks) advised the owner that the farm manager and his wife had been stealing crayfish" and selling them.

"This had also raised the possibility of violence arising when evicting (the workers) and the deliberate destruction of, or damage to, property,'' he said in his report.

Warren Smithers with then Commissioner Jim O'Sullivan when he retired from the Queensland Police. Picture: Supplied
Warren Smithers with then Commissioner Jim O'Sullivan when he retired from the Queensland Police. Picture: Supplied

Mr Smithers was to assist the owner in taking physical possession of the farm and crayfish stock.

As part of his covert operation, he took photographs and filmed the farm manager's wife making deliveries of large quantities of foam boxes to numerous locations, including top hotels on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane.

He noted he believed she was disposing of the crayfish under the umbrella of her own private company. The businesses she supplied would have been unaware of any illegality.

Mr Smithers helped evict the workers and completed a takeover, taking possession of a shotgun, air gun and ammunition. He wrote that he located paperwork showing the farm manager's wife had sold crayfish valued at $6758.50 during the previous month.

She claimed it was her own property, a claim denied by Mr Milham, who said none of the crayfish on the property belonged to the couple, or the farm worker.

The report says the farm manager became "very agitated and somewhat abusive'' during the eviction but calmed down, while the farm worker was "aggressive and somewhat abusive''.

Now 76, Mr Smithers told The Courier-Mail he put another former policeman in a caravan on the property to safeguard it.

 

PRIVATE INVESTIGATION REPORT

 

STATEWIDE SECURITY CONSULTANTS & SERVICES

Re: Surveillance and investigations carried out on behalf of owners at Beenleigh Crayfish Farm.

Inquiries revealed a suspicion that two persons, assisted by a farm worker, were illegally removing crayfish from farm ponds and selling large quantities to restaurants and other eateries in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

To aggravate the position further, a former employee advised the owner that the farm manager and his wife had been stealing and selling crayfish.

This had also raised the possibility of violence arising when evicting the manager and his wife and the deliberate destruction of, or damage to, property.

It was clear these people, helped by the manager, were intent on making a great deal of money before leaving the farm for good.

 

SURVEILLANCE

THURSDAY, AUG 22, 1996:

0630hrs: Conducted surveillance. Followed target to Gold Coast where farm manager's wife made delivery to a hotel at Surfers Paradise. Videoed and still photographs taken.

1100hrs: Target returned to BCF (Beenleigh Crayfish Farm) to obtain further load of crayfish and distribute in Brisbane area, before obtaining another load and going to Gold Coast. A great number of transactions observed.

FRIDAY, AUG 23, 1996:

1203hrs: Target left scene and drove to hotel in Brisbane. Obtained photographs (of crayfish delivery). Target seen in loading bays of hotel.

TUESDAY, AUG 27, 1996:

0700hrs: Advised those at farm of takeover. They became very agitated and somewhat abusive. Took possession of shotgun, airgun, ammunition and all company records. Located paper showing farm manager's wife had sold crayfish valued in excess of $6800 during previous month. Also had 54kg of live crayfish in holding tanks. Farm worker became aggressive and abusive.



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