The disturbing life and vicious crimes of Neville Tween.
Front row, second from left.
Big smile, right next to the trophy.
Angelic little fella, isn’t he?
It’s 1953. Leeton, south-west New South Wales. 13-year-old Neville Tiffen is celebrating a win in the local Aussie rules competition with his teammates from St Joseph’s Convent School.
Peter Schipp — top row, second from right — remembers Neville as a pretty nippy young bloke with confidence to burn.
In particular, he recalls the day the two of them rode their bikes “about three mile out of town” to Neville’s house where Neville proceeded to do backflips up and down the veranda. Agile, athletic.
Other schoolmates remember different details, like him having more lollies, way more lollies, than the other boys. And, on occasions, a lot more money. Pockets full of threepences and sixpences.
There were whispers in the playground. Where did all the coins come from?
This article contains information from episodes of the Unravel True Crime podcast. Listen to Season 2 now, and watch Barrenjoey Road tonight at 8:30pm on ABC TV.
What none of the boys in that wonderful black and white photograph could have known was that Neville Tiffen (as he was known then) already had a police record.
His offending started four years earlier, when he was charged with break, enter and steal. At the ripe old age of nine, the crime landed him in Kalgoorlie Children’s Court in Western Australia.
His criminal record is among thousands of pages of never-before-released NSW Police documents obtained by the Unravel True Crime team during their investigation into the 1978 disappearance of northern beaches teenager Trudie Adams.
Tiffen was cautioned on each charge and ordered to pay restitution of 21 shillings and sixpence.
But while young Neville might have started out pinching pocket money, by the time his family arrived in Leeton, he was on the cusp of a life in crime that would involve more than 100 charges and a grand assortment of illegal activities. His career would span prime ministerships from Ben Chifley to John Howard, making him one of Australia’s most prolific, dangerous and vicious criminals.
The list is almost endless: Break and enter, assaulting a police officer, possession of firearms and explosives, escaping jail, drugs charges, safe breaking, and, most revealing for this story, a shocking sexual assault on a young man.
There is also bribery and fraud, plus some more unusual charges like possessing wigs and false beards.
The latter might sound fairly innocuous but, as you’ll see, it will provide a compelling piece of a still unsolved mystery.
Some of the charges he beat but, over the decades, he was in and out of jail in NSW, South Australia and New Zealand. And there were times he seemed to disappear off the police radar.
Then, in 2006, it all came to a crashing end. He was convicted of conspiring to import 27 kilograms of cocaine secured to the hulls of ships, one of which was the infamous (for other reasons) MV Tampa.
It’s hard to believe the cherubic young man in the footy team photo could have done so much harm, caused so much hurt, to so many.
But that’s just the start of our story.
Because what makes Neville Tiffen (later better known as Neville Tween, then John Anderson) stand out in Australia’s criminal milieu are the crimes for which he was suspected — but was never charged.
Horrific crimes. At least one of them was a murder, that of 18-year-old Trudie Adams, last seen hitchhiking on Barrenjoey Road, in Newport on Sydney’s northern beaches in late June 1978.
He was most probably also involved in the murder of a fellow drug dealer, Tony Yelavich, who disappeared after arranging to meet Tween near the beachfront in Manly in 1985, apparently to settle a drug debt.
Then there was a third killing, that of Yelavich’s girlfriend, Andrea Wharton, also involved in drugs.
Three people, vanished. None of their bodies ever found.
What we do know is that just days after the high-profile 1978 disappearance of Trudie Adams, a bright, vivacious and strong-willed young woman, the NSW police dropped a bombshell.
Detectives revealed that young women had been coming forward to report sexual assaults they had previously been too scared to talk about.
The women were coming forward in the hope that what had happened to them might shed some light on what had happened to Trudie.
They told police they had been picked up while hitchhiking or abducted off the street at gunpoint by two men.
Their eyes had been covered with tape, they had been handcuffed and taken into the bush and viciously raped. Two of the victims were just 14 years old.
Detectives soon found that at least 14 girls and young women had been sexually assaulted between 1971 and 1978 while hitchhiking, just as Trudie Adams had been, along Barrenjoey Road or areas nearby.
Police suspected Neville Tween could be responsible for these attacks right from the beginning, but they decided they needed more evidence before they could interview him.
Years later, when NSW cold case officers tried to re-investigate, many of the women remained traumatised by the assaults.
