Underbelly: articles

Underbelly TV movie hits legal snag

CHANNEL Nine may be forced to shelve indefinitely one of its Underbelly telemovies because of the threat of impending legal action in New South Wales.

Tell Them Lucifer Was Here, the first of three telemovies being made under the Underbelly Files title, tells the story of the 1998 murders of Victoria Police officers Rod Miller and Gary Silk.

After a massive investigation by the Lorimer Task Force, Bandali Debs and Jason Roberts were found guilty of the double murder in 2003. Debs was sentenced to life in prison, Roberts to 35 years.

The subject seemed relatively safe as true-crime stories go, well and truly consigned to the past - which would have appealed to Nine given its experience with the first season of Underbelly, which could not be screened in Victoria.

However, anything that identifies Debs could soon be off-limits in NSW.

On September 24, the Victorian Government Solicitor applied to the Melbourne Magistrates Court to have Debs transferred to a NSW prison for questioning over the death of a Sydney prostitute 15 years ago.

Debs's lawyer, Michael De Young, did not oppose the application, saying his client maintained his innocence and was confident of being acquitted and returned to Victoria.

NSW police have been trying for two years to question Debs - who also was convicted in 2007 of the 1997 murder of 18-year-old sex worker Kristy Harty - and believe they have enough evidence to link him to the killing.

The transfer order was granted by the court, but Debs had 14 days to appeal the decision. That appeal period concludes on Friday.

Nine has three options: rush the Silk-Miller telemovie out before NSW police have laid any charges that might arise from the interview; release the telemovie in all states bar NSW if charges are laid; or hold off for a national release until any case has been heard.

Nine yesterday declined to comment.

Tell Them Lucifer Was Here is not the only true-crime drama to run into problems recently. In August, pay TV channel TV-1 had to pull its series Killing Time, based on the memoirs of convicted drug dealer and former barrister Andrew Fraser, from the schedule indefinitely because of a looming court case.

By Karl Quinn
October 7, 2010
Sydney Morning Herald