07 July, 2010

The Territory in the Sixties

Da Costa and Andreas Koklas first met in 1967, when they both drove to Melbourne in Koklas’ ute. In January 1968 they set out to drive back from Melbourne to Darwin. Da Costa said Koklas had asked him to share the driving, in return for a free trip. The route they followed went through Ipswich and Mt Isa. From there they reached Camooweal, and from there set out on the Barkly Highway on 13th January, on route to Darwin. Sometime late that afternoon, Da Costa was seen in Koklas’ ute near a place called Frewena, and later in the day at a place called Three Ways, both on the Barkly Highway. That evening, he sold a movie camera and projector to the licensee of a roadhouse at Three Ways, and also offered to sell him a watch. He also sold a transistor to another person. These items all belonged to Koklas.

From Three Ways Da Costa, instead of continuing on to Darwin, drove the ute south again, eventually reaching Melbourne on 22 January. He sold the ute to a car dealer there, using the name Koklas. A number of Koklas’ personal items were still in the ute when it was sold.

Da Costa then headed to Western Australia. On 30th January he went to a branch of the NSW Savings Bank in Fremantle and identified himself as Koklas. He presented a bank book issued in Darwin that bore Koklas’ name. He attempted to withdraw $150 from the account but was only paid $30. The Bank Manager told him he would have to speak to the Darwin branch before releasing any more funds. The manager kept the bank book and told Da Costa to return the next day, however he did not appear.

Da Costa was later interviewed by police in a Fremantle hotel where he was staying. In his room police found a number of articles, including a Northern Territory Drivers Licence belonging to Andreas Koklas, clothing bearing Koklas’ name. Da Costa told police about the bank book, and he was taken to the branch where he attempted to make the withdrawal.

When questioned, he said that Andreas Koklas was a Greek man he had known in Darwin, but he had returned to Greece, and that Da Costa had used Koklas’ name to open the account in Darwin. He said he had done this to avoid paying maintenance to his wife.

Two aboriginal men named Pompie Turner and Sleepy Charlie were stockmen on a cattle station, and were driving along the Barkly Highway from Avon Downs Station on 13th February 1968 when their car broke down about nine miles from Soudan Station. They walked along the road looking for water, and began to notice a smell like that of a dead animal. They investigated, to find the body of a man lying close to a small tree, partly covered with broken bushes and leaves. It was clothed in a singlet and underpants. They did not touch it, and instead walked back in the direction of Avon Downs Station where they were picked up by another car and taken to the police station, where they reported their discovery.

The next day the boys went with a police officer named Cox and pointed out the location of the body. It appeared the dead man (later identified as Andreas Koklas) had suffered very serious injuries. A large area of his skull had been crushed in, and on one side of his chest seven ribs, and on the other side ten ribs, had been crushed and fractured. These injuries would have caused immediate death.

The body was in a state of decomposition and disintegrated when moved. The attending doctor determined that the injuries could have been caused if a heavy rock was dropped on the head and body of Koklas while he was lying on the ground. A stone about 14-16 inches long and 12 inches deep and wide was found nearby. It weighed 35 pounds. Dried blood stains were found on the bottom of the rock, which matched Koklas’.

Over the following weeks further interviews took place between Da Costa and the police. On 17th February police told Da Costa that the body of a man named Andreas Koklas had been found on the side of the road on the Barkly Highway. Da Costa asked “Is Koklas dead?” and was told that he was. Da Costa was asked when he had last seen Koklas, and he said they had travelled together to Melbourne last year, and that he had last seen him there shortly before Christmas.

He was asked about being in possession of Koklas clothing, and he said Koklas had given it to him. The bank book also showed a withdrawal of $150 in Ipswich on 11th January, which Da Costa said was made by himself. He said he did not know where Koklas’ ute was, and denied driving it in the Northern Territory on the 13th and 14th January. He said he knew nothing about Koklas’ death.

Later, Da Costa decided he wanted to tell police the truth about the bank book. He told police that he had stolen it from Koklas while they were on their way from Darwin to Melbourne in Koklas’ ute.

Da Costa was told “I should tell you that I understand that Koklas was killed by a rock and it is possible that there was a fight.” Da Costa replied “I don’t know anything about how he died”.

Da Costa then made a written statement to police, which contained some inconsistencies with the earlier things he had told them. He said he had riven with Koklas from Melbourne to Ipswich where Koklas had withdrawn the money from the bank. At Ipswich Da Costa said they met a truck driver known as George, who was on his way back to Melbourne. He asked George if he would give him a lift back to Sydney, took his things out of Koklas’ ute and had been driven back to Melbourne, leaving Koklas in Ipswich. He said his reason for doing this was because he had just stolen the bank book from Koklas’ glove box.

Da Costa said the last time he was on the Barkly Highway was back in about July 1967. He said Koklas had sold his own movie equipment and transistor at Three Ways back in December 1967 when the two of them were on their way to Melbourne.

Part way through this interview, Costa stopped and said “Look, we better stop this. Look, we had an argument. I do not want to waste any more time. You know all about it… We had an argument on the Barkly. I did not know that he was dead, I just panicked and shot off. I will never forget what he said to me. I did not want to kill anybody, Andreas and I were friends, and I just panicked. I am sorry to have wasted your time, I should have known better. I should have told you before. I suppose my life is finished now. There is no need to talk about it. You know all about it.”