To this day, those cases are unsolved. And serious questions remain about why the sexual assaults were not more vigorously pursued by NSW Police.
Unravel has discovered that, incredibly, Tween was never asked a single question about those matters until 2009, 30 years after some women had picked out his photo and said: ‘It was him.’
It was the same with the Trudie Adams case. Not one question asked, despite him being a prime suspect.
What we do know is that after Trudie’s disappearance, Tween left the northern beaches and moved to the NSW Central Coast. That’s when the serial sexual assaults stopped.
For many years, according to his criminal record, Tween escaped any charges or convictions. This changed in the early-to-mid-nineties when he came to the attention of the then-National Crime Authority (NCA), which investigated serious organised crime.
Neville Tween was anything but stupid — like a good footballer, he could read the play. So he became an informant, providing information to an up-and-coming Australian Federal Police officer, Mark Standen, who was then working at the NCA.
Standen rose to be one of the most powerful law enforcement officials in the country until 2008, when he had a spectacular and headline-grabbing fall from grace. He had jumped the fence and become a drug importer, charged with conspiring to import millions of dollars worth of pseudoephedrine, the precursor to the drug ice.
After he went to jail, it emerged that as far back as the late nineties colleagues had questioned his ‘cowboy’ methods and his gambling habits. The naysayers, though, were drowned out by Standen’s undeniable success in locking up serious crooks and confiscating their assets — luxury houses, cars, boats and millions in cash.
So, here’s the rub…
The connection between Mark Standen and Neville Tween leads to questions that no-one in authority seems to want to ask. It’s the rock that no-one wants to lift up and look under.
Did Standen protect Tween — the suspected murderer and rapist — in order to gain convictions on other major criminals?
Did their relationship — which Unravel can now confirm became extremely close — impact on investigations into the northern beaches rapes or the murders?
Mark Standen has denied his relationship with Tween was improper in any way.
But these are questions worth asking because, to this day, there has been no justice for the 14 young women who police believe were viciously attacked by Tween and one or two of his associates.
Nor has there been any justice for 18-year-old Trudie Adams, her family and her close-knit circle of friends.
The crucial question is: Why?
Who was Trudie Adams?
The world was at her feet. A bright student at Barrenjoey High School — just metres from the sparkling surf — she finished her studies in the top 25 per cent of students in NSW. University beckoned, but it seems Trudie Adams had other ideas. She was good at just about everything she turned her hand to. Ballet. Drawing. But perhaps her greatest talent was making — and keeping — friends, both male and female.
She was at the centre of a group of about 12 or so young women — “the glue”, one of them later said, that helped keep them together. You can see her at the front of the group in many photos — always with a smile.
She enjoyed life on Sydney’s seemingly idyllic northern beaches — the sand, the surf, the parties at the homes of friends, the dances at the Newport Surf Club, drinks at the Newport Arms Hotel.
In the seventies, most people who grew up there didn’t move very far from where they were born. Why would they? It was more like a series of villages, where people knew each other from school, the beach or via friends of friends. It wasn’t called “the insular peninsula” for nothing — and the locals liked it that way.
But lurking beneath the picture-perfect image of white sands, blue summer skies, spectacular vistas and carefree lifestyle there was a darkness.
Predators looking for sex.
Men were known to trawl the relatively isolated beaches in their cars on the lookout for vulnerable young women hitchhiking to a dance or a party or to a friend’s house. Girls hitchhiking home, sometimes late at night, or just getting off a bus.
The NSW Police running sheets from 1978-79, obtained by Unravel, make for fascinating and confronting reading.
They record how one alert bus driver reported to police that every Friday as he drove from Wynyard in Sydney’s CBD to Palm Beach, he noticed a VW station wagon following him around Collaroy.
The bus driver told an officer “this car just follows the bus and speaks to female persons that alight.” Alerted to the number plate of the VW, police found the driver to be a known sex offender with serious form for indecent exposure and obscene behaviour dating back to 1965.
Another woman reported to police it was not unusual to encounter, in more isolated areas of the beaches, men masturbating in front of them. Yet another described being picked up along Barrenjoey Road, having to refuse the driver’s request for sex, then witness him start to masturbate. He let her out at Whale Beach.
But it appears these disturbingly common things were not talked about, or, if they were, they remained the peninsula’s dark secret. As for hitchhiking, well, in those days, as Trudie’s friend Leanne Weir said: “Everybody did it.”
