‘Death or prison’: Why star faked murder
Two decades after he was accused of planting a parcel bomb outside the home of a Sydney bodybuilder and Kings Cross figure, Robert De Heredia has finally spoken as a free man.
De Heredia was accused of leaving a handmade bomb outside Brett Boyd's house in 1998 on Sydney's north shore, hidden in a package addressed to Boyd's girlfriend and penthouse pet Simone Starr.
The bomb, filled with shrapnel and steel bolts, blew up in Boyd's face, leaving him with horrific injuries.
He lost his left eye and most of his vision in his right. The blast also severed his right thumb and one of his ear drums burst.
Boyd, a beloved personal trainer who dated models but was embroiled in Sydney's underworld, survived the blast.
But his mental health was never the same and nine years later, in 2008, Boyd took his own life.
"He didn't just want to kill Brett, he wanted to obliterate him. It was so personal, it was fuelled with such hate.
"What has stayed with me is walking into the hospital. And Brett was a beautiful looking man and it just looked like someone had got a bucket of black gunpowder and blood and just thrown it over his whole face. And what's stayed with me is this slow steady drip of the blood running from his left eye."
Found not guilty in April this year, Robert De Heredia was finally able to live his life as a free man.
But it wasn't without a handful of near brushes with death along the way.
When police found De Heredia's DNA on the postage stamps and his fingerprints on a card in the door, detectives charged him with attempting to murder his friend Brett Boyd.
He was released on conditional bail and was required to report to Randwick Police Station.
The first day De Heredia went to report to police, a woman walking past the station saw Boyd and a friend in a car loading a weapon.
Boyd was arrested with police finding a machine gun, a pistol and a bullet proof vest in the car.
A few months later, in July 1999, De Heredia was shot in a carpark near Sydney Airport.
That same month, he fled Australia, faking his own death by spattering his car with his own blood in Kings Cross and using a friend's passport to fly to Europe.
"It is the actions of an innocent man if you've been shot and if you've got evidence turning up in your apartment," De Heredia told the program, lashing claims his escape made him look more guilty.
"If I hadn't been shot and the evidence wasn't there, then you're exactly right. I agree with you wholeheartedly, but I had bullets in me. I've got evidence appearing in my apartment while I'm locked up in jail. I'm sorry, I'm not going to wait around to see what the next chapter holds because the next chapter is either death or it's prison."
After spending 17 years on the run and looking over his shoulder, De Heredia was arrested in 2016 at the age of 47.
The jury on his first attempted murder trial were sent home after failing to reach a verdict after five days. His second trial, in April of this year, returned a verdict of not guilty.
Working as a high-class escort at the time, Starr told Sunday Night she was "shattered and shocked" after hearing the news.
When Boyd woke up from his coma, he immediately told his girlfriend the bomb wasn't for her - despite the parcel being addressed to her.
Daily Telegraph's crime editor Mark Morri, who wrote a book on the ordeal and Sydney's underworld called Hate Mail, agrees.
"I've thought about it. I've talked to a lot of people who were around at the time," Morri said.
"I don't think she warranted that sort of sophisticated attempt on her life. The theory is the only reason it was addressed to Simone is that if it was addressed to Brett, he wouldn't have picked it up.
"So he's gone, 'I thought it was shoes that Simone had ordered. No-one knows that I live here.' And that was why he picked it up."
Starr, who was released from jail last week after serving seven years in prison for drug trafficking, is hoping to get her life back on track.
"There's not been a lot of joy, you know? It's a loveless existence," she said.
"I remember, it was one of the last times I saw (Brett) and he goes, 'You know what, Simone? All I want is for you to find happiness, cause I know that's the one thing that you've
been trying to find all your life.' And you know what? At the end of the day, if I could pay for it and buy it, I would.
"But you can't buy that kind of stuff, you know? It has to come to you. I haven't been happy for a long time. Sometimes I'm my own worst enemy, you know?"