“When I was sitting in the cells I looked around and thought, fuck…I’ve had a hard life but my spirit’s pretty free, you know. And here I am looking at these walls. I thought, ‘I’m in trouble here’.”
No kidding. This was Australian pro surfer Koby Abberton’s reaction to the nine hours he spent in police custody on March 7 this year, having been charged with being an accessory in the murder of Sydney underworld hard man Anthony Hines, perverting the course of justice, hindering a police investigation and concealing a serious offence.
If proven, the charges carry combined sentences of over 40 years in prison.
Barrel shots of Koby over the past few years at surf zones from Teahupo’o on down testify to his willingness to put himself in gnarly spots and pull it off. But with these charges, Koby faces a pit no well-known pro surfer has ever had to negotiate.
Koby’s brother Jai has been accused of murdering Hines on the evening of August 5, 2003, and attempting to dispose of the body by throwing it over a cliff at Mistral Point, Maroubra, Australia.
A woman alleged to have been with Jai and Hines at the time of the murder has given a statement to police, saying Jai shot Hines several times in the head and hand while travelling in her car away from a local pub, and that Jai then forced her to help dispose of the body.
She says they then went to Koby’s Maroubra home, where Koby, Jai and another man discussed what had happened. She and Jai then used Koby’s car to dispose of the murder weapon and some clothing by throwing them into the sea.
Koby says he was asleep and has no idea what happened that evening. He was freed on bail of A$25,000, and has told Surfing he has the best legal team in Australia. “I’m going to spend money on this. If I’m looking at 40 years then I’ve gotta make sure I defend it as well as possible.” He expects the course of justice to take around 18 months.
He has been staying out of the local limelight and talking to as few people as possible about the situation. “The more I talk about it the more it gets talked about, you know what I mean. I know what happened. Well, I don’t because I was asleep at the time.”
Hines was a competent surfer who had competed in regional events when younger. But in recent years he’d gained a reputation as a heavy and was feared in local pubs and nightclubs.
The Abberton clan — Koby, Jai and big brother Sunny — have been Maroubra’s best known surfing family of the past decade, with Koby’s heavy duty tuberiding skills gaining him a spectacular free surfing reputation and a major ongoing corporate sponsorship from Oakley.
Sunny has been checking on Koby each day since the charges were laid, but Koby hasn’t been in contact with Jai since being charged. “We don’t need to see each other to know we love each other…. The reason I’ve been pulled into this is they know my brothers are so close. The police are getting pressure to make Jai talk and they want to put pressure on him, to show him his brother’s getting in trouble too.”
In the meantime, Koby intends to continue his pro career, and Oakley will back him, according to company sources.
When Surfing spoke with Koby, he’d had just a few days for the gravity of the situation to sink in. But already he sounded like a man whose faith is about to be tested to its limit. “If I was to go to jail, there can’t be a higher force out there. There can’t be someone out there helping out, ’cause I don’t deserve to be there.” - Nick Carroll