It was just part of the lifestyle. And really, there wasn’t much choice because not many teens had cars and public transport. Particularly at night, buses in the area were virtually non-existent.
For the predators, it made for an ideal hunting ground.
Some came from outside the northern beaches — “Westies” — resented by the locals for even being there, even if just for an innocent surf. But others were locals who knew the area well, and not just the beaches and the roads winding up and around the headlands.
They also knew the vast tract of dense bushland known as Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, much of its 150 square kilometres only accessible via fire trails and tracks, some big enough for vehicles to make their way well into the park and out of sight.
If you didn’t know the park it was easy to get lost. If you did, it was easy to access for almost anything, from an innocent tryst with a girlfriend in the back of a car, to a party with friends in a small clearing, sharing drinks and a few joints.
The good thing was the privacy. There was nobody around. No nosey coppers shining torches into the backseat, no parents to stickybeak. You could make as much noise as you liked, there was no-one to complain.
Neville Tween, aka John Anderson, would have known that better than most because in the 1970s he was a local, living at Terrey Hills, just a stone’s throw from the national park.
A bloke could get there in a few minutes by car. An agile, athletic bloke, running hard, could be there not long after.
If the dark side of this Home and Away-like idyll was hidden for years, it came bursting out into the open in 1978 when Trudie Adams left a dance at the Newport Surf Club. Just after midnight on Sunday, June 25, she was seen walking to Barrenjoey Road to hitchhike the few kilometres to her home in Central Road, Avalon.
Her boyfriend, Steve Norris, later told police he saw a 1970s fawn or beige Holden panel van pull up near the corner of Barrenjoey Road and Neptune Road where she was standing. The van drove off. Trudie was gone.
Steve Norris was an immediate suspect in her disappearance.
After all, he and Trudie were in the process of breaking up — he wanted to go “steady” whereas she didn’t want to be tied down.
They’d had an argument the week before. And he was the last person to see her alive. Plus it’s always the husband or boyfriend “whodunnit” isn’t it?
Her mother, Connie, reported her daughter missing about 9:00pm on the Sunday night.
By the Monday night, NSW Police had sent out a radio message, based on information given to them by Connie, stating Trudie was last seen getting into a green Kombi.
The running sheets record the brief message which ends: “Fears for safety.”
The next day, another message went out, based on what Steve Norris had seen, stating she was spotted getting into the Holden panel van.
How this significant difference in the make, model, and colour of the car came about remains a mystery.
Steve Norris maintained then, and to this day, he has no idea how Connie came up with the green Kombi. Perhaps just plain confusion.
We’ll never know because Connie Adams died 11 years later, never knowing what happened to her little girl
At the very beginning, to police, she was just a missing person, a teenager who might have run off to a friend’s house for whatever reason. In fact the running sheets initially suggest she might have “gone to a friend’s place in Macksville”.
The theory was quickly dismissed — it was completely out of character for her to have run away. Searches of local beaches by police started on the morning of June 29. At the same time, four Homicide Squad detectives were called in.
The landscape of the investigation changed dramatically later that afternoon. An anonymous man phoned Connie Adams at home and said: “The body is half way up Mona Vale Road, it was an accident.” Not long after, a similar call was made to Mona Vale police station.
Whether it was genuine, or a hoax designed to throw police off the scent, nobody really knows. But a detective who worked on the original investigation said police had little choice other than to take it seriously.
“It could have been made by the offender to throw us off the scent, or it could have been someone who had genuine pangs of guilt or remorse, and wanted us to find the body. So we took that as a lead.”
The search for Trudie Adams
The call led to a huge search by NSW Police of bushland on both sides off Mona Vale Road, which runs from the beachside suburb of Mona Vale, inland towards St Ives.
Hundreds of people — police, police cadets, bushwalkers, volunteers, friends and family — were involved. Charles Adams, Trudie’s dad, searched alongside Steve Norris. It ranged over 15 days through late June, July and August.
There was no trace of Trudie or any of her clothes or belongings. Divers were sent down an old coal mine. Nothing. Waterways were searched. Also nothing.
While all this was happening, Steve Norris was interviewed at length more than once.
“I would have been pulled in for about four or five interviews and sometimes (at) two o’clock in the morning they would ring me up and say can you come in, we need another statement,” he tells Unravel, recalling the painful memory of being a suspect in his girlfriend’s likely murder.
Each statement was consistent. Soon the Homicide detectives turned their attention to another suspect, and with good reason.
