Danes jail drug baron
May 27, 2002

Escapee hailed a hero
By Andrew Bolt

August 23, 1996



David Peter McMillan

Born in 1956, McMillan, a former Caulfield Grammar student, hobnobbed with some well-known figures in Melbourne's social set while building a multi-million-dollar heroin racket which, at its height, stretched from Australia through Asia to the US and Europe.

Former lover Clelia Teresa Vigano, daughter of a wealthy Melbourne family, died in a fire at Fairlea Prison as she was about to face trial in connection with the syndicate.

Another woman, Mary Escolar Castilo, de facto of McMillan's co-accused Michael Sullivan, also died in the fire.

Investigators failed to link the fire with the pending trial, finding it was deliberately lit to force authorities to move the women to another area of the prison.

McMillan first gained notoriety in 1983 when he was sentenced to 17 years for masterminding a heroin import operation and then plotting to escape from Pentridge Prison's D Division in a helicopter.

He ended up serving 10 years after convincing authorities he was reformed, but slipped the country on a forged passport just months after his release.

McMillan was released from Pentridge in early 1993 after serving 10 years of his 17-year sentence for conspiring to import heroin.

He was allegedly found at Bangkok airport with 250kg of heroin, worth $400,000 on Australia's streets, in his luggage, along with about 30 false Australian passports in months after his release.

McMillan spent three years in the famous Klong Prem jail, known as the Bangkok Hilton, awaiting trial.

McMillan then escaped using acid to weaken his first-storey cell bars and scaling two walls using a makeshift bamboo ladder to scale two walls, one topped with razor wire, the other, electrified wire, before swimming across the moat which surrounds the decrepit jail in August 1996.

McMillan's early-morning breakout was believed to be the first from the prison in 12 years, and has severely embarrassed Thai prison authorities.

AFP sources have said he was believed to have continued running his drug empire from within his cell at both Pentridge and Klong Prem.

A week after McMillans' escape, prisoners at the Bangkok jail said the Australian drug smuggler was the hero of Klongprem.

But furious Thai warders stripped Australian prisoners of their possessions as they rampaged through the jail trying to find McMillan's accomplices.

The only other Australian prisoner in the jail section McMillan escaped from, paedophile Bradley Pendragon, said McMillan's Thai cell-mate had been beaten and at least three foreigners had been sent to punishment cells.

"They even took away the curtain in front of my toilet and some bits of string," Pendragon said.

"And they beat the living crap out of the Thai. But he (McMillan) is a hero in here."

A Nigerian prisoner agreed with a big thumbs-up.

Australian Federal Police put all Australian entry points on alert in case McMillan, who also uses the alias Daniel Westlake, tries to slip back into the country.

Nothing was heard of McMillan after the amazing escape, apart from a sighting at the Afghan-Pakistan border, the biggest heroin producing region in the world, and rumours that he was thrown into a high-security Swedish prison.

McMillan was a master of false identities -- authorities have 25 surnames listed including Westlake, Hunter and Poulter.

A drug user himself, McMillan had also claimed to be involved in diamond smuggling.

The life and crimes of McMillan took another twist in the Copenhagen city court in March 2001 after the master of false identities was sentenced yet again for drug trafficking.

The Australian Federal Police confirmed David Peter McMillan was brought before the Danish court on March 14 2001.

It is understood if McMillan returns to Australia he could be charged with further offences.

Philip Dunn, QC, who defended a member of the McMillan gang in the Melbourne trial, said McMillan was an enigmatic criminal.

"He was charming; a dashing buccaneer, very different from your average crim," Mr Dunn said.

Despite a criminal career spanning more than two decades, the Federal Government has refused to release details of McMillan's most recent escapade because of privacy provisions.