Desperately seeking Ron Jorgensen

by Fiona Rae / 04 September, 2010
Did Bassett Rd machine-gun murderer Ron Jorgensen really die in a car crash - or is he living it up in Australia? The Missing looks at the evidence.

We have to assume that, in 1984, Kaikoura was the most boring town in New Zealand. It is for this reason, it is said, that convicted murderer Ron Jorgensen faked his own death and escaped for the excitements of Sydney. Fact or hearsay, it's a good story, and one that gets a rehashing in the first episode of the new series of The Missing (TV1, Tuesday, 9.30pm).

The story goes back to New Zealand's closed-on-Sunday past, when bootleg booze was a big part of Auckland's criminal underground. It is thought that the two men murdered by Jorgensen and John Gillies at a house in Bassett Rd, Remuera, in 1963, were sly groggers. The killings and subsequent trial were a sensation not just because of our low murder rate at that time, but because the dead men, Frederick Walker and Kevin Speight, were riddled with bullets from a .45 calibre machine gun - the first time such a weapon had been used in a crime in New Zealand.

The mystery that The Missing re-examines is Jorgensen's disappearance from Kaikoura in 1984, after his release from prison. His car was found at the bottom of a cliff, but whether Jorgensen drowned, was killed, or took a slow boat to Australia remains unknown. There have been sightings of him, including three in Western Australia and one in Kumeu, north of Auckland, as recent as 2000, but TV shows don't have much of a clearance rate when it comes to finding people who want to remain hidden. Ironically, it won't matter if they do - the arrest warrant issued for Jorgensen in 1984 was for a breach of his parole, and it was withdrawn in 1998 after he was officially declared dead.

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