Da Costa said the argument was about money - Koklas had changed his mind from their initial agreement, and told him he would have to pay part of the cost of the trip to and from Melbourne, which was $300. Once they reached Camooweal Koklas had threatened him to pay up immediately. After leaving Camooweal the car had overheated along the Barkly Highway and they had pulled over. Koklas said he was worried about the wheel, so he got out the car jack and a piece of iron pipe that he used as the jack handle, and checked the wheel.

The topic of money came up again, and Da Costa refused to pay his share. He told Koklas “You Greeks are all the same - money-hungry bastards”. Koklas responded by hitting him and Da Costa “bashed him back quite a few times“, knocking Koklas to the ground. Koklas got up again holding the iron pipe and “came at me with it”. Da Costa slipped and fell, and said that Koklas hit him several times with the iron pipe while he was on the ground.

Da Costa said “not far from where I was lying was a rock. I grabbed for it and lying then as I was, I threw the rock at him. He dropped and let go of the pipe at the same time. I was not happy. I got up and I was going to hit him again, but I didn’t hit him again. He said ‘Please Joe, don’t hit me again, please put water on my head’. I was mad at him at the time, and on my right-hand side were two small little branches of the tree where he was sitting previously. I got hold of them and shoved them at him. I waited a little longer. I asked him a couple of times to get up. He wouldn’t and I opened the front, the left door of the car”.

Da Costa took out a plastic water bottle and poured some water on Koklas’ head. He then put the iron pipe and jack back in the car. “I didn’t know what to do for a while. I got in the car to go”.

He was shown a photograph of the body with the large stone lying next to it and said “yes, that is the rock. That is where I left it”. He said when he left Koklas he “was lying under a tree. He was standing up when I hit him with the rock. When he dropped he did not move and I did not touch him any more. I then put the leaves over him”. Looking at the photograph of Koklas’ body, he said “I put those leaves there”.

He was asked whether he removed any clothing and he denied doing so. He said he had covered Koklas with leaves because “Andreas had blood coming out of his head. It was very hot. I thought he might die”. He was asked why he did not take Koklas back to Camooweal, if he was so worried, and he said “I just panicked and wanted to get away”.

He confirmed that this had happened on a Saturday afternoon, and that “it was the same day I sold the camera and things at Three Ways”.

On the flight back to Darwin, he told his accompanying police officer “Yes, Yes, I just want to clear it all up. If I tell you I tell the Court. There will be no need for you to tell the Court because I will tell the Court everything. How I hit Andreas and how I left him there. I am glad it is all over. Don’t you worry, I will tell the Court everything. I suppose I will hang. Andreas was my very good friend…. Like I told you, after I hit him with the stone I panicked and ran away. I ran about a mile, no cars came along. I went back. I got in the car and drove away.”

The Crown case was that Da Costa had in fact deliberately bashed in Koklas’ skull with the rock, and was not acting in self-defence, as he claimed. The Crown also said Da Costa was responsible for other injuries found on Koklas’ body, but Da Costa said that either somebody else killed Koklas with those injuries, or that he died as a result of the rock to the head, after which somebody came along and inflicted the other injuries after death.

He said that the “rock” he threw hit Koklas “somewhere on his face, his head” and that after he had poured water on Koklas’ head “he kept looking at me but he didn’t say anything” and that his eyes were ‘”blinking”. Before he left Koklas he told him “if one of us has to walk and if it is good enough for me to walk, it is good enough for you to walk or get a lift”.

Dr Bromwich, who conducted the post mortem, gave evidence that such a rock, dropped from a distance between one foot and ten feet, would cause the massive injuries seen on Koklas. The doctor also testified that the rock produced could not have been thrown with one hand, and even if it had been thrown in a shot-put manner, it is unlikely it would have brought about the damage seen to Koklas’ skull.

Da Costa was questioned about the rock at his trial”
“Q: You have seen the big rock in court?
A: Yes.
Q: Was that the rock you threw at him?
A: Impossible sir, no, I couldn’t.
Q: What sort of rock was it you threw at him?
A: It was just a rock a bloke could lift with one hand. I was lying down when I threw it.”
Da Costa was not asked whether he did or did not drop the ‘big rock’ on Koklas.

Da Costa was convicted. He appealed, but was rejected. He was sentenced to life.


  1. Hello, my name is Rob Williams. I lived in Darwin and knew DaCosta. Andreas Koklas, a painter friend of my family. DaCosta and his mate DaSilva jumped a Portuguese Navy ship and were hidden by the whatfies. I was working at Lands Branch at the time and DaCosta took up with one of the girls there. He was a showoff prick and used to get around in hip boots making like Mussolini. He pleaded that, if he was deported by to Portugal he would be shot by Batista as a deserter. There is a lot more to this and I was personally involved. williamsrob8@gmail.com

  2. I knew Dacosta in 1967 when I was workng at Goldsworthy iron ore mine; he was a charmer. He left |Goldsworthy long before I did then we heard that he had been charged with murder and sentenced to death. I passed through Darwin June 1968 and thought of going to see him in prison but funked it. Never heard that his death sentence was commuted to life. Does life mean lif in the NT?