Date: 17th January 2003

Russell Crowe Bar Brawl Cover-Up

An internal police investigation into an alleged cover-up of actor Russell Crowe's involvement in a Coffs Harbour brawl has been delayed because it could involve high-ranking officers.

The case which was in the hands of NSW Police's crime agencies, is currently with Assistant Commissioner Peter Walsh who will allocate it to another division.

The Daily Telegraph has learned crime agencies investigator Detective Sergeant Darren Bennett did not want to handle the case as it involved his superior as well as other officers in his division.

According to a letter from Crime Agencies to the Ombudsman it was decided that the division would no longer handle the case.

"Numerous officers from (Crime Agencies) were involved ... two of the identified officers were of the rank of inspector," the letter said.

"It was apparent Sgt Bennett was no longer in a position to carry out this investigation."

No progress has been made on the investigation six months after it was ordered by the NSW Ombudsman in response to a complaint lodged in July by club owner Malcolm Mercer and his friend Phillip Cropper.

They claimed they had been the victims of "malicious and unjustifiable legal proceedings" after they were tried for extortion.

The pair had sold footage to the media of the Academy Award winner fighting with patrons of the club in November 1999.

District Court Judge John Williams directed a jury to find them not guilty.

Mr Mercer and Mr Cropper claimed police had acted improperly by failing to investigate the behaviour of Crowe.

Six months later, the Ombudsman has been informed that the investigation has been hand-balled to another department.

It is in response to a letter sent on January 6 by Ombudsman senior investigator Kim Swan to crime agencies commander Graeme Morgan.

"I request an explanation (of) the time taken to allocate and initiate an investigation and your view as to whether there has been undue delay in the handling of these matters," Mr Swan wrote.

Police spokeswoman Jo Swift said inquiries were continuing, but it was policy not to reveal details of internal investigations.

Mr Cropper and Mr Mercer have also lodged civil proceedings in the against the NSW Police and the two arresting officers.

Mr Mercer said he and Mr Cropper had not been contacted by the police for an interview.

"We haven't heard a word from (the police)," he said.

He also said that they plan to subpoena Crowe to testify in the civil case.

The Daily Telegraph

Source: Press Release