This is the story of an Adelaide court case alleging police misconduct, drug dealing, theft of weapons and perhaps even murder.
When Bryan Stanton came to us many years ago he had an extraordinary tale to tell. He was an underbelly style criminal turned police informant…
"I know of a lot more serious stuff I come across… lots of serious stuff… I was in my day a fairly serious criminal… sounds ridiculous and I understand the public would no doubt think it just couldn't possibly be true but I know for a fact who controls the drugs scene, I know who controls prostitution, I know who controls organised crime and it is not who the general population think it is," says Bryan.
He says in 2001 he was set up with a drug charge because he'd trodden on the wrong toes.
“It was a square up because I gave the crop up, I gave a 20 million dollar crop up... I was the only one who went to jail,” says Bryan.
So when he turned up five years ago to tell us he'd again given more information to police we were a bit sceptical…
Bryan, if you were so concerned about the way the police were operating why did you go back to them?
“Look we spoke of this, without a doubt I made a lot of foolish decisions along the way and this will go down as one of the greatest mistakes of judgment I've made in my life time," says Bryan.
His tip off was over a criminal syndicate based at a rural property in the Goolwa/Victor Harbor area.
According to Bryan they were into everything... Using a tree lopping business as a front to case rural properties to raid.
"There was stolen property being stored there. There was firearms being stored there. I was led to believe there was a couple of bodies down the back of the joint," said Bryan.
Bryan knew all this because he'd worked with the horses on the property and was trusted...
"…And of course they were aware of my past and they wanted me to be involved and I didn't want to be involved," says Bryan.
The fact is it wasn't the first time we'd heard such stories... around 2008 property owner Lorraine, came to us about suspicious activities at a neighbouring farm.
'…And most times I'm fearing for my life you know they've been firing shots at me... the police wouldn't come,” says Lorraine.
The threats and harassment intensified after she reported police may have been involved.
'The police car would be frequently down there and the police would be lounging on the bonnet and they'd be having a good old laughy time and they'd be there for you know up to an hour," claims Lorraine.
Our attempts to investigate were blocked by police and our camera confiscated.
So when Bryan claimed the crims he knew of had links to police... We couldn't help but be a little curious.
“…And I went to a country police station, I thought it would be different from dealing with these clowns in the city... It was no different," says Bryan.
A year later he came back with an even more disturbing story... He'd been arrested and charged with possession of a stolen sawn off shot gun, loaded and ready to fire.
“I was... I knew I was in a bit of trouble at this stage of the game Paul... Yeah I'd been... yeah hung out to dry," says Bryan.
Bryan believed he'd been set up again, but who was going to believe this self- confessed crim with a rap sheet as long as your arm?
“…Armed robbery, abductions, bashings, shootings," admits Bryan.
Nevertheless he insisted he'd since turned his life around and ex-cop Paul Williams was prepared to vouch for that.
“What you see is what you get... honest, loyal… he does have integrity... integrity that I find lacking in a lot of other people," says Paul.
And Bryan was prepared to prove it by fighting the charge in court... What you'll hear is what the jury heard…
The dramatic sequence of events took place in September 2009… when Bryan contacted Victor Harbor police to set up a meeting to blow the whistle on the corruption in the area.
“I saw young girls ranging in age I would say... could have been as young as twelve up to seventeen, being taken in and out of rooms by older men... there were drugs being sold from the property... it was despicable... and this is on a little retirement town on the South Coast of South Australia," says Bryan.
He was picked up by police and taken to Victor Harbor police station to meet with relieving detective Elizabeth Mascaro in the presence of a uniformed officer.
While Elizabeth Mascaro took notes, Bryan Stantons’ only stipulation was they not alert any of the suspect officers... One in particular, Constable David Cousins… Who himself has an unenviable record, having a town up in arms over heavy handed policing...
And in another serious incident, forcing SAPOL to cough up $15,000 in hush money to stop his police brutality case seeing the light of day.
“I mentioned several times, under no circumstance was David Cousins to be made aware that this investigation was going on," says Bryan.
What happened just two nights later in the Goolwa hotel, involving the same constable David Cousins, justified his concerns.
“Constable David Cousins walked through the door... he made a beeline for me and said to me, Bryan I'd like to talk to you... and I said to him well talk to me... and he said I'd prefer if you came outside. I went outside with him," says Bryan.
Cousins was met by two uniformed officers... one with a video camera.