A few days after Trudie disappeared, a teenage girl turned up at Mona Vale police station with a terrifying story.
She told police that, three months earlier, two men in a car picked her up while she’d been hitchhiking on Barrenjoey Road.
Once she got in the car, they threatened her with a pistol, handcuffed her and taped her mouth and eyes.
The men took the girl to bushland, to a spot where she could hear overhead powerlines humming.
They raped her.
Afterwards, having gone through her handbag to find her address, they dropped her home, warning that if she told anyone they would come back for her.
Fearing for her life, the teenage girl kept quiet.
But when she saw the Trudie Adams media appeal, she thought maybe her information could help.
A few days later, another woman came forward to police with a startlingly similar story … then another … and another.
With dawning horror, police realised that there had been a series of brutal rapes on the northern beaches between 1971 and 1978.
It was an almost identical script every time.
Two men pick up or abduct a girl, or two girls from the roadside. Always young.
The attacks usually happened on weekends, when the victims were hitchhiking home. Sometimes they were just grabbed while they were walking.
The two men sometimes pretended to be police officers, handcuffing the victims, threatening them with a handgun and taping their eyes.
The men sometimes wore a disguise, like a wig, fake beard, or dark glasses.
It seemed they had a specific spot, in bushland near the northern beaches, where they would take the victims to rape them. Sometimes, they took Polaroid photographs. They might also talk to the victims, offering them money, a beer, or a joint.
The attacks had become more frequent in the lead-up to Trudie’s disappearance in June. There was one in January ’78. Another in February. One in March. Then there were three in April.
At least 14 women had been attacked, probably more. And possibly men as well.
Some told their families and police but most didn’t, until Trudie disappeared.
The reason they were coming forward now was that, while they had been sexually assaulted and scared beyond belief, at least they had escaped. Trudie had not. They wanted to help find her killer.
One of the first women to be attacked, in the early seventies, reported her rape to Manly police the very night it happened.
Tragically, police on the front desk of the station told her to go home, saying that because her clothes weren’t ripped, nothing bad could have happened to her. The police report, obtained by Unravel, calls her complaint “doubtful” … twice.
If this first attack had been treated differently, could the rest have been prevented? Would Trudie still be here today?
Police set about identifying a suspect. They had a good starting point.
In the weeks after Trudie’s disappearance in June 1978, some women had identified Tween and an associate, Ray Johnson, to police.
As Unravel has discovered, four months later, Tween and Johnson were arrested in Sydney in possession of loaded handguns, wigs and false beards. It should have been a crucial clue, but it appears officers investigating Trudie and the rapes were not told this vital information.
In those pre-computer days, those arresting Tween on these charges simply didn’t know the men they had in custody were suspects for far more violent crimes.
Neville Tween not only had a lengthy criminal history, he lived in Terrey Hills, just a few kilometres from the bushland where the attacks had taken place. Also of interest was his car — he drove a light-coloured Holden panel van, similar to the one identified by Steve Norris.
And, apart from all his other offences, Tween had form.
In 1975, he and another associate, Gary Batt, committed a terrifying sexual assault on a 19-year-old man who had ripped Tween off in a minor drug deal.
The revenge plot involved Tween arranging to meet him in the national park at night, and it quickly spiralled into a nightmare scenario.
Tween started by demanding the young man dig his own grave, while shooting bullets from a submachine gun around his feet.
Tween then forced him to strip naked, dressed him in women’s underwear and sexually assaulted him.
He took Polaroid photos of the attack.
The young man ended up telling police about Neville Tween and what had happened in the bush.
As local police investigated, they found parts of a safe — obviously from a robbery — at the site of the attack.
Detectives from a NSW Police squad specialising in safe-breaking were called in, one of them a tough investigator named Bob Inkster.
Interviewed earlier this year for Unravel, the former detective said Tween was a name that featured in unofficial criminal rankings as “right up there amongst them”.
“Neville Tween was a very, very active and violent criminal. He had a disposition towards the most serious of crime. I could only really describe him as an extremely evil man.”
Armed with a sledgehammer and shotguns, Mr Inkster and fellow detectives burst into Tween’s Terrey Hills home at dawn.
Later, Tween went to jail for six months for the vicious assault on the 19-year-old. More than 40 years later, the leniency of the sentence still disgusts Mr Inkster.
