Saturday January 17, 1987
IN THE first hours of 1982 a black Ferrari registered FUN 000 screamed down the Rose Bay S-bends. It was a New Year's Eve joy-ride after a "pimps and prostitutes" party. A number of guests hadn't needed to dress up.
One of the passengers in the Ferrari was Sallie-Anne Huckstepp.
"She was just screaming faster, faster, faster," recalls a friend. "And then this wild, manic laugh."
That was one side of Sallie-Anne. Living dangerously. Searching for a thrill. To hell with the risks.
Before the end, Sallie-Anne Huckstepp told friends she had lived too long. A heroin user for almost half of her 32 years, she had worked variously as a prostitute and a small-time heroin dealer to support her habit. Companion to heavyweight criminals and eyed suspiciously by corrupt police, she swam in a pool of sharks.
The end came late on a Thursday night in February 1986. About 11 pm Huckstepp left her Bondi Junction flat to meet her regular heroin supplier at Centennial Park. Huckstepp walked out the door saying she'd be back soon.
At 10.30 the next morning a man walking his dog in the park reported seeing a body floating face down in a pond. As police dragged the corpse from the water one of them said, "That's Huckstepp."
Twelve days later a post mortem revealed she had been strangled and drowned. A year later, her murder remains conspicuously unsolved.
Huckstepp first came to public attention following the shooting of her heroin-dealer boyfriend, Warren Lanfranchi, by Roger Rogerson in mid-1981. Vocal in her claims that Lanfranchi had been set up and murdered, she was a prominent figure at the inquest into his death.
Her earlier background was a pastiche of misfortune and misadventure. The elder of two daughters from a Jewish family in Sydney's eastern suburbs, there are stories about her mother leaving home when Sallie-Anne was a child, of being locked in cupboards by her father.
As a teenager Sallie-Anne briefly attended Moriah College, a Jewish school in Bellevue Hill where, she said, she was the only girl who had blonde hair and whose father had no money. By 17 she had left school, left home, married a petty criminal named Bryan Huckstepp, and was working as a prostitute on the Golden Mile in Kalgoorlie.
Ironically, it was the shooting of Lanfranchi some years later that gave Sallie-Anne a chance to begin another life. She weaned herself off heroin for a time and willingly became a darling of the media; a documentary was made about her, Penguin gave her an advance to write a book, and for six months she wrote for Penthouse magazine where her editor described her as "a natural writer".
But by mid-1985, where this story takes up, she was back into using heroin and living with men who had suspiciously high cash flows.
In the early part of 1985 Sallie-Anne had began a relationship with a 33 year-old heroin dealer "Jim" who had just been released from prison. He was built like a baby elephant but she described him as "her big blond god".
Sallie-Anne had a weakness for muscle-bound men who wielded power in the criminal world. As a close friend bluntly put it: "She was a gangster's moll, she couldn't help herself. That's how she got her buzz in life, it was almost more than the dope itself."
With her 12-year old daughter Sasha - the only child of her failed marriage- Sallie-Anne and Jim lived in a $300-a-week Darling Point unit.
The four months they were together were among the happier times in her life. "She loved Jim, God knows why," said a friend. Like Lanfranchi, her dealer boyfriend was firm that she keep off heroin and provided the emotional stability her life lacked.
One night in June, Jim disappeared without explanation. Left with no money and saddled with an expensive apartment, Sallie-Anne went briefly back into prostitution. She also began dealing in small amounts of heroin, organising the supply with a woman called "Jane" selling it on the streets.
Leaving the apartment, she went and lived with Sasha and Jane in a series of cheap motels, always on the move.
Briefly, Jim re-appeared before being busted by the Federal Police on a$2.2 million dollar heroin import charge. He is now awaiting trial.
With Jim locked up, Sallie-Anne began a brief relationship with a man who went state's evidence in a big drug case. He had spent time in a Federal Police safe house where a number of furs - said to belong to a Federal Police inspector - were kept. During this period the safe house was burgled and the furs and some video equipment disappeared.
The theft caused extraordinary embarrassment within the Federal Police, seemingly out of all proportion to their worth.
"They didn't care about the furs," claims one contact. "They wanted the contents. What's in the lining? It must have been dope for the coppers to be running around so crazy looking for it."
When a posse of Federal Police sent to find the furs finally caught up with the chief suspect, he was with Sallie-Anne but claimed he had nothing to do with the theft.
Then began a relationship between Sallie-Anne and the Federal Police which had the underworld abuzz. With her intimate knowledge of the drug scene they cultivated her assistance to help find the furs.
"That's when a lot of us dropped Sallie-Anne," said Cathy. "She was running too hot. She was driving around the Cross with the Federal Police, two car loads of Federal Police, looking for these furs. She even went out to Long Bay with them.
"Word goes right round the jail in about 20 seconds flat that she's a dog(informer). She's hanging out with all these Federal coppers and they're probably supporting her habit at the same time.
