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Alleged bank robber in custody over 1998 murder of Sydney man Robert McPherson

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An alleged bank robber is behind bars after presenting himself to police in relation to the murder of an anti-drug “champion” at an inner-Sydney heroin hotspot in the 1990s.

Robert McPherson and an associate were walking back from a bottle shop along a Redfern alley in January 1998 when they were attacked by a group of men armed with baseball bats, a chain, a stick and a knife, New South Wales detectives said.

McPherson died of a stab wound to the left of his chest. He also sustained head injuries and cuts, believed to be the result of being whipped with the chain. His friend survived with minor injuries.

Police bugged and searched a nearby home and eventually charged multiple members and associates of a suspected crime family with various roles in the killing.

In 2003 a Redfern police officer, Richard McDonald, told a parliamentary standing committee that McPherson had been killed at a time the family’s nearby “drug-dealing fortress” was flooding the suburb with heroin and cocaine.

“Robert McPherson was an absolute champion,” McDonald said. “Mr McPherson used to get kids who were dealing drugs off the streets. All he did was walk home – they mouthed off at him and he might have mouthed off back.”

After years of complex legal proceedings, the prosecution of the group collapsed.

But on Wednesday Nicholas Bentley, 41, handed himself in at Redfern police station over McPherson’s murder and for robbing a bank in 2002.

Court documents show Bentley allegedly entered a Commonwealth Bank in Botany on a March morning in 2002 armed with a chrome pistol. He allegedly made off with $385,000.

Bentley appeared at central local court on Thursday – two decades after his alleged crimes – where he made no application for bail and it was formally refused. No plea was recorded.

McPherson’s daughter reportedly arrived at court to catch a glimpse of her father’s alleged killer on Thursday. He is expected before the same court again on 13 June.

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