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Ex-cop Louis Mahony thought he’d got away with staging wife Lainie Coldwell’s murder

The scene at the Charleville house where Louis Mahony (inset) claimed his partner of 18 years fell from a ladder in 2009. Picture: Jamie Hanson

EVEN on the day he was arrested for murder, cocky ex-cop Louis Mahony was so confident he’d get off, he told officers they would soon be shouting him drinks to apologise.

For six years Mahony thought he had fooled the world after ruthlessly disposing of an inconvenient wife.

He’d staged the scene to make it appear that Lainie Coldwell, his defacto wife of 18 years, had fallen from a ladder at their Charleville home on August 23, 2009.

It convinced the country cops, who didn’t realise they were staring at the murder weapon – a bloody antique iron lying among rocks where Lainie supposedly fell and struck her head.

Mahony thought his dreams were in reach – he had Lainie’s multimillion-dollar life insurance policies to cash in.

Lainie Coldwell with husband Louis Mahony and their young daughter, who was three when her mother was murdered.

He was also free to pursue the foreign women on 457 visas at the local abattoir, where he worked after leaving his former career as a Northern Territory police officer.

The flies in the ointment were detectives from the state’s homicide squad, brought in to reinvestigate the case years after Lainie’s supposed freak accident.

“He said to me, ‘Renee, one day when this is all over, you are going to buy me a beer and apologise for what you’ve done to me’,” Detective Renee Hoile recalls of the day she arrested Mahony in December 2015.

Mahony’s prediction was proved spectacularly wrong last week, when he was convicted of killing Lainie, the mother of his young daughter.

With the 43-year-old sentenced to life imprisonment, the inside story of his downfall can now be told by the detectives who brought him to justice.

Detective Acting Sergeant Renee Hoile and Detective Inspector Damien Hansen, who broke the case open. Picture: Jamie Hanson

They revealed how a calculating and “narcissistic” Mahony initially researched car crashes and poisons before deciding to stage a fatal fall. He spent the day of his wife’s funeral planning a romantic getaway with a lover.

It’s hard to escape comparisons with Queensland’s other egotistical wife-killer, Gerard Baden-Clay, who murdered wife Allison in 2012 and thought he could escape justice.

In both cases, the accused was involved with other women and stood to benefit from large insurance payouts. And in both, the women standing in the way of a life of ease and fortune ended up dead.

Interestingly, insurers were the first to raise the alarm about Mahony. About two weeks after Lainie died, they contacted Charleville police to report they had more than a passing interest in the case.

Two life insurance policies worth a whopping $2.25 million had been taken out in Lainie’s name in the two months before her death. Suspicions were so grave, the company refused to pay out the policies.

The blood-stained antique iron that Mahony used to kill his wife.

Mahony arrives at court in Charleville for his committal hearing.

The blood-stained antique iron that Mahony used to kill his wife.

In 2009, it had been Mahony who made the triple-0 call, saying he found Lainie unconscious in a puddle of blood at the base of a large gum tree. She must have fallen taking down party lights in the tree, he said.

Lainie, 36, was flown to the Royal Brisbane Hospital, with Mahony by her side. Her family made the agonising decision to turn off her life support system and donate her organs.

At the scene, a rusted and bloodied antique iron lying among rocks at the base of the tree was photographed but not collected. It has not been found since. It is now believed Mahony used the iron to deliver a fatal blow to the back of his wife’s head.

In a tragic series of failings, a lone detective in Charleville made little headway before moving away, leaving the case to stagnate.

Local sergeant Gerard Thornton always had his suspicions and tried to pursue the investigation between other duties before calling in Brisbane-based homicide detectives in early 2013.

The case had an unusual complication. Because Lainie’s organs were donated, an autopsy had not been conducted. So, Detective Hoile and colleague Karen Murray set about contacting the medical specialists brought in from hospitals around the southeast to work on the organ donation process.

They confirmed that Lainie’s only significant injury was a single blow to the back of her head.

Lainie had supposedly fallen at least five metres from a ladder propped on the tray of Mahony’s ute.

“There were no ribs broken, no other organs injured,” said Detective Inspector Damien Hansen, who manages the homicide squad.

Photographs from the scene showed blood had inexplicably seeped onto the flat of the iron, which had been face down on rocks at the tree’s base. Strands of Lainie’s blonde hair were clearly visible amid blood on the underside.

As part of the original investigation, police had seized and held Mahony’s laptop. When computer expert James Morris, a civilian from the Queensland Police electronic evidence examination unit, inspected the computer, he struck gold.

