Woman shocked by raider damage

Gladiators police raid damage ‘shocking’ STRIPPED: The Gladiators Maitland clubhouse entertainment area was raided by police on Tuesday.
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STRIPPED: The Gladiators Maitland clubhouse entertainment area was raided by police on Tuesday.

STRIPPED: The Gladiators Maitland clubhouse entertainment area was raided by police on Tuesday.

STRIPPED: The Gladiators Maitland clubhouse entertainment area was raided by police on Tuesday.

STRIPPED: The Gladiators Maitland clubhouse entertainment area was raided by police on Tuesday.

Police have arrested four people after raids conducted on properties associated with the Gladiator outlaw motorcycle gang.

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A WOMAN whose stepfather was arrested in the raids of Gladiators clubhouse on Tuesday has hit out at the destruction of the headquarters.

Sarah Winchester said the clubhouse in Horseshoe Bend, Maitland, had been unfairly targeted – and gutted – and members had been wrongly labelled drug dealers.

But police believe the drugs they allegedly seized during raids on properties linked to the gang are worth in excess of $1million.

Mrs Winchester’s stepfather, 49 – labelled by police as one of the gang’s senior officer bearers – was one of four men arrested during the raids.

He was granted conditional bail after being charged with firearms offences.

A second Gladiator, a 41-year-old from Largs, was charged with numerous offences relating to the commercial supply of drugs, possession of an unauthorised pistol, receiving/disposing stolen property and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

A 25-year-old Port Stephens man faces charges relating to the large commercial drug supply and possession of unauthorised firearms.

A fourth man was arrested at Tenambit on Wednesday and was assisting police.

Strike Force Meaney was set up last year to investigate a Hunter Valley-based syndicate believed to be involved in the manufacture and supply of amphetamine-type substances.

Mrs Winchester said the clubhouse’s bar and stage had been destroyed in the raids, its walls and floor damaged and its furniture seized.

She said her stepfather was asleep at the clubhouse and was dragged from his bed naked and forced to sit with guns pointed to his head.

The fact that no drugs were found at the premises led her to question why police destroyed a clubhouse that members worked so hard to build.

‘‘Obviously there is nothing to hide, so it’s a shame that everything has been destroyed,’’ Mrs Winchester said.

‘‘They’ve been building up that place for decades; they do it with their own money in their own time and for all of it to go like that is horrible.

‘‘They do a lot for the community, they love their bikes and most of the guys are quite old, they are not a very young oriented club.’’

Mrs Winchester said the charges against her stepfather had been wrongly laid because the weapons in his room did not belong to him.

Central Hunter crime manager Detective Inspector John Zdrilic said the clubhouse had been stripped because it was a restricted premises and police had the authority to obtain a search warrant and take such action.

He said it was illegal to have a bar at the clubhouse and use it to serve alcohol, and anything relating to illegal pursuits could be seized.

Mrs Winchester said police were only fuelling the perception that club members were outlaws.

Her father was made a life member of the club before his death, and she said the members had ‘‘taken him in off the streets as a 15-year-old’’ and supported him.

‘‘When my dad was alive some of his closest friends were police officers and they always had a really good relationship with police, but now that has been turned on its head which is very sad,’’ Mrs Winchester said.

‘‘I know there are clubs that do deal with drugs and I know that it is an issue, but when you think of outlaw bikie clubs the Gladiators really don’t come to mind.’’

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