Tween and his associate didn’t have much choice but to plead guilty. Police had found the Polaroids in his home.
Even from a very young age, Neville liked to be close to his trophies.
Making of a Monster
It’s hard to know how to describe such a lengthy and varied criminal history — more than 100 charges, spanning 57 years. For a fellow criminal, it might be “impressive”. For a police officer, “extraordinary”. But, for the general public, there are any number of words. “Appalling” most readily springs to mind.
And remember, these are just the offences Neville Brian Tween (born 29/6/1940) was actually charged with. The big unknown is: How many more did he get away with?
We now know him as Tween, but there were many aliases and age changes along the way: Neville Brian Burn, Neville Brian Fraser, Neville Brian Tiffen, John Andrews (born 29/6/1941), Neville Brian Anderson (born 29/6/1936) and John David Anderson.
He was a man of many names and many crimes which escalate in seriousness from his childhood break, enter and steal in Kalgoorlie to the one that finally put him away for good — conspiracy to import cocaine in 2006.
His original family history and the reasons for him starting a life of crime are lost to time, or at least are not in any of the thousands of pages of police documents obtained by Unravel.
At some stage he left the West and moved to Leeton. The football photo at the beginning of this story is from 1953. He appears in Leeton Petty Sessions for break, enter and steal in May 1954, and again in 1955 at which point the patience of the law runs out and he is sent to an institution.
That institution was almost certainly Mt Penang, a boys’ home near Gosford on the NSW central coast, dubbed by one former inmate as “the monster factory”.
September 1973: students at the Mt Penang Training School, where Neville Tween also went as a boy. (State Library of NSW, Mitchell Library [Government Printing Office 2 – 49931])
It was there he met Gary Batt, who would later become an accomplice in the sexual assault of the young drug dealer.
We know this because, in 2008, after Tween’s trial on the cocaine charges, Batt struck up email communication with Fairfax journalist John Kidman.
“I was mixed up with John Anderson (Tween) over many years,” he told Kidman.
“I first met him in 1956. That was at Mt Penang, Gosford. He was a hard, tough kid.
“His name was then Neville Brian Tween but we used to call him ‘Tubby.'”
Mt Penang, like many boys’ homes of its era, is now notorious.
Like Tween, its alumni went on to bigger, but usually not better, things.
Another man, Mark Merriman, who also went to Mt Penang though not at the same time as Tween, has horrific memories of the place.
Merriman was first institutionalised, he says, at the age of eight.
“Mate, I was beaten like a rabid dog,” he tells Unravel.
“You know what I mean, I was beaten, punched, knocked out.”
And it’s clear, according to Merriman, what this kind of treatment produces.
“Look, they’re monster factories … Because that’s all they turn you into is … a monster.
“If you’re going to be treated like an animal, how are you going to come out?”
Mick Kennedy is a former NSW detective and now academic at the University of Western Sydney. Working out of Bankstown in Sydney’s south-west in the 1980s, he investigated Neville Tween’s drug dealing.
Kennedy has no sympathy for Tween but has strong views about what places like Mt Penang did to the boys who grew up there. It left some of them beyond redemption.
“We shouldn’t be surprised that they were just absolutely psychopaths, who had no conscience, would’ve done anything, and that they enjoyed it.”
Whatever Mt Penang did to Tween, it appears he had no fear of, and no respect for, the police and the law and the normal rules of society.
Another former school friend, Brian McVicar, remembers bumping into Tween in Sydney years later.
It was around 1971. By then, McVicar was a detective although Tween didn’t know this.
Seeing him in the street, McVicar greeted him: “G’day Neville, how are you?”
Tween, he says, didn’t blink.
“My name’s not Neville,” he said.
“Come on, Neville,” responded McVicar, “we went to school together.”
“You’ve got the wrong person,” the crim shot back … then walked off.
The Unholy Relationship
A criminal running his own race in Sydney’s underbelly is one thing. But a criminal in league with one of the most powerful law enforcement officers in the state is a far more disturbing proposition.
We don’t know exactly when Mark Standen met Neville Tween.
Intriguingly, Standen’s name pops up in the 700 pages of NSW Police running sheets from 1978-79 which recorded the day-by-day events of the unfolding investigation.
At that stage, Standen was in the Narcotics Bureau and just starting his career.
A running sheet from the Trudie Adams investigation, dated May 16, 1979, says: Detective Mark Standen has been spoken to on a number of occasions at his office at the Narcotics Bureau.
