Son of prominent Illawarra gambling activist accused of bookie’s murder

Arrested: (Clockwise) Terry Hickson is questioned by police on Thursday morning; murdered bookmaker Charles Skarratt; anti-gambling campaigners Jim and Norma Hickson, Terry Hickson’s late parents.A Berkeley punter accused of the brutal killing ofSydney bookmaker Charles Skarratt in 1989is the son ofa reformed gambler who devoted half his life to helping others combat their addiction.
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Mr Skarratt, awell known identity within the greyhound racing industry, was found dead in the garage of his home in Woolwich, on December 22, 1989.

Police claim the 72-year-oldwasambushed inside his garage about 1am. He wasbound, assaulted, stabbed, and robbed of about $25,000 cash –the takings from a Dapto greyhound meet held the night before.

No one was arrested at the time and the case was shelved for almost 30 years until Unsolved Homicide Squad detectives carried out a reviewin 2016 and re-tested several exhibits.

Following a year-long investigation, detectives arrested Terry Hickson at his Nannawilli Street home at 7am on Thursday morningand charged him with murder.

Police will allege blood found in Mr Skarratt’s vehicle and on a sock he was wearing that night matches Hickson’s DNA profile.

Fairfax Media can reveal Hickson, 58, is the third son of Illawarra anti-gambling activist and reformed punter,the late Jim Hickson, who established the telephone counselling service Gambler’s Help Line in 1995.

Mr Hickson and his wife Norma ran the service from their Berkeley home –the same house at which Terry Hicksonwas arrested on Thursday morning.

In court that afternoon, defence lawyer Danny Lagopodis said Hickson needed his liberty for medical treatment on a number of ailments including acute rheumatoid arthritis.

Mr Lagopodisalso questioned thestrength of thecase, saying it appeared to rely solely on DNA evidence.

He said Hickson would agree to “stringent” bail conditions if released.

Opposing bail, police prosecutor Sergeant Shannon Ryan argued Hicksonhad a lengthy criminal record and posed a significant risk to community safety.

“Mr Hickson is a person who has a propensity for violence,” he said.

“[Police allege] the murder was motivated by financial gain and [involved] significant planning in it.”

Sgt Ryan said the case against Hickson extended “beyondforensic evidence” and would includetestimony from civilian witnesses.

He would not elaborate in court on the extent of the additional evidence but saidpolice had “significant fears” for the safety of those witnesses if bail was granted.

Magistrate Brett Thomas refusedHickson’s bail application and remanded him in custody, saying he wasn’t satisfied Hickson had shown why his detention wasn’t justified.

He will reappear in Central Local Court on December 14.

Illawarra Mercury