Underworld family loses daughter to heroin overdose

By Kathy Marks

SYDNEY - Her father was shot dead, her brother narrowly escaped a murder attempt, and she was charged, with her mother, of attacking a man with a meat cleaver.

Now Katie Peirce, a member of one of Melbourne's most notorious underworld families, is dead at 24 - and relatives claim the circumstances are suspicious.

Police believe that Peirce, who had a 2-year-old daughter, died of an overdose.

Her body was found at her home on Tuesday.

But family friend Henry Ser said she had been off drugs for some time.

"Somebody might have injected her," he told the Age newspaper.

"News on the street was that they were under the impression that she might have been hot-shotted. That's when somebody gives you a hit of heroin that's three times the normal, or even 85 per cent pure."

Peirce - the granddaughter of Kath Pettingill, the family matriarch and a feared former brothel owner - was on bail after being charged with the attempted murder of Mark Lohse, who was hacked in the face in a Melbourne pub in March.

She and her mother, Wendy, are jointly accused of organising the attack, described by a judge as "pretty horrific".

It later transpired that Lohse, now scarred for life, was mistakenly targeted.

Bob Sales, the father of a woman involved with an ex-lover of Katie Peirce, told police he believed he was the intended victim.

Peirce's father, Victor, was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2002, and her brother, also Victor, was shot in 2005, but survived. One of her uncles, Dennis Allen, a suspect in more than 10 murders, was known as Doctor Death.

Another, Trevor Pettingill, was acquitted of murdering two young police constables in 1988. A third, Peter Allen, was a heroin dealer.

Victor snr was also acquitted of killing the police officers, after his wife refused to testify against the pair.

However, in 2005 Wendy Peirce declared publicly that her husband had been guilty, and she had lied to save him from a life behind bars.

Ser said it would have been "totally out of character" for Katie Peirce to commit suicide, but added that she had "never really ever got over the death of her father".

Speaking on the family's behalf, Ser said they were awaiting the coroner's findings, and asked the media to "let us mourn her soul, as we have suffered plenty over the years".

- NZ Herald

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