Bondage-loving millionaire left ex-wives just $1 each
HE was a bondage-loving millionaire who left both his ex-wives just $1 in his will and had a reputation for rubbing people up the wrong way.
So when real estate mogul Peter Shellard was found dead in his bedroom, the list of suspects was long.
As true crime show Murder Calls reveals this week, police had to wade through a sideshow of possible enemies, red herrings, and use phone taps and an undercover agent to unmask his killer - unearthing a sad trail of greed and vengeance along the way.
Police and close friends of Shellard looked first to his girlfriend Shirley Withers, who found his dead body trussed up with dog leads and electrical cords, bloodied and surrounded by bondage gear in his treasured $6 million North Caulfield mansion, Rosecraddock, in May 2005.
Shellard's life was so very colourful, and the evidence so contrary, that it took weeks to unravel the mystery of what had really happened to him.
It wasn't helped by the fact that those who lived near Shellard - who was obsessed was his heritage-listed mansion - could list a long history of conflict.
Shellard treated Rosecraddock, built in 1857 as his castle. And sometimes, the neighbours, as his subjects.
At one point he burned the historic garden to the ground, and when the fire brigade turned up, he took to their hoses with a chainsaw.
He put up a massive wire fence, hauled in shipping containers to house his Rolls Royces, kept chooks and dumped loads of manure outside his neighbours' homes.
It was clear, investigators learned, the eccentric, eratic Shellard, who suffered from bipolar disorder, got on the wrong side of people thanks to his litigious nature and love of stirring the pot.
"He was just outrageous, some of the things he said and did," ex-wife Liz Shellard told Channel Nine's Murder Calls.
"He loved breaking all the rules.
"When he was high he was very energetic and would do things like get the tractor out at three in the morning. If he was depressed he'd need a lot of sleep. And there was a brief period in between where he'd be quite normal."
Liz and Peter's friends were happy when he met Shirley Withers.
The pair shared similar interests. She seemed to calm him. He adored her, and embraced the relationship - just like he'd embraced being introduced to bondage "full on".
He was smitten, buying her a house, and financing her dream of owning a fashion boutique.
But, Murder Calls reveals, the cracks started to appear a month before he was killed.
He called his ex-wife. "He sounded scared, fearing for his life," Liz says.
"We discussed who might be his enemy. He asked if I thought it was Shirley."
Liz said "no".
But a month later, with Peter dead, the crime scene not quite adding up, and Withers claiming there was a second will leaving everything to her - she'd typed it herself - friends, family and police were sure she'd had a hand in his death.
As his friend David Michelson said: "We all thought Shirley did it".
Police were to discover she had been systematically stealing money from his bank accounts - almost $1 million over the course of a year. Within a week, he was dead.
But a random fingerprint at the crime scene had police puzzled: even more so with the discovery it belonged to a known drug addict. Peter was into many things, but not illegal drugs.
Then Withers slipped up.
During a phone call to Peter's friend, Dale O'Sullivan, she claimed to know who the killers were, but said she hadn't told police.
"They're greedy, scary little druggies," she told O'Sullivan.
"I'll f*****g kill them with my hands and I'll make those bastards suffer".
Police tapping her phone now had a link to the fingerprint. And a threat. Now they just had to entice Withers into a trap.
It came in the form of an undercover police officer, posing as a hit man, approaching her, saying he'd heard she had a problem that needed to be fixed..
Did she want them hurt? Put in hospital? "No," she said, she wanted them dead.
When he told her at a later meeting the job had been done, she told the "hitman" she'd been there the night Peter died.
After being arrested, Withers' accomplices rolled over.
They'd gone to the house with the intention of tying Peter up, and getting the deeds of the house signed over to Shirley. But that wasn't enough for Withers, who administered the dose of heroin that contributed to his death.
She was convicted of murder, but appealed, arguing she never intended to kill Peter. The Supreme Court quashed the murder charge, and she was convicted of manslaughter, and given a maximum of 13 years in jail. She is now free, released on early parole.
The Peter Shellard case airs on Channel 9 in Queensland and NSW tonight at 8.40 and in WA, Victoria and SA on Thursday at 8.30pm.