It was a gangland murder with international links which unravelled New Zealand’s largest drug syndicate. It was a gruesome mystery in the heart of the English north-west – the demise of ‘Mr Asia’.
The mutilated body of Marty Johnstone, nominal leader of the Mr Asia drug syndicate, was found by divers in Eccleston Delft, a flooded disused quarry in Lancashire. His execution had been ordered by Terry Clark.
Clark was a small-time crook who had become a police informant after being imprisoned for burglary. After his release from prison he began buying cannabis from Marty Johnstone. Clark’s drug interests moved into the big league when he started trading in cocaine and heroin. Escaping to Australia after a large shipment of heroin was uncovered in Auckland, he was picked up in a marijuana raid and deported back to New Zealand to face trial. Miraculously, he was acquitted. Rumour had it that he had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying off witnesses.
By now a very wealthy man, Clark bought properties in the Bay of Islands and Fiji, and changed his name to Terence Sinclair. But with terrible power came terrible consequences. Addiction and death trailed closely in his wake. Because of fears that ‘Pommy’ Harry Lewis would talk, his body was found without hands or teeth. After Doug and Isobel Wilson, who had been recruited to distribute heroin, did talk to the police, their bodies were found in a shallow grave in Melbourne. The murder of the Wilsons led Australian police to issue a warrant for Clark’s arrest – but he had fled once more.
When he was arrested and charged with Johnstone’s murder, Clark was worth millions. The Mr Asia money was stashed in safes and bank accounts around the world. More was said to be buried in sacks in the New Zealand bush.
The Mr Asia story was broken by New Zealand Herald journalist Pat Booth, whose book The Mr Asia file: the life and death of Marty Johnstone was published in 1980. The saga has been dramatised several times, including in the television series Underbelly: a tale of two cities (Nine Network, 2009) and Underbelly NZ: land of the long green cloud (TV3, 2011).
Terry Clark died in prison in 1983, supposedly of natural causes.
Image: Terry Clark (NZ Herald)