Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Last Death in Custody

Maitland Mercury, Monday 14 September, 2009

This week’s column gives readers a chilling and unique opportunity to look into the workings of a coronial investigation. The items featured were used as evidence in the inquest into the death in custody in Maitland Gaol of George Savvas. The former Marrickville councillor was serving a 30 yr sentence for his involvement in a narcotics trafficking operation and a daring escape from Goulburn Correctional Centre in 1996.

Prison authorities had become aware of an alleged escape being planned by Savvas and three others, including “Back-packer Murderer” Ivan Milat. On 17 May 1997, a covert operation was conducted and the 4 intending escapees were removed from their cells in A Wing and segregated. Savvas was relocated to Cell 04 in the recently constructed 5 Wing. The following morning, Savvas’ body was found hanging in the doorway of his cell. He was pronounced “life extinct” by the Gaol Medical Officer at approximately 9:05am.

The disturbing artefacts were saved from destruction in May 1998 by investigating officer, Detective Sergeant N.J.Raymond, in the belief that they would be of great historical value. They were donated to the gaol in July 2004.

The featured items, as well as other articles relevant to the enquiry, including photographs, sketches, personal affects and a full scale model of the door-frame in which Mr. Savvas was found hanging, are featured in Maitland Gaol’s current “Exposed: Our Criminal Past” Exhibition which opened last weekend and will run till the end of the year.

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