Crime scene photo of the ladder balanced on the back of Mahony’s ute

Tributes at the base of the tree near where Lainie’s body was found.

Before Lainie’s death, Mahony had Googled terms including poisoning, car crashes, head injuries and forensic science. After her death, he was back online organising his love life.

“He’s searching Gold Coast limousines and Dracula’s Restaurant, and the Marriott Hotel on the Gold Coast. That’s leading up to the funeral and on the day of her funeral,” Detective Hoile says.

For a cop with an intimate understanding of police procedures, Mahony made plenty of mistakes.

In his triple-0 call, he twice said Lainie was face down.

“That’s not possible if the injury is to the back of the head,” Detective Hoile says.

Call records to insurers showed that before his wife’s death, Mahony had asked whether they would pay out if someone died in a car crash but wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. And compromising videos of Mahony and a Korean co-worker were found on his laptop.

Lainie was aware of Mahony’s affairs and made it known that she was leaving him and taking their daughter, Dakota, then three.

Three years after he murdered his wife – while still a free man – Mahony remarried a wealthy divorcee. She continued to raise Dakota when Mahony was arrested in 2015, and she stood by him through his trial.

To this day, Detective Hoile is struck by Mahony’s lack of remorse in robbing Dakota of a mother.

“There was never a time in my discussions with him where he ever displayed emotion when he was talking about her. If there was any emotion, it was about him,” she said.

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WAR CRIMINAL HUNTER LANDS IN AUSTRALIA

The world’s chief Nazi hunter, who uncovered the alleged war crimes of Perth grandfather Charles Zentai, has touched down in WA for less than 48 hours to educate the community over the importance of never forgetting the Holocaust.

While his job title may make some people uneasy, Efraim Zuroff – the Jerusalem-based head of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre – said having such an outrageous term associated with his name only made his work easier.

He has tracked down and prosecuted dozens of war criminals in his quest to bring closure to victims of the Holocaust.

Accused war criminal Charles Zentai.Accused war criminal Charles Zentai. 

Dr Zuroff arrived in Perth yesterday as part of a whirlwind tour of the country promoting his latest book, Operation Last Chance: One Man’s Quest to bring Nazi Criminals to Justice.

He is the man responsible for tracking down Mr Zentai, a Hungarian-born man now residing in Perth, and overseeing charges against him over the alleged murder of a Jewish man in Hungary in 1944.

Zentai allegedly spotted the man, Peter Balazs on a train in Hungary, not wearing his identifiable yellow star, a crime punishable by death. He allegedly then took the 18-year-old to his army barracks where he beat him to death before dumping his body in the Danube River.

Dr Zuroff said Zentai’s identity was revealed in a Hungarian war crimes trial in 1947, however he had already fled to an American-occupied zone in Germany.

Zentai was arrested by the Australian Federal Police in July 2005, and at the age of 89 is continuing to fight the extradition case through Australia’s legal system.

Dr Zuroff said the large amount of publicity this case had been given in Perth, especially given Zentai’s age and poor health, only further justified his cause.

“There are some people that are sceptical about its validity, because the people are 89, or 92, or 94,” he said. “This is the reality of the world we live in.

“We’re trying to pick up the pieces and bring closure, and send the message that these crimes cannot be ignored, they should not be ignored.

“This is nothing personal against Mr Zentai himself or his family. I’m an advocate for the victims.”

He said it would be impossible to ignore the fact that crimes had been committed, and those responsible had to be held accountable.

“It’s a tragedy in the sense that all of a sudden the family finds itself facing accusations they had no idea about,” he said.

“In that respect, I certainly have a degree of empathy for the family. Having said that, this is not an uncommon occurrence.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the people who committed the crimes of Holocaust are normative people. They did not commit murder before the Holocaust, before World War II, they didn’t commit murder after WWII.

“But during the geopolitical circumstances created by the Third Reich, they did some pretty horrible things.

“We can’t ignore that just because they’re not psychopaths. If someone reaches the age of 90, it doesn’t turn the mass murderer into a righteous gentile.”

Dr Zuroff last night addressed a crowd at the Jewish Community Centre in Dianella, updating the Jewish community and other interested people about the current state of “Nazi hunting” around the world.

“What I will be doing [while in Perth] is meeting with members of the Jewish community to explain what is going on, meeting with the media to talk about the [Zentai] case, and quite frankly I think it is a really outrageous that this thing has lasted so long without justice being achieved,” he said.

“If anything, I think Mr Zentai’s behaviour and the behaviour of the people that are helping him increases our suspicions of his role during the war, and only increases our motivation to see to it that he is finally held accountable.


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