"In the beginning I think it was to help Jim," said Cathy. "She'd say, 'They're going to do this for Jim, they're going to do that for Jim.' But she's full of Serepax and the coppers are all pumping her and treating her like a princess. After a couple of weeks it gets in your head, the power of it all. You give Sallie-Anne a little excitement and attention and she'd thrive... "
In late November, Sallie-Anne started a relationship with "Mark", a man she met at the 77 Club in Kings Cross. The pair had coffee that night and arranged lunch the next day.
"I saw a few scars on her hands that looked like old track marks," says Mark, "and I thought hmmmm, maybe she's not quite what she appears. Then she told me about Lanfranchi."
The pair began living together after Sallie-Anne told Mark she had to clear out of her hotel. By that time Sasha had left to live with her father at Dundas.
"Sasha had enough of Federal coppers and other things," says a source. "She just picked up her bags and walked out. All those months of seeing her mum on Serepax and missing school. There was no-one getting her uniform ready for her, washing her shirts, washing her socks."
Despite her unreliable income from dealing, a meagre single mother's pension and sparse cheques from a mysterious Melbourne philanthropist, Sallie-Anne displayed little frugality.
Once when her pension cheque arrived she went straight to Double Bay and spent the lot - $400 on a dress, $300 on a pair of shoes, $100 on her hair.
"She'd be broke the next day and think, 'Oh shit, what will I do?'" says Mark.
Mark soon learnt of her developing association with the Federal Police and the fact that she had been recording Federal and State police offering her"deals".
"She came up with these schemes to help Jim in jail," says Mark. "She thought she could do a bit of blackmail by trying to suggest improper dealings with the police and set them up and have it taped."
What has happened to these tapes, or how many there are, is unclear. Some were allegedly confiscated by Federal Police when Sallie-Anne arranged a meeting to hand them over to Jim's mother. Another tape is apparently in the possession of the NSW Homicide Squad.
According to Mark, who heard a number of the tapes, the voices were largely inaudible.
A few weeks into their relationship Mark discovered Sallie-Anne had begun an affair with a burly, good-looking young Federal policeman, one of the men assigned to find the furs. She began disappearing for days and nights to meet him. The pair were often seen around town.
"Sally was swinging from one side to another," says Cathy. "She didn't know where she was going. She kept saying in one breath she was doing all this stuff to help Jim, and in the next breath she's talking about giving him up. Then she's on with this cop. Sallie-Anne lived in a fantasy world, she kept thinking no-one believed she was a dog."
By late December word was out. Not only was Sallie-Anne informing, she had further compromised herself in the eyes of her underworld associates by going out with a Federal policeman. There was talk that she may even inform against Jim.
"Everyone took about 20 steps backwards," says Cathy. "Everybody knew, not just up at the Cross. Everybody at the Bay knew. Word like that spreads quickly."
Sallie-Anne's current heroin source wiped her, as did the woman selling for her on the streets.
At this stage Sallie-Anne began seriously fearing for her safety. In late December she sent a letter to Bryan Huckstepp:
Look after Sasha for me me if something goes wrong - I don't want to seem depressive, but I think you'll have to look after her - I may not be able to make any choices for myself in the near future. Give her all my love, always Sallie-Anne. XXXX
Christmas brought two disasters for Sallie-Anne. Christmas Day with Sasha and Bryan at his Dundas house ended in a fight. Shortly afterwards he moved, taking Sasha with him and severing any contact with Sallie-Anne. It was the last time she saw her daughter.
The second disaster came on December 28. Around 9pm she was on her way to meet her new heroin supplier in Ashfield. A wild driver, she rolled the car on Cleveland Street and landed in hospital for a week with a badly broken right arm.
By mid-January, having left hospital, the relationship with Mark ended. Sallie-Anne teamed up with Tom, an old friend who she'd met on the night of the black Ferrari. She moved into a flat in Woollahra with Tom and a girl Sallie-Anne hadn't met before.
She wanted to start afresh. She dreamed of getting together some money, a home for Sasha, and of starting writing again. Subconsciously, perhaps, her strengthening relationship with the Federal policeman, said to be a "straight cop", was a means of escaping from the mortifying struggle of using and dealing.
But those most concerned about Sallie-Anne's relationship with the Federal policeman were her new supplier, "Nick", and those above him. Sallie-Anne told Tom that Nick was the only person who would sell to her - he gave her a good price and was prepared to do small drops.
A tough looking 36-year-old, Nick, a judo expert, was well known for his association with Arthur "Neddy" Smith. Nick is now in jail for 16 years on heroin charges.
Sallie-Anne would meet Nick regularly at Centennial Park or Ashfield. She would invest about $400 on a few grams of heroin, then sell "tastes" for $50.
An average day for Sallie-Anne would begin with a shot, sometimes even before she got out of bed. With the veins in her arms long collapsed from over-use, she would shoot up in her feet or hands. Fired with the idea of getting back into writing or starting up a club with Jim, Sallie-Anne tried reducing her habit by taking Serepax.
Sometimes the Federal policeman would drop around, or Sallie-Anne would go and spend the night with him.