This was a time when it was common for local surfers to bring back ‘buddha sticks’ of marijuana in surfboards from overseas trips. The afternoon tabloid newspapers were full of stories about young women being recruited as drug mules.
And there was talk on the northern beaches that Trudie’s upcoming holiday to Bali was maybe not as innocent as it seemed.
But the documents show Standen poured cold water on the drug rumours, with an early investigator noting, He has informed me that he can find no association between the missing girl Adams and any of the Narcotic Bureau’s inquiries.
Mark Standen is currently serving out his 22-year sentence.
Since his arrest in 2008, much has been written and said about Standen — in newspapers, on TV and in books.
But he’s never spoken to the media.
In August this year, Unravel wrote to him with a series of questions about Tween and Trudie Adams.
Within a few weeks, Standen responded.
He confirmed his involvement in the case but said it was limited to investigating whether Trudie might be involved in the drug trade.
Standen told Unravel that in 1979 he had never heard of Neville Tween, and there’s no evidence to suggest otherwise.
It seems Standen’s cameo appearance in the Trudie Adams story was a tantalising coincidence.
Some 13 years later, though, it was a very different story. Standen would re-appear on the stage, this time it would be more than a fleeting role.
Indeed, it was the beginning, according to several former NSW detectives, including Mick Kennedy, of what they called “the unholy relationship”.
In correspondence with Unravel, Standen says Tween first came onto his radar around 1991, when it is believed Tween’s drug dealing came to the attention of the National Crime Authority.
The two men and their families had moved to the NSW Central Coast. By then, Tween was known as John Anderson. He was just over 50, re-married with kids and a dog.
Mark Standen told Unravel that when Anderson came to the notice of the NCA he took it upon himself to introduce himself to the career criminal.
“I formed the view that he was a retired old school criminal looking for a quiet life on the coast,” Standen writes.
He insists socialising was innocent and hard to avoid. He and Tween were living close together in a small community, just a kilometre apart.
“Between our respective homes there was a dog-friendly reserve where my kids and I exercised our German shepherd. The Andersons used the same reserve to exercise their dog.
“My kids and I also frequented the public tennis court that was only 80-100 metres from Anderson’s home. Socialisation was unavoidable.”
But these answers raise many more questions … questions first raised by a NSW detective, Jayson McLeod.
In 2008, McLeod was given the cold case of missing drug dealer Ante (Tony) Yelavich, last seen heading to a meeting with Tween in Manly in 1985.
Seeing that Tween had also been a suspect in the disappearance of Trudie Adams and the multiple rapes, he sought to link the cases, and to use the resources of the powerful NSW Crime Commission, which could hold secret hearings and compel witnesses to answer questions.
He turned to Mark Standen, not knowing that the Crime Commission’s top investigator knew Neville Tween very well indeed.
“I provided Mark Standen with my investigation plan, as to how I was intending to gather evidence against Tween,” he told Unravel.
According to McLeod, who is now out of the police, Standen initially seemed interested. But as the weeks passed, he seemed to be delaying, putting off any action.
Furthermore, McLeod says Standen told him Tween, who by then had been Standen’s informant for a number of years, had “softened up” in his old age, implying he was no longer a serious criminal.
It was during this process in 2008, that McLeod claims to have discovered that Standen’s son, Matthew, had applied to join the NSW Police Force.
According to Jayson, a reference provided on his application was none other than Neville Tween, at that time known as John Anderson.
Jayson McLeod does not believe that Matthew Standen knew Neville Tween had a criminal history.
For the next few weeks, McLeod began to feel like he was living in an alternate reality.
His superiors didn’t seem to be interested. He couldn’t figure out why, but knowing about Tween’s violent history, he felt isolated and fearful not just for his career, but for his safety.
After all, he’d discovered that a major criminal had a close relationship with one of the most senior law enforcement officers in the country.
But unknown to Jason McLeod, the Australian Federal Police were also closing in on Mark Standen.
Over the years, there has been speculation about the exact nature of the relationship between Mark Standen and Neville Tween but, until now, none of it has been confirmed.
Through interviews, property searches and communication with Standen himself, Unravel has discovered that their relationship through this period developed into something far beyond that of a police officer running an informant.
And now, Unravel had the chance to get Mark Standen’s response.
On the issue of Matthew Standen’s 2008 application to join the NSW Police, Jayson McLeod is adamant the recruitment officer who received the application read it to him “verbatim” over the phone.
