Love, Respect, and Ride Safe,
Many secrets … Colin “Caesar” Campbell
By Paul Kent
April 11, 2009 12:00am
IT begins with an open window. Everything today, the escalation in violence, the historical hate between the Bandidos and Comanchero, begins with that window.
As secrets go, Colin “Caesar” Campbell has been hanging on to the secret of that window for 26 years.
Like his brothers Bull (Phillip), Snake (Geoff), Wack (John), Chop (Mario) and Shadow (Gregory), Caesar was once a Comanchero.
They were the Wrecking Crew and together with the McElwaine brothers – Knuckles (Phil), Gloves (Mark) and Dukes (Greg) – the unofficial muscle of the gang.
“They could walk into a room of a hundred men and clear the room,” said Bear Campbell, an adopted brother. They broke away in 1983 because of the window.
Not even the Comanchero that remained, the ones that stayed loyal to then-president William “Jock” Ross when the gang split in 1983, knew about the window.
They still don’t.
Special section: Inside the bikie violence
“You’re just the ninth person to know this,” Bear said yesterday. “And four are dead.”
Bear is Caesar’s adopted brother, and we are talking about Caesar’s secret. Caesar is 62, the last surviving original Bandidos office-bearer, and despite a recent stay in hospital he can still clear a room if he must.
From retirement Caesar watches the latest escalation of bikie violence, filthy at the attacks on homes where children sleep, adamant this was never what it was about.
Gallery: Sydney’s bikie gang war
Those naive to their war might point to Milperra, but Caesar insists back then they had honour. Indeed, Milperra was all about honour.
Police still believe the war began over turf, or drugs, or a combination of both. They alleged it in court in 1984, some seven weeks after the violence in the carpark of Milperra’s Viking Tavern, when six bikies were shot dead, as well as 14-year-old Leanne Walters.
Now, for the first time, Caesar Campbell has let go of the secret that cost him two brothers – Shadow and Chop – at Milperra, and which would see Wack die three years later from illness caused by the massacre.
“One of the Campbell brothers and another member went to another member’s house and saw Jock Ross’ vehicle out the front,” he said.
“They went to the front door and looked through the window and saw Jock and the other member’s wife in a compromising position in the lounge room.
“They knocked on the door, they answered the door, and both members looked at Jock and turned around and came straight to me and told me about it.
“It was then that it was decided that Jock would be brought up on charges of committing one of the greatest offences that you can make in a motorcycle club – apart from selling heroin and making a police statement – by making love to a member’s wife.”
Ross had broken one of the 10 club rules he drew up himself, namely Club Rule 4: “Any member found guilty of screwing another member’s Ol’ Lady, or taking advantage of a rift between them for future conning up, will be thrown out.”
The Campbells and McElwaines, their bond born in battle, were filthy.
Caesar won’t reveal the member’s identity now out of respect to his children but as sergeant-at-arms he ordered Ross to the next club meeting to face charges.
He failed to show.
He failed to show at the next meeting, too, but walked into the third, announced he was splitting the Comanchero into two separate chapters, and walked out.
The Wrecking Crew went to the city, opening their clubhouse at 150 Louisa Rd, Birchgrove. Ross’s clubhouse remained at 65 Harris St, Harris Park, in western Sydney.
Relations remained strained but workable until the club’s annual run. It broke down amid fights and threats, and the city chapter returned and voted to break away.
Police believe the breakaway occurred shortly after Christmas 1983, when Anthony “Snotty” Spencer and Charlie Scibberas flew to America to seek permission to form an Australian Bandidos chapter.
What actually happened was “Snotty” and Charlie had gone to America two years earlier to buy Harley-Davidson parts, met Charles “Ha Ha Chuck” Gillies, president of the Bandidos’ Albuquerque chapter, and now Snotty and Shadow called Ha Ha Chuck. “Within a week it was granted,” Caesar said.
A set of colours were made and taken to Caesar for approval.
More colours were ordered, but for 10 days Caesar was the only man in colours. For 10 days he was president, vice-president, sergeant-at-arms, treasurer and secretary.
Bashing and clubhouse attacks took place until August 1984, when Snotty and Jock officially declared war in a phone call.
Caesar declared homes and places of work off limits. Everywhere else was fair game.
It was unlike today’s bikie war, where homes are now a target of choice, and small attacks continued until Father’s Day 1984.
Among the dead and bloodied at Milperra, Caesar was shot six times.
He was thrown into a car and dropped off at Bankstown Hospital. Some weeks later Caesar gripped the back of his chair while his Ol’ Lady Donna pulled four remaning shotgun pellets from his back with tweezers and a buck knife and no anaesthetic.
Much of what the gangs believed they stood for then is now lost.
Caesar does not see the honour he once stood for, and still stands for.
Some time before Milperra the American Bandidos visited Australia and noticed the Australian patch, the fat Mexican brandishing a pistol, was wrong. The American Bandido has a white beard. The Australian version was black. They ordered the patches back so they could be burned and replaced with the correct patch.
No, said Caesar.
On his jacket was the blood of his dead brothers. He wasn’t giving it up. The Americans insisted, saying the club stood above all else.
Caesar knew in that patch was the blood of everything he stood for, so he looked at the Americans and said, “If you want it, come and get it”.
Caesar, the original Bandido, is the only man in Australia to still have that patch.