The huge procession of bikies riding to the funeral of assassinated Rebels boss Nick Martin — whose casket was emblazoned with $100 bills — was followed by a police marksman hanging out of a helicopter amid fears of an all-out bikie war.
There is usually intense police attention on such events but even more so on Wednesday, given Martin was executed by a suspected sniper from a distance of about 300 metres at Perth Motorplex in Kwinana on December 12.
It took just a single shot to the chest to fell him and over the roar of vehicles competing in the event, his wife Amanda initially thought he had suffered a heart attack, then saw blood.
The surprise attack was witnessed by horrified families — including children.
Somehow, the bullet managed also to wound former Bandido Ricky Chapman, the partner of Martin’s stepdaughter Stacey Schoppe, and a five-year-old boy.
The killer is still at large and police have set up a special task force, codenamed Ravello, in a bid to solve the murder.
Amid fears of more violence, WA Police meticulously planned Martin’s funeral with the help of his family and the funeral company, and dedicated hundreds of officers to keeping the peace.
That included escorting the epic line of riders who roared through North Perth about 10am WST to Purslowe & Chipper Funerals, then down Scarborough Beach Road and along West Coast Highway on the way to Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park.
The patched, leather-clad mourners took one last ride with their chief, surrounded by marked and unmarked police vehicles, while the police shooter flew overhead, keeping a keen eye out for any more attackers.
Curious members of the public stood on the roadside to watch the incredible scene, which brought traffic to a standstill.
Near the front of the procession was Martin’s eye-catching casket, secured on a platform attached to a lone rider, with a large Rebels flag flying from the back.
He was followed by three long limousines, at least one of which had the Rebels flag draped across the windows.
When the phalanx of mourners arrived at the tranquil bushland-set cemetery, they sat under a marquee beside a lake. Next to the coffin, a wreath bore the ribbon “Condolences from Rebels MC Thailand”.
The service began with music and was hosted by former ABC radio presenter Verity James, who said his life had been “brutally stolen … long before anyone was ready”.
“This was underhand and cowardly — he didn’t have a chance to defend himself,” she said.
She described the 51-year-old as big in presence and character.
“He was unbelievably loyal to those he loved and absolutely would not be told what to do,” Ms James said.
She recounted he had been described by others as “the toughest c*** I’ve ever seen” while his mother said he had been a huge baby.
Martin’s daughter Tia, who recently gave birth to his first grandchild, said he had a “slight temper on occasions” but was also a “teddy bear” and her “rock” before sobbing almost uncontrollably.
A long-term friend said of Martin “that motherf***r could eat” and was “loyal to a fault”.
“His loyalty was extreme and for life. My enemies were his,” he said.
“He also had a memory like an elephant.”
Former Rebels national president Alex Vella — who is in exile in Malta — read out a poem to Martin via videolink and said “he loved to party and he loved to dine”.
“When they told me the bad news, I couldn’t believe,” he said.
“He was a proud Rebel and brave. Now he is with our Lord in glory.
“Rest in peace, brother.”
Live aerial vision of the procession on Facebook drew many comments from admirers, and while some criticised the huge police operation — which includes Tactical Response Group officers — others pointed out it was important to keep the event safe.
Before it emerged a police sniper would be used, WA Police state crime unit assistant commissioner Brad Royce told 6PR radio: “We have a heightened sense of awareness around what else could occur. We have catered for that in our planning and there are a significant number of officers available and in specified areas to manage that.”
Jiordan Giacoppo wrote on the Facebook page: “Rip Nick, true gentleman. Taught me many life lessons.”
Another man wrote: “RIP NICKO, aka SARGE!! YOUR DREAMS, DRIVE, DEDICATION, PASSION & SKILLS YOUV’E SHARED & TAUGHT MANY AFTER YOU WILL LIVE 4EVA!!!”
Some mourners had travelled from interstate, but none from NSW, Mr Royce said.
The wake is expected to be held at the Rebels clubhouse in East Victoria Park.
Police have also offered a reward of up to $1 million — far more than on offer for many of WA’s unsolved murders — for information that leads to the conviction of the person responsible for Martin’s death and say Crimestoppers has received many calls.
Mr Royce said the taskforce continued to amass exhibits and witnesses, and execute search warrants.
“We continue to operate en masse wherever bikies are forming up and there has been a number of charges and arrests over the last week,” he said.
Martin’s family’s request for taxpayer assistance to fund his funeral under the state government’s homicide funeral assistance scheme was rejected.