But both Mark and Matthew Standen deny Matthew ever used Anderson/Tween as a reference, declaring the story completely untrue.
There is another curious piece of the puzzle McLeod uncovered during his inquiries.
He says the job application also revealed the two families had shared an address — a house in Lakin St, Bateau Bay.
Standen confirmed this to Unravel, explaining that Tween and his wife suggested the Standens move in to the house directly after they themselves had moved out. It turns out it was all about the dogs. The Tweens knew the Standens needed a property with a high fence to contain their German shepherd.
Standen insists the two families never lived under the same roof at the same time.
Nevertheless, taken all together, it indicates an unusually close relationship between a copper and his informant.
According to former detective and academic Mick Kennedy, it’s hard to fathom what Standen was thinking when crossing this line. Kennedy’s response is blunt.
“How can he possibly be a family friend? How the f*** could you even let him in your house knowing what he’s done?
“And that would have been the average copper’s response to Mark Standen trying to explain why he’s friendly with Neville Tween.”
But there’s more.
One of Mark Standen’s brothers also had a close association with Neville Tween/John Anderson.
Australia Security and Investments Commission records reveal that in 1993, Glenn Standen was a director of a company called JAGS Imports.
The other directors included John Anderson (Tween) and his wife, Susan Anderson.
The ASIC records have not previously been made public.
Mark Standen confirmed his brother met the Tweens when doing some landscaping work for them. They went into business together, a lingerie home party business.
Standen insists his family knew nothing of John Anderson/Neville Tween’s criminal background and that there was nothing improper about any of this.
He says his brother withdrew from any business relationship after Tween was charged in 1994 with cultivating and possessing cannabis and possessing a firearm.
We know that Mark Standen turned up at Wyong local court on the Central Coast to see his man appear. Unravel has also been told that, around this time, Anderson was registered as an informant.
According to his criminal history, the ‘retired’ old villain was sentenced to 18 months’ jail on the drug charges. The firearms charge was dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Remarkably, it was the last time Tween was charged with any major offence until the cocaine shipment 12 years later.
Mark Standen told Unravel that there was nothing corrupt about his relationship with Tween and that the allegation that he was protecting Tween is “uninformed, demonstrably untrue, mischievous and offensive.”
There are others who see it differently and wonder why the authorities never fully investigated what was a very close bond between a powerful law enforcement officer and one of Australia’s most prolific criminals.
Facing the Music
By the time Mark Standen was arrested and charged in June, 2008, Tween had still never been interviewed about the 14 sexual assaults from the 1970s, or about Trudie Adams. It seemed like he never would be.
But then, in 2008 a NSW cold-case detective named Gavin McKean took over Trudie’s case. He would go on to spend the next two years re-investigating in preparation for a coronial inquest in 2011.
Along with his partner, Nicole Jones, McKean re-interviewed some of the women rape survivors.
And he also did something no-one else had ever done before. He finally interviewed Neville Tween.
McKean has now left the police to become a defence lawyer, but it’s clear that the unsolved case still plays on his mind.
He believes there was enough evidence back in 1978-79 to pursue Neville Tween far more vigorously over the rapes.
There’s little doubt in Gavin McKean’s mind that Neville Tween was responsible for the death of Trudie Adams.
While recognising the difficulties, he points to the IDs several of the women provided, and the similarities between the attacks on the women and on the 19-year-old man, the one Tween was eventually convicted over.
“I think [that], coupled with the fact that he lived nearby and he owned cars that were similar to the victims’ descriptions, it probably could have been enough for a prima facie case.”
McKean set about trying to mount a fresh case, contacting the women who were attacked.
He found many of them, more than 30 years later, were still deeply traumatised. And he suspects there are more victims out there.
“Because they were so badly threatened and so badly terrorised, it would be understandable that they never came forward,” he said.
“Particularly given that this character, Neville Brian Tween, told them that he was a police officer. So the women were fearful, very fearful.”
Gavin McKean arranged to interview Neville Tween, who was by then in jail on the cocaine charges.
For the first time, Tween was going to be asked by police if he had anything to do with the rapes on the northern beaches. And Trudie Adams.
“We wanted to just go there and see if he was willing to hear the allegations, and willing to respond,” McKean told Unravel.
When McKean turned up at Silverwater Jail Tween at first refused to talk to him. It took all the charms of his female partner to convince the old crook to open up.