Cousins then asked him for the car keys...
“I told him that you don’t need em, the passenger’s side door can't be locked... he opened the passenger’s side door of the motor vehicle, reached directly to the underside of the passenger’s seat and produced a half sawn off shotgun,” says Bryan.
The shotgun was loaded and still had the serial number intact but Cousin's hadn't finished…
“…Reached over the seat and grabbed the barrel… the barrel just laying on the back seat... ludicrous," says Bryan.
As Bryan told the court, no experienced criminal would run such a risk... Nor do such an amateurish job.
“I mean the stock was on it, you can cut a shot gun down, you can put it down your pants and I would suggest if you are going to cut a weapon down to conceal it, (you're doing it) to make it a concealable weapon,” says Bryan.
“It was planted?"
“It was planted there by somebody," says Bryan.
To appreciate just how dubious all this was, the jury was taken through what took place between Bryan's first meeting at Victor Harbor police station and his arrest.
Elizabeth Mascaro's notes were typed up and handed to her superior officer.
“The next day I received a phone call from a detective at Victor Harbor wanting to set up a meeting," claims Bryan.
The chosen location was a secluded country track where Bryan says he repeated the same info...
And you also made a phone call?
Who you believed to be a criminal?
“I knew he was a criminal".
And they listened to that phone call on a speaker?
"I put it on speaker phone and they listened to the entire phone call”.
The call was about the sale of a stolen semi-automatic weapon with a silencer and police body armour.
And so having established his bona fides Bryan was told...
“Go back there, continue my association with people, they would go away and talk to their superiors. If the job was to be a goer I would be texted a phone number that afternoon".
Oddly enough in court the Senior Detective appeared to have little recall of this crucial meeting or the incriminating phone call about the weapons…
Q: "Who was if from”?
A: “I don't know”.
Q: "But it was about guns wasn't it? That’s what the conversation was about?"
A: “I don't recall any conversation about a gun”.
Or Bryan's need for confidentiality…
Q: “You can understand that someone in Mr Stanton's position might have raised with you that you weren't to talk to anyone about anything he told you”?
A: “I don't remember the specifics of the conversation like that”.
After they parted company Bryan was text the phone number promised... The sting was on... He was to go to the Goolwa hotel and set up the sale, but who should show up but Constable Cousins... And Bryan was in his sights.
What was wrong with that picture, what was wrong?
“There was never a search, what was wrong with that picture was that police officer knew where those two items were before he opened the door of the car," says Bryan.
But as the jury heard, just about everything to do with the arrest was suspect…
“The first words I utter to David Cousins when he produces that sawn off shot gun are these… Fingerprint the f------ thing... it's not mine…
Two police men without gloves, though they have gloves in the police car are handling the gun?
"And shell because they've been pulled out at this stage,” say Bryan.
With their bare hands?
“With their bare hands".
David Cousins cavalier approach to proper processes hasn't improved... Storing exhibit "a" in his car boot and carrying into court ... But his credibility took a further dive in the witness box ...
Q: .... “Police department protocol is that you are not meant to handle exhibits without gloves on”.
A: “Not entirely”.
Q: “You're not meant to are you”?
A: “That's correct”.
Q: “Where did you find the barrel, the sawn off barrel”?
A: “At the scene in Cadell street”.
Q: “So you contaminated that as well”?
A: “I handled that as well, yes”.
And the video of the arrest brought to court was useless...
Q: “So the tape you've got there isn't a proper video of what you filmed because it malfunctioned”?
A. “That's correct”.
Q. “When was it that you discovered that that tape had malfunctioned”?
A. “When I came back to the police station at about 1 a.m. in the morning”.
Nor did David Cousins seek any alternative ...
A: “I didn't seize cctv from the hotel, no”.
Q. “Did you ask”?
A. “No, I haven't”.
Bryan knew he was really on his own when he rang that emergency number he'd been texted by police earlier in the day. The officer at the other end said...
“I'm sorry Bryan, I've been instructed from above to have no further contact with you…"
They then search his property that evening for stolen goods but found nothing... It took them another 6 days before they got around to searching the property he'd tipped them off about... Sure enough they found loot from a recent break-in.
It took four years to come to trial and when it did Bryan took the extraordinary step of putting his record before the jury right from the start.
“I admit that I've got an horrific criminal history but I threw that on the table because I wanted those people to know that is what was, and this is what's now,” says Bryan.