"I can't believe it, I've fallen in love with a Federal policeman," she said to Tom. "Now for the first time since Warren, it's happening with a police officer, someone who almost stands for what took him away from me."
According to one source, Nick found out from his police contacts that Sallie-Anne had been spilling information on him.
"He was furious," claims the source. "He was screaming abuse saying, 'I don't care if she's a friend of yours. She's a dog.'"
Nick continued to supply Sallie-Anne with heroin until the end. One source suggested Nick and his superiors decided to keep doing business with her to"sweeten her up and keep her mouth shut".
Towards the end, Tom and the other flatmate noted a change.
"She was pretty frightened of him (Nick) we all noted toward the end," says Tom. "She didn't ever seem to be initially, he was just a friend of hers."
On the last night Tom came home at about 10.40. Sallie-Anne was watching TV and waiting for a phone call. Tom left after collecting some shirts.
At about 11pm the other flatmate answered the phone and passed the call to Sallie-Anne. When she got off she reportedly said to her flatmate, "Thank God I don't have to go to Ashfield." She also expressed some nervousness, saying she wished the flatmate could come with her.
In the police investigations following her death, no-one reported seeing Sallie-Anne meet anyone at Centennial Park. A description of her white Cortina was made public, but no-one was asked whether her supplier's Porsche had been seen in the area.
A CHIC JUNKIE TURNED ON BY MUSCLE AND BIG MEN
Let's tell the truth about Sallie. She could be a bitch. I was a friend, but I'm not thick enough to turn around and say 'Sallie was a wonderful person'... But she did have this good side. She had this really nice side to her which was really hard to say no to ... I don't know if any of her life was good, even from the age of two when her step-mother put a sign around her neck saying, 'I wet my bed' and made her walk up and down the street. Her childhood was a nightmare ... There were little pieces of happiness for Sallie-Anne when she was with Warren Lanfranchi. Warren straightened her out. He gave her a hiding when she had a shot. She really loved Warren.
- Cathy, a friend.
She was a real character. There was a sense of adventure about knowing her... We'd have these big dinners ... and she'd take over the table with these incredible stories. She was a great story teller; she'd really lived in a lot of ways ... Out of all the things she'd say to you, half would be absolutely spot on and the other half would be, 'Put them together for yourself' ... Everyone who met her for the first time said she was a bright girl. A lot of women couldn't stand her. They couldn't handle the fact that Sallie-Anne always wanted to be the centre of attention ... She wanted to get out of the drug business and into a proper home for her and Sasha.
- Peter, a friend.
She was always late, that was one of her characteristics. She was about four hours late on our first date, probably trying to arrange some 'business'... She'd often go on the nod, just nod off for a couple of hours on Serepax and smack. She'd always wear fairly expensive clothing. She certainly didn't look like a junkie. She looked healthy enough ... She liked to cruise and say hello to the boys ... Every time she saw a police car she'd toot her horn and wave out. Or she'd ring up the police and say, 'Do you know me? I'm Sallie-Anne blah, blah, blah.' ... She had a lot of sex appeal and was quite sensual ... She was very turned on by muscle and big men.
- Mark, a lover.
I acted for her in numerous minor busts for possession and use, which was fairly frequent. There were times when almost as soon as she'd stick her head on the street, she'd get nicked. She was running around with fairly heavy people who tended to make her unpopular with some police. Other police seemed to get on very well with her ... I really liked her. I used to give her kindly, fatherly advice about changing her ways but she declined ... Sasha was always clean and neat and very bright. Materially, Sallie was a good mother, but she didn't provide a stable home for her. Sasha didn't know where she was living from one day to the next.
- "Val" Bellamy, her lawyer.
© 1987 Sydney Morning Herald
By John Dale
By John Dale
In 1981, Huckstepp met and began a relationship with Warren Lanfranchi. Lanfranchi was a heroin dealer and standover man who worked with Neddy Smith. In June 1981, Lanfranchi allegedly robbed a Sydney heroin dealer and later fired shots at a young policeman. In Neddy: the Life and Crimes of Arthur Stanley Smith, Smith claims that Lanfranchi asked him to negotiate a payment with then-Detective-Sergeant Roger Rogerson in order to escape being charged with the shooting. Smith claims that Rogerson had instructed him to drive Lanfranchi to a meeting with him and to disarm him in the car. Rogerson took eighteen police officers with him to the meeting. He claims that he was attempting to arrest Lanfranchi on suspicion of five bank robberies. At the meeting in Dangar Place, Chippendale, Rogerson shot and killed Lanfranchi. During the inquest into Lanfranchi's death, Rogerson claimed self-defence. He was supported at the inquest by Smith and other police officers who were called as witnesses. The inquest found that on the balance of probabilities, Rogerson had been trying to arrest Lanfranchi, but refused to find he had acted in self-defence. The matter went to the Supreme Court and was the subject of investigations by the New South Wales Ombudsman and Internal Affairs. No action was brought against Rogerson and he was exonerated and commended for bravery.