“I’ll be completely blunt with you, I hated writing that book,” Dan Box says over the phone, his two-year-old daughter jostling for attention in the background. Box’s measured Midlands accent would be familiar to listeners of Bowraville, the Walkey-winning podcast that the Shropshire-raised, Bundeena-based journalist produced for the Australian newspaper in 2016 and later turned into a book.
But that voice gets a little raw when discussing his new book, The Man Who Wasn’t There.
“If I’m honest, I found it hard to write because my motivation to write it wasn’t honest, at the start,” he says. “I started with this idea that I was going to be telling Zak’s story, do a ‘true crime’ book like I’ve done before. And it was shithouse.”
Box had set out to tell the story of Zak Grieve, a young Aboriginal man from Katherine in the Northern Territory who was handed a life sentence for his role in the 2011 “contract killing” of Ray Niceforo. A jury found 19-year-old Grieve guilty of murder, despite the defence’s claims that Grieve bailed on the plot to kill Niceforo before his friend, Chris Malyschko, and another accomplice went through with it.
The sentencing judge agreed and said he took “no pleasure in this outcome” while blaming the Northern Territory’s “mandatory minimum sentencing provisions, which inevitably bring…