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Australia: Fugitive John Bobak has eluded Queensland police for 30 years. Is he dead or alive?

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John Victor Bobak at the time of his disappearance in 1991. (Supplied: Queensland Police Service ) © Provided by ABC NEWS John Victor Bobak at the time of his disappearance in 1991. (Supplied: Queensland Police Service )

It was a long shot. If the tip-off was true — one of Australia's most wanted fugitives was emerging from hiding for a family wake in Sydney.

An informant told Queensland police in 2005 wanted man John Victor Bobak would join relatives on a paddle steamer cruising Sydney Harbour.

By that time, he had been on the run for 14 years.

Two Queensland detectives, posing as passengers, were placed on board.

However, Bobak was a no-show and the memorial never happened.

Ironically, out of the 100-odd passengers on board, the only man who bore a physical resemblance to Bobak turned out to be a retired police officer.

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It was yet another red herring in the three-decade hunt for one of the country's most wanted men.

The then 40-year-old became a fugitive after he allegedly burst through the ceiling of a Gold Coast unit and gunned down former Sydney SP bookie Peter Wade, and his partner Maureen Ambrose, in 1991.

On December 23, it will be 30 years since their murders in the Whelan Street unit in Surfers Paradise. Queensland police have issued a warrant for Bobak's arrest.

Bobak allegedly executed the crime with the help of Sydney killer, Ronald Henry Thomas.

While Bobak disappeared, Thomas surrendered to police in 1992 and was convicted the following year of their murders and contempt of court for refusing to answer questions that would identify his accomplice.

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The trial heard police allege Bobak accidentally shot Thomas in the face when the men tried to enter the couple's unit first through the front door.

Thomas left teeth from his prison-installed dentures at the scene, which were later used to help convict him.

Police believed at the time a solicitor contacted Thomas while he was in jail and asked him to kill Mr Wade.

ABC News has obtained court documents that shed new light into the disappearance of Bobak, who would now be 71, and why authorities have alleged he was the shooter in the 1991 killings.

Details about Bobak's extensive criminal history are also contained in the documents, outlining offending dating back to 1967 when he first served eight years' jail for shooting at NSW police to avoid arrest.

He is also a convicted rapist for the 1976 attack on a 17-year-old schoolgirl while he was a president of a bikie club.

The documents were lodged in a Brisbane Supreme Court bail hearing for Thomas in 1993 and included a NSW police affidavit used to apply for telephone intercepts in the weeks following the murders.

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Police wanted intercepts placed on the telephones of Bobak, Thomas and a Sydney solicitor who was known to the men and Mr Wade.

Police investigate a million-dollar motive

In the affidavit, Tweed Heads Sergeant William Henry named Bobak and Thomas as the alleged killers and broke down the events on the night of and leading up to the deaths.

He said several witnesses provided detailed descriptions of two men, leading police to compile separate sketches of the suspects.

Sergeant Henry's affidavit also delved into the relationship between Bobak and Thomas.

The getaway car was a white Ford Fairlane registered to Thomas, which Sergeant Henry alleged Thomas and Bobak bought from a Parramatta car yard nine days before the murders.

Sergeant Henry said he did not believe the motive for Mr Wade and Ms Ambrose was robbery, noting Mr Wade's wallet with $700 and his $15,000 watch were both "found in open view on the bedside table".

"Ambrose was wearing a gold necklace worth $5,000," he said.

Police investigated a far more sinister motive – the cover up of a million-dollar-plus deception and betrayal of Mr Wade's trust.

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Investigators interviewed the unit owner, Mr Wade's solicitor.

He cannot be identified for legal reasons, but he told police he had known Mr Wade for 25 years.

Sergeant Henry said the police investigation "indicated" that prior to moving to Surfers Paradise, Mr Wade disposed of five houses bought with the proceeds of his SP bookmaking.

"It is said that the money from the sale of these homes was transferred by Wade to [the solicitor] for the purpose of reducing or avoiding taxation obligations. It is further said that Wade lent [the solicitor] some $300,000," the affidavit said.

Police also alleged that in the 12 months prior to the murders, the solicitor had split his time between Sydney and Queensland, where he was involved in land development.

