Noel Ashby remembers Chopper Read
"With Mark Read, you'd pull up next to him and say 'what are you doing Chopper', former assistant commissioner tells ABC 774/s Jon Faine.PT5M29S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2v9vo 620 349 October 10, 2013
Mark "Chopper" Read was an unlikely source of support and comfort to former top police officer Noel Ashby during his legal battles with the force.
Mr Ashby, a former police assistant commissioner, revealed that Read paid him a visit at his wife's Clifton Hill post office during his high-profile fallout with Victoria Police command.
He told 774 ABC Melbourne that the surprise visit and words of support had led to an ongoing association, which led Mr Ashby to pay Read a deathbed visit at Royal Melbourne Private Hospital last Monday.
Noel Ashby visited Mark "Chopper" Read on his deathbed.
Mr Ashby said he had known Read since the mid 1980s when he was a sergeant at St Kilda police station and Read was a regular fixture at nightclubs along the Esplanade.
It was at the infamous St Kilda nightclub Bojangles that Read shot dead drug dealer Sammy 'The Turk' Ozerkam in 1987. He was acquitted of murder on the grounds of self-defence.
Years later, when Mr Ashby was at the centre of a controversy and damaging court case, Read, who lived in Collingwood and held a post office box at the Clifton Hill post office owned by Mr Ashby's wife, decided to pay an unexpected visit, accompanied by his wife Margaret.
Chopper Read dead from liver cancer
Mark Brandon Read as an infant. Photo: Fairfax Archive
"He came up to me directly and I hadn't spoken to him for many years and he put his hand out and shook my hand and then said 'could I talk to your wife, Diane'," Mr Ashby told 774 ABC.
"He then shuffled over in his typical gait, and he said to Diane, 'We just want you to know that what happened to your husband is a whole lot of nonsense and no one really believes it."
Mr Ashby, along with former police union boss Paul Mullet, was the target of an Office of Police Integrity inquiry into the leaking of information relating to Operation Briars, a secret investigation into the high-profile killing of a male prostitute.
Mr Ashby was charged with perjury after being accused of giving false evidence at OPI hearings in 2007. He was acquitted of the charges in 2010 when the hearings were ruled to have been invalid.
He said Read's visit had made an impression.
"It was quite an amazing thing that he came in and did that," Mr Ashby said.
"And at that time when people are under great stress and searching around, for someone like him to come in and say that ... because what he was essentially saying was that the bad guys around town, which he claimed to know, thought it was a load of nonsense and as a consequence of that, over the next few years we spoke from time to time."
The odd couple spoke regularly at the post office and Mr Ashby said Read sought his advice on different issues.
"Going right back to the '80s, he was never a threat to police. He conducted a very doomed kidnapping in the courts, which was a stunt, a sensational stunt that he paid a lot of time for," Mr Ashby said.
Read attempted to kidnap County Court Judge Bill Martin in 1978. He was jailed for 12 years and later wrote an apology to the judge.
Mr Ashby said that, unlike other notorious criminals, Read was never a threat to police.
"With Mark Read, you'd pull up next to him and say 'what are you doing Chopper', you knew there would be no danger to us," he said.