At a property just outside of Geelong, owned by a member of controversial former trainer Graeme Bate’s family, Blake Shillington and Thomas Mitchell felt the full force of an alleged Animals Australia’s covert surveillance operation.
Charlie Wilson, who has enjoyed moderate success as a trainer, said he has been working hand-in-hand with with the head of Animals Australia Lyn White.
Wilson claims the alleged Animals Australia sting, was carried out at trainers of Melbourne Cup dogs, in a bid to create maximum exposure, by implicating a leading trainer with vision obtained on T185 spy cameras. At the Shillington-Mitchell property alone he said there was 14 cameras installed with regular battery changes happening at around midnight each night.
“It was a very sophisticated operation and we were there to chase drug cheats — drug cheats who have never been targeted,” he said.
“I was never paid, but I was asked to go in and capture world-first footage of greyhounds being doped.”
Wilson claims he joined forces with Animals Australia after becoming concerned about drugs in greyhound racing. He says the practice is rife and Animals Australia has proof. He said “close to 40” properties in Victoria were targeted in the sting with several of the trainers, who Australian Racing Greyhound has chosen not to name, having won group races on the biggest stage.
The Lara raid is just the tip of the iceberg with Wilson revealing Animals Australia planned to team up with the ABC to release an expose on drugs in greyhound racing in early 2017. It has the potential to reverberate through the sport nationally, and would again throw doubt on whether NSW Premier Mike Baird will repeal legislation banning the sport in his state.
An Animals Australia spokesperson confirmed they were the source which tipped off Greyhound Racing Victoria about the alleged illegal activities at the Lara property.
The spokesperson said it was disappointing Wilson had decided to turn whistleblower, after openly speaking to them about his own misdemeanours in greyhound racing. The spokesperson failed to give confirmation about how they obtained vision from Shillington and Mitchell’s property which was supplied to GRV.
“Charlie Wilson indicated a willingness to be interviewed by the media and speak to his own drugging of greyhounds that was never detected, as well as to the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs in greyhound racing,” they said.
“Animals Australia forwarded evidence relating to alleged drugging offences at a Lara property to Greyhound Racing Victoria for investigation, with appropriate information and vision to support their investigation. It is disappointing therefore to witness the person who was actively encouraging Animals Australia to investigate drugging in the greyhound industry, now engaging in a public vendetta.”
Australian Racing Greyhound has seen correspondence between Wilson and someone using the alias Blue Wren, with Wilson claiming it is White. He alleges White co-ordinated the plan to bring down greyhound racing in the state and confirmed a leading owner was one of the main figures in the cross hairs of Animals Australia.
“She knew that I was a trainer. She also knew that I had dogs in the industry, she also knew that I was still in the industry,” he said.
“She was even willing to pay for me at one stage to continue to train and to maintain my dogs so I could obtain covert footage of the industry for her.
“Lyn White’s main goal was to shut greyhound racing down forever.”
GRV integrity boss Shane Gillard refused to confirm an alleged meeting investigator Charlie Bezzina had with Wilson on Friday, but did say there was an ongoing investigation into the events surrounding the Lara raid. He said the anonymous hotline, set up to combat illegal behaviour in the sport, had been running hot since the news broke.
“We have a lot of information passed onto us all the time,” he said.
“The information we received about the Lara raid was given to us anonymously and then we acted on it.”
Wilson admitted he faced legal problems by revealing his own involvement with Animals Australia, but said he felt obliged to come forward in an attempt to help the battle-scarred industry survive and move forward. Wilson openly admits to trespassing on behalf of Animals Australia with several Victorian trainers confirming they have had run-ins with operatives, or found equipment relating to surveillance on their properties. One trainer, who did not want to be named, said they are exploring legal avenues.
“We have enough information to shut Animals Australia down – they act corruptly,” Wilson said.
“I have that many emails… that implicate Lyn White as the orchestrator – she is the chief Indian and we refer to her and she would give the green light to go to these properties and do things.”
Wilson has a chequered history in greyhound racing with his initial beef with the industry stemming from two dogs he bought off a NSW trainer, which failed to show the same ability under his guidance, before one eventually died and the other retired. He claims the dogs must have been doped before they arrived at his kennel.
“Information provided to Animals Australia by Charlie Wilson alleged the wide-spread use of performance enhancing drugs in the greyhound racing industry, most of which remains undetected by regulators,” The Animals Australia spokesperson said.
“The use of such drugs, not only has significant animal welfare impacts, but would result in extensive race fixing.
“[Wilson] used performance enhancing EPO consistently in the greyhounds he trained. He actively encouraged Animals Australia to investigate this matter stating he had become disenchanted with the industry over a dispute with a [fellow trainer] over dogs he had bought from him, one of which had died.
“We look forward to working constructively with GRV to clean up the industry.”
Australian Racing Greyhound can confirm a top trainer recovered surveillance equipment from their property on Sunday, with GRV integrity officers and police expected to be informed imminently.