The affidavit said the solicitor denied receiving money from the sales of Mr Wade's five properties or a loan but admitted to meeting Mr Wade "from time to time, giving him amounts of money to look after".

The affidavit said that telephone records obtained by investigators revealed calls between the solicitor, Bobak and Thomas on December 12 and 13, 1991.

The next day, Thomas and Bobak allegedly bought the getaway car.

Sergeant Henry alleged telephone calls between the three men were also made in the hours before and after the murders.

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He wrote that the facts and circumstances outlined in his affidavit gave police "reasonable" grounds to suspect Thomas and Bobak were responsible for the double murders and that they "conspired between themselves to commit the crime of murder and that [the solicitor] solicited Ronald Henry Thomas and John Victor Bobak to murder Peter Wade".

By the time the affidavit was sworn on January 3, 1992, police placed the Billinudgel property of Thomas's mother under surveillance for a short time.

The last reported sighting of John Bobak

The court documents also reveal that following the murders, Bobak spent Christmas and New Year with his de facto wife Amanda Teasdale, then 28, and their two young sons.

In her statements to police at the time, Ms Teasdale said the family headed north to the central Queensland coastal town of Yeppoon to stay with her friend.

She said she had not seen Bobak since January 7, 1992 when couple had an argument over a "personal matter" on their way home from Yeppoon.

"We were stopped at a small town north of Brisbane and John left on foot and I drove straight home to Bilambil,’" Ms Teasdale said in her statement to Tweed Heads police.

Ms Teasdale was most likely the last positive sighting of Bobak before the warrant for his arrest was issued.

The police statements provide insight into the couple's eight-year relationship, including while he was in jail in 1991.

She also wrote of how as she treated Thomas's gunshot wounds the morning after the double murder, Bobak told her the men were involved in a shootout on the Gold Coast.

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"I read about the murder of two people at Surfers Paradise. I said to John: 'That's strange, how come there's two people shot at Surfers Paradise and you two had a shootout as well.'

"John said, 'It's just a coincidence, it's a bad area','' she said.

"I just shut up after that because I was scared,'' Ms Teasdale wrote.

She said when released, Bobak travelled to Sydney frequently with Thomas.

When contacted by ABC News, Ms Teasdale declined to comment.

Dead or alive?

Grafton-born Bobak is well versed in the art of escaping and eluding authorities, but does it mean this chameleon-like outlaw has survived this long on the run?

Police have alleged Bobak's chances of surviving on the run are buoyed by an extensive criminal network he cultivated during many years in prison.

Prior to the 1991 murders, Bobak was already adept at living under aliases to avoid detection.

ABC News can reveal the Bilambil Heights property Bobak lived at the time of the killing was allegedly purchased under the moniker, John Hollands.

In 1994, the NSW Crime Commission seized and sold his house as proceeds of crime from drug offences.

Veteran Gold Coast criminal lawyer Chris Nyst became familiar with the Bobak case after he represented Thomas for murders of Ms Ambrose and Mr Wade.

"It's impossible to know if Bobak is still alive but it's hard for people to just disappear for long periods of time," Mr Nyst said.

"It's hard work to live off the grid without committing crimes and it's hard to commit crimes without getting caught.

"I think it's more likely he [Bobak] had passed away one way or another."

Survival expert Les Hiddins said it was highly unlikely Bobak could have survived this long living off the land – particularly given he would now be 71 years old, if still alive.

A former inmate who did time behind bars with three-time convicted murderer Thomas said he all but confessed to killing Bobak.

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"When he spoke about the bookie murders, he was asked whether he killed Bobak and he didn't deny it … If I was out doing an armed robbery with someone and he fell through the roof and shot me in the face, I am sure I would want to kill him,'' the former inmate said.

"He was well-respected and feared in jail because he is a murderer and could kill anytime.

"We knew he was capable of murder, if you crossed him, he could kill you. Ron was always armed with a shiv [a prison-made knife],'' he said.

He described Thomas as a loner and a punter who spent most of his day in his cell on the computer, studying horse races or reading a book.

"He wasn't a rich criminal, he … had nothing but plenty of standing because of his connections to Sydney,'' the former inmate said.

