Owner knew club was to be bombed: employee

Hunter Nicol pushed five or six people out a window in the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub fire.
Hunter Nicol pushed five or six people out a window in the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub fire.

An owner of Brisbane's Whiskey Au Go Go feared his nightclub was at risk of being bombed about a week before an attack at the venue killed 15 people.

Linette Davis, who worked for the owners at the time of the 1973 firebombing, says she is "angry to this day" that Brian Little told her his club was going to be bombed, but there was not much he could do.

"From my perspective if they thought it was a credible threat and he seemed particularly determined that it was, why didn't they close the club or something?" Ms Davis told an inquest in Brisbane on Tuesday.

She said Mr Little suggested Whiskey Au Go Go - which was in liquidation at the time - was at risk because people were owed money.

"He said they want money and he didn't have it," she added.

Ms Davis said Mr Little seemed upset at the time, but still did nothing, referring to another club that had armed guards at the time.

"I don't get it to this day," she added.

Now-retired police officer Hunter Nicol told the inquest into the 15 deaths he accepted he was going to die when overcome by smoke as the club was consumed by fire.

Mr Nicol was at a table near the dance floor with friends when there was a "whoosh" sound and he saw smoke billowing like "when you set off a pile of tyres".

The fire broke out when two drums of fuel were thrown into the downstairs foyer and set alight about 2am on March 8.

Mr Nicol, a Queensland policeman at the time, was among more than 60 patrons and staff who tried frantically to escape as air conditioning vents acted as chimneys, pouring black smoke into the Fortitude Valley club.

Fifteen people - including his three friends - didn't make it out, dying from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The inquest into the firebombing re-opened for a two-week sitting in Brisbane this week - some 48 years after the first three-day inquest ended when two men were arrested.

Mr Nicol said the lights went out as the smoke grew thicker and people started to scatter.

He tried to make his way towards a door with a fire escape sign next to the bar, but became "totally disoriented", he said.

He grabbed a screaming woman, dragging her into a room as their escape route was obscured by the smoke.

"When I got in there I was on the point of collapse and I couldn't breathe," he said.

"I accepted the fact I was going to die."

But someone smashed a window and Mr Nicol felt fresh air.

"I was able to get a few breaths of air to try and recover a bit," he said.

Mr Nicol told the inquest he pushed five or six people out the window including the woman.

He was the last person from the room to climb out onto a roof.

Hours after getting out he went to the morgue to identify some of those who had died.

Mr Nicol told coroner Terry Ryan he had a "chance meeting" in March with John Kolence, the officer who took his statement hours after the firebombing.

The re-opened inquest seemed to be "weighing on his mind quite heavily", Mr Nicol said.

"He said he wasn't going to go to jail for anyone and it's time that the truth comes out," Mr Nicol added.

He referred to Mr Kolence as a junior officer who would have been "acting under sufferance from the more senior staff".

Questioned by Mr Kolence's lawyer, Mr Nicol said the two had spoken about what they knew and saw on the night of the attack, what they gleaned from media reports and their theories and assumptions about what had happened.

The inquest was told earlier there was evidence two men - James Richard Finch and John Andrew Stuart - who were convicted and sentenced to life over the attack were not the only offenders, and that an insurance claim might have been behind the firebombing.

Australian Associated Press