‘Impossible to imagine the grief’: Perre guilty of murder of NCA bombing

One of the most confusing chapters in South Australia’s criminal history came to a close today with longtime suspect Domenic Perre being found guilty of the 1994 bombing of the National Crime Authority building in Adelaide, in which relatives of his victims stated that justice has finally been done.

Supreme Court Justice Kevin Nicholson this morning found Perre, who is already serving a sentence for drug offenses, guilty of the murder of Detective Sergeant Geoffrey Bowen and the attempted murder of Attorney Peter Wallis when a parcel bomb exploded in the NCA offices in Waymouth St.

Bowen, who was seconded to Adelaide from WA Police, died of horrific injuries, while Wallis survived but lost an eye and suffered severe burns. Wallis died in 2018 without the case being resolved.

Perre, already a convicted criminal at the time of the blast, was arrested after the 1994 bombing, but then DPP Paul Rofe determined there was not enough evidence to appear in court. A later coronary inquiry also blamed Perre for the bombing, but it wasn’t until 2018 that he was finally charged ahead of a lengthy trial.

Perre — bearded and long-haired, and with his arm in a sling — stood unmoved in the dock as the sentence was handed down, but members of his family seemed distressed and angry, with one supporter muttering “piece of shit, dog.”

'Impossible to imagine the grief': Perre guilty of murder of NCA bombing

Domenic Perre escorted from court in 2018. Photo: David Mariuz / AAP

In his published verdict, Nicholson noted that Perre showed “a great interest in explosives in general”. [and] had taken a keen interest in and had access to methods of manufacturing or obtaining explosives” as well as “all other components of the NCA bomb, including the zippy box and microswitch”.

He had, he found, “experimented successfully, at least once, with a high explosive” [and] had expressed extreme anger at and an intention to ‘get’ someone with a small box, ‘sort of a postal parcel’”.

The judge ruled that Perre was “motivated to harm the NCA and specifically Geoffrey Bowen, and that he had taken steps after the NCA bombing to clean and dispose of abrasive items at a level of obsession that strongly indicates on fears that incriminating chemical residues… may still be available to police.”

“These cases, taken as a whole, prove beyond reasonable doubt that Domenic Perre built and placed the NCA bomb and caused the death of Mr Bowen and the injuries of Mr Wallis,” he said.

“On this basis alone, I hold Mr. Perre responsible for the NCA bombing… Mr. Perre’s responsibility is beyond reasonable doubt.

“I am convinced that Mr Perre’s responsibility is in fact the only rational conclusion that the circumstances identified by the Prosecution allow me to reach.”

'Impossible to imagine the grief': Perre guilty of murder of NCA bombing

Genevieve Wallis, flanked by members of the families of both victims, addresses the media outside the court. Photo: Tom Richardson

Outside the court, David Gorton – the brother of Bowen’s widow Jane Bowen-Sutton – spoke on behalf of the family, saying that “despite the years that have passed since 1994, today justice has been done”.

“This crime was and remains unprecedented in the violence against law enforcement in Australia,” he said.

“On behalf of Jane, Simon, Matthew and the rest of the family, we extend our heartfelt wishes to the Wallis family – we hope today’s verdict will bring you some comfort and that Peter may finally rest in peace.”

Wallis’ daughter Genevieve told reporters there was “no doubt” that her father was “a different person in the wake of the bombing,” saying, “It is our greatest sadness that he is not here today.”

“Peter Wallis was a lawyer, he was also our father,” she said.

“He was a son, a brother, a colleague, a friend and a partner…his life had changed unimaginably on the 2nd of March 1994, while investigating organized crime.

“As a result of the bombing, Dad lost his big buddy Geoff, his career was cut short and he struggled daily with the deep physical and emotional scars.”

She said that “as a lawyer and as a person he valued truth and justice above all else” and despite the fact that he did not live to see Perre convicted, “he found great comfort in the efforts of the SA police” and other authorities bombing continued to investigate.

The Superintendent of the great crime detective Des Bray stated that “Dominic Perre has finally been held responsible today for the terrible crimes he committed in 1994”.

“It’s impossible to imagine the grief inflicted on these families, which has stayed with them for decades,” he said.

“Today’s verdict does nothing to lessen the pain and loss.

“Unfortunately, Peter passed away in 2018, but I know he was very happy that we agreed to the investigation and I’m sure he would be very happy with the outcome today.”

He thanked everyone who has worked on the case, including police, forensics and the Bureau’s “outstanding prosecution” of the DPP, as well as “law enforcement agencies across Australia and internationally”.

Mario Armiento – Bowen’s friend and colleague at the NCA, who later became the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission – said “a great weight has been lifted off our shoulders”.

He said that despite “nearly three decades of torment…there is no time limit for a court to make the right decision”.

“Geoff Bowen was seconded to the WA Police Department to work on issues of national concern, sacrificing his life on one of the nationally important issues of the time,” he said.

“Adelaide proudly restored justice today…it solved something that some people thought was straightforward – the cause of a bomb that exploded in the heart of a city – but it turned out to be one of the biggest challenges in the modern policing in Australia.”

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the outcome “justifies the unremitting effort of SA Police, ACIC and other investigators across Australia”.

“This is the result we were clearly hoping for, a testament to the research efforts of so many people who have been involved in it for so many years,” he said.

“We can’t even imagine the impact this has had on the families of Geoff Bowen and Peter Wallis over the past 28 years… you never get over something like that [and] It’s a shame Peter couldn’t be there to see this result, but I’m sure their families are very happy with the result today.”

'Impossible to imagine the grief': Perre guilty of murder of NCA bombing

Domenic Perre’s son Anthony is leaving court today. Photo: Matt Turner / AAP

However, Perre’s family has suggested appealing the verdict, with his son Anthony telling reporters as he left court that he was “clearly disappointed”.

“We are waiting for counsel to consider the verdict and we expect the appeals process to take its place,” he said.

When asked whether an appeal would certainly be filed, he added: “Until counsel has read the verdict, I cannot be sure of anything.”

Perre, who is still in prison on a drug conviction, will be sentenced in September.

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