Mr Nyst said he had never heard the theory that Thomas may have killed Bobak.

"There was certainly no indication from Thomas to me that he had done that. My understanding was that they had been friends for life," he said.

The one that got away

Retired detective Senior Sergeant Graeme Millard was one of the team of Queensland police officers tasked to investigate the 1991 murders.

Speaking publicly for the first time in 30 years, Mr Millard said Ms Ambrose was always an "unintended victim".

"She was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said from his Gold Coast home.

"She worked at the RSL and that's how she met [Mr Wade]. She was seeing him and basically straightened him out because he had a bit of a drinking issue and they were getting back on their feet."

He said the couple moving in together appeared to be the catalyst for the killings, with Wade believing he was the owner of the property he was living in, but it actually belonged to the Sydney solicitor.

Mr Millard explained the solicitor may have helped Mr Wade hide around $2 million from his illegal SP bookmaking business, laundering it through buying property.

Mr Wade was alleged to have approached the solicitor about the property he was living in once he found out there was a mortgage over the unit.

"That was the only motive that we could come up with in the whole case, there was nothing else, no other reason to kill him," Mr Millard said.

He said the solicitor denied any wrongdoing when he was interviewed following the murders.

Police alleged at the time the solicitor had contacted Thomas while he was in Grafton jail and asked him to kill Mr Wade.

"We understood he basically said: 'Get yourself a mate. You're getting out soon and when you get out of jail, I've got a job for you'," Mr Millard said.

The solicitor has never been charged in relation to the murders. He stopped practising in the 1990s and was later jailed for methylamphetamine production.

Mr Millard visited Thomas in jail after his 1993 conviction, but even then he refused to reveal his accomplice in the murders.

"Thomas is a true criminal who probably felt out of place outside of prison," he said.

"He's out now."

Mr Millard said Thomas would never have compromised his popularity in jail by being known as a "snitch".

"Once they split up, and Bobak went one way and Thomas went the other, that was the end of the story as far as dropping each other in it," he said.

Mr Millard said one of the last sightings of Bobak was in Tasmania in 1992.

"We missed him down there, but the last thing we heard was that he might have been heading to the crayfishing towns in Tasmania because they were towns where he might blend in," Mr Millard said.

Mr Millard said he did not believe Bobak was still alive.

"I've got nothing to base that on but most people turn up somewhere dead or alive, especially people with a high profile," the veteran detective said.

"He had significant identifiable tattoos, including two Thai dancers on his chest. Today, tattoos are much more common but back then going into a strange place, even if it was a crayfishing town, you could be recognised."

Mr Millard left the job in 2007, but said he had always hoped to catch Bobak.

"… You sort of do wish that you could solve the thing 100 per cent, but you also learn after 30 years in the job, you just can't solve them all, you can't catch them all," he said.

Bobak urged to surrender to police

More than three decades since Ms Ambrose and Mr Wade were murdered, new investigating police are calling on Bobak to surrender.

Detective Sergeant Jo Bakka from the Homicide Investigation Unit said the case was still active, with new information being received within the past 12 months.

"It's been 30 years now and we're not going to stop looking," she said.

"We're not giving up we will continue to follow every lead and every bit of information that comes forward to us."

She said it would be in Bobak's "best interest" to surrender into police custody.

"You know, he is 71 years old now. At the end of the day, I can't imagine being on the road for 30 years can feel comfortable either."

While the wanted man's whereabouts are remain unknown, the homicide detective said she believed someone in the community does know where he is.

"There are conflicting reports about whether Bobak is still alive or deceased. I appeal to anyone that has information about whether he is alive or deceased to provide that information so that we can provide closure to both the families and to the community," Detective Sergeant Bakka said.

She said it would be inappropriate to comment on the solicitor's alleged involvement, but the financial motive for the murders continued to be pursued.

"I can say that only Bobak has an arrest warrant out relating to this matter however we continue to suspect that this was a contract killing facilitated by a third party,'' she told ABC.

Ms Ambrose and Mr Wade's families were approached as part of this investigation but both declined to comment.

There is currently a $250,000 reward for information on John Bobak's whereabouts. Contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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