Steve Vizard’s current problems all started on Christmas Eve 2000 with a desperate 29-page suicide letter written by Vizard’s former bookkeeper, Roy Hilliard.

Hilliard attempted to kill himself that day after Westpac Bank, which held Vizard’s account, had instigated legal action against him, according to evidence given to the Melbourne Magistrates Court in March 2003 which was sparingly reported in the media at the time. Detective Senior Constable Judyann Stevens stumbled across the suicide note which, according to her testimony during Hilliard’s committal hearing, contained a series of allegations against Vizard.

According to The Australian’s report of the committal case, the note was addressed to the police and alleged that Vizard knew about Hilliard’s activities aimed at minimising his tax. Danny Masel, counsel for Hilliard, said during the hearing that in his lengthy suicide note “Mr Hilliard asserted that the conduct was with the knowledge of Mr Vizard.”

Constable Stevens told the court that even though there “probably were” matters in the letter worthy of investigation, she didn’t look into it at all in the five months before another detective took over the case. Why? Because “I accepted Mr Vizard’s story as a reasonable assertion,” she said.
During the hearing Hilliard’s defence counsel, Peter Hayes QC, argued that police had failed to investigate any of the claims that eventually emerged in court against Vizard. Detective Senior Constable Brendan Finn, from Melbourne CIB, told Hayes that when he took over the case from Stevens he was aware of the allegations made by Hilliard against Vizard, but he also failed to dig any deeper.

Mr Hayes said: “Not a single check was made of Mr Vizard, or his version of events,” asserting that Westpac fraud investigator Trevor McMahon had “worded up the versions of events that Westpac wanted the police to pursue.”

Roy Hillard has been charged with several counts of theft and will appear in the Victorian County Court on July 25.

Peter Fray

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