“I think he was a person that didn’t like people that he was intimidated by … he was a bit of a coward.”
“He was definitely more interested in trying to play games with her being a female. I think he was interested in that. It was part of his mental state, I think.”
Tween denied any involvement in the rapes or Trudie’s disappearance.
But there were a few interesting things that happened during this interview.
Tween was asked if he knew anything about “Ku-ring-gai jobs” — a reference to the attacks in the park.
But he didn’t ask what a “Ku-ring-gai job” was, he simply denied involvement.
And, when he was asked about the rapes, he knew — before it was put to him — there was more than one perpetrator.
But, sadly, none of these things proved his guilt.
Right at the very end of the interview, though, after the tape was turned off and McKean and Jones turned to leave, there was another telling moment.
“I put to him … we believed it was mostly likely a mishap or an accidental death that Trudie suffered,” McKean said.
“I wanted to compromise with him and say, ‘if you’ve done this, we understand that it was most likely an accident, not a premeditated malicious murder’.”
According to the detective, Tween’s entire demeanour changed when he heard the suggestion.
“I felt that there was a level of acceptance to that hypothesis, although not verbalised to that extent.
“I felt, at some level, an acknowledgement that he knew that had happened. I felt it, without him actually saying it.”
Obviously, a facial expression isn’t grounds to charge a man.
“I felt like it was pretty close.
“But it wasn’t close enough, unfortunately.”
Three years later, the coronial inquest into the death of Trudie Adams didn’t manage to get much closer.
Neville Tween gave close to five hours of testimony to the inquest. It was the last time he was questioned about Trudie. He died in jail in 2013.
Trudie’s dad, Charles, often known as ‘Edge’ because of his middle name Edgecombe, attended, as did her brother John and ex-boyfriend Steve Norris.
A group of her friends were also present to hear evidence, hoping that something new would be found, something that might help solve the disappearance of Trudie — “the glue” that had bound them then, and for all these years.
The counsel assisting the coroner, Peter Hamill, SC, now a NSW Supreme Court judge, remembers Tween as “an evil old man” bereft of empathy for Trudie’s family, or anyone else.
“To have someone come along and treat the process with a kind of contempt … that must be pretty devastating for a dad who doesn’t know what happened to a little girl decades earlier,” he said.
Trudie’s friend Leanne Weir remembers Neville Tween death-staring them all. They stared back.
“We leant forward and gave it back to him, because we knew that he was evil.
“He had blue eyes … balding. Had a comb-over. And he was scary. In a word. Scary. Scary looking. And I think he knew it … and he actually played on that,” Leanne recalled.
Gary Batt, convicted along with Tween of the 1975 assault on the young man, also gave evidence, which was a surprise to many police who thought he was dead.
In fact, after serving his time, Batt dropped out of sight completely, with good reason.
The two men had a falling out and Tween, he said, had told him to “disappear or I’ll make you disappear.” Tween had managed to scare him straight.
In the witness box, Tween displayed his contempt for the court and Trudie’s family and friends, pretending to not understand, obfuscating, playing dumb.
If he was involved, why hadn’t the police questioned him back in the seventies? he asked.
It wasn’t a bad question, given this was a man who had started his career in crime at the age of nine and had progressed to safe breaking, assault and cocaine importation. A man convicted of sexual assault. A man who was the prime suspect in the murders of Trudie Adams and Tony Yelavich, and at least 14 vicious rapes.
Leaving court, Tween was snapped by a photographer in the back of a paddy wagon.
Justice Peter Hamill knows the photo well – he’s kept a scrapbook which documents the entire coronial inquest into Trudie’s death.
“He just looks like an evil bastard. And that’s kind of how he presented in court,” he said.
“Like an old, evil man.”
Head down, hair receding, handcuffed, heading back to jail.
It was a long, long way from Leeton.
Reporters: Neil Mercer & Ruby Jones
Researchers: Ellen Leabeater & Cheyne Andersen
Supervising Editor: Dewi Cooke
Unravel Digital Editor: Gina McKeon
Digital producer: Ange McCormack
Video & Photography: Marc Radomski (Wildbear Entertainment)
Archival Photos: Steve Otten & Anita Starkey
Illustrations: Simon Rankin
Unravel Executive Producer: Ian Walker
Thanks: Alan Erson (Wildbear Entertainment), Leo Faber, Tim Leslie, Grant Sherlock