Between the 1960s and the 1990s Stan 'the Man' Smith was one of the most feared villains in Australia, and the gunman behind some of the era's worst gangland murders.
Stan reportedly acted as the enforcer and contract killer for key crime figures like Lenny McPherson and George Freeman, and he played a major role in the marijuana trade; then in the last years of his life he underwent an unlikely transformation.
Jack the Insider aka Peter Hoysted shared Stan's story with the ABC's Richard Fidler.
As Jack tells it, in the 1960s when Lenny McPherson rose to prominence in the Sydney underworld, Stan Smith was his muscle – younger (by 16 years), fitter and with a great propensity for violence. Jack attributes at least 25 shooting incidents and 14 murders to Stan. Most of these were contract killings.
Stanley John Smith was born in depression-era Balmain in 1937, when this inner west suburb of Sydney, near the docks, was a really rough area.
Like many of the crime figures of the era, Stan was nabbed for a couple of minor thefts as a child and, after a few run-ins with the police, sent to a boys' home. Stan was 14 at the time. These reform schools seemed to specialise in churning out brutalized human beings, by using the borstal system of having the older boys meet out the discipline to the younger ones. This often involved sexual and physical abuse – which was the case for both Stan and Lenny McPherson before him.
On Stan's release at age 17 he was a violent and angry man. He started working stand-over rackets for the prostitution rings in the 1950s, making sure the girls turned over enough trade. Stan is reported to have been excessively violent, even for the extortion industry, and would often just 'lash out' and savagely beat the women.
Ironically, one bright spot in Stan's life was his almost textbook romance with Marilyn Moss, who became his wife when he was 18, and remained married to him until his death 54 years later.
Due to police corruption, Stan, Lenny and George Freeman, known as 'the Team' of crime bosses, could act almost with impunity. This was before narcotics, and their main rackets were pimping, bookmaking, 'sly grogging' (illegal alcohol), night clubs, casinos and dodgy construction.
One of the most prominent criminals Stan allegedly killed is Stewart John Regan, known as 'the magician' for the way he made people disappear. Stan shot the psychopath, murderer and suspected child killer, four times in cold blood.
In the late 60s, early 70s, Stan got involved in the fledgling narcotics business, but only marijuana. He was involved in local plantations and importing weed from overseas by boat out of season. He got involved with various bohemians and musicians to distribute his product, and in this way got into band and tour management.
Ironically, Stan had a deep hatred for heroin, because his son, Stan Jr, became addicted and died in 1979 of an overdose. Stan ruthlessly killed the drug dealer involved by beating him severely and then running him down in his car and leaving him for dead.
Although he was a well-known criminal character, Stan was an expert at blending into the background and covering his tracks. He was only ever imprisoned once, for three months, after being arrested at a Melbourne airport with a very small amount of amphetamines and an ounce of hashish.
However, the notorious criminal met his match towards the end of his life, on November 6, 2003, in a bowling club in Putney when he 'found God' as Jack puts it.
Evidence that Stan indeed acknowledged Jesus as his Lord, is that he reportedly began going to church and reading his Bible, got baptised [immersed in water as a sign of dying to his old life] and became involved in volunteer work, the church choir and distributing religious tracts.
Private investigator and friend Rex Beaver confirmed that Stan then started running legitimate businesses. Jack believes this was indeed a sincere conversion, as Stan gained nothing material from it. But, on the other hand, he notes wryly that Stan's new-found faith didn't apparently compel him to hand himself into the local police station and confess to all his crimes.
"If Stan knew you in the past several years, he would pray for you that you would come to know Jesus Christ," Rex said at Stan's funeral service. "He said, 'God has forgiven me and I have forgiven anyone and everyone of anything and everything. Someone may have something against me but I would hope that I would not have any argument with any man'."
Stan Smith, whom Jack calls the worst contract killer Australia has ever seen, died in 2010, aged 73, worth $25 million, which he left largely to his church. He was survived by Marilyn and their two remaining sons, Hayden and Peter.
His story illustrates that no one is too *evil or too old to find the forgiveness and mercy of God.•