Steve Vizard’s former bookkeeper, Roy Hilliard, has failed to appear in court this morning on the 11th day of his trial, prompting a police search and grave fears for his safety. The Westpac Bank is suing Mr Hilliard, who is accused of stealing $3 million from Mr Vizard’s accounts. He was due to finish giving evidence in the Victorian Supreme Court today.
According to the ABC, police were sent to Mr Hilliard’s Castlemaine home in central Victoria, but didn’t find him. They’re now searching the Castlemaine area for his car, which is missing. Outside court, his legal team said they hadn’t been able to contact him and were concerned.
Hilliard has publicly discussed his fragile mental health in the past. He told The 7.30 Report last year:
EMMA ALBERICI: These days Roy Hilliard lives in a rented flat in rural Victoria. He says he’s broke and with no job he passes the time by fossicking. His de facto wife has left him. And since court proceedings started in 2000 he has attempted suicide no fewer than four times.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
ROY HILLIARD: I was totally overwhelmed and I wanted to run away, I wanted to escape. So I decided to commit suicide. I didn’t see any way out. I really didn’t see any way out.
As Crikey reported last year, Hilliard attempted to kill himself on Christmas Eve in 2000 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.
And it was Hilliard’s 29-page suicide letter that first mired Steve Vizard in this current mess. 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.
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”.
Hilliard was last year sentenced to two years’ jail wholly suspended after he pleaded guilty to 14 charges of false accounting. However, he denies stealing from Vizard. The hearing before Justice Hartley Hansen was due to finish tomorrow. The court case is continuing in Hilliard’s absence.