Maxwell Holt was an alcoholic, loudmouthed loser who was hired as a hitman by a wealthy cattleman to murder his younger lover’s husband.
Maxwell Holt was an alcoholic, loudmouthed loser who was hired as a hitman by a wealthy cattleman to murder his younger lover’s husband.

Maxie Holt a bungling hitman who couldn’t keep his gob shut

Maxwell Leonard Holt, aka Maxie, was a hapless hitman who was two small for his shoes but too big for his boots.

Holt was an alcoholic, loudmouthed loser who had been on the dole for 17 years when he was hired as a hitman by wealthy Gippsland cattleman Jim Robinson, who was 65 and twice the age of his lover, Angela Purvis,

Holt, a rigger, came highly recommended by a mate named Allan "Porky" Merriman, who had prior convictions stretching back 30 years for carnal knowledge, robberies and numerous assaults.

The plot to kill Angela Purvis's husband, Robert, was to be a bargain basement job. Holt and Merriman bought a 12 gauge single barrel shotgun for $50, then paid $800 for an HQ Holden they bought out of the Trading Post.

The third element of Holt's grand plan was a brand new pair of cross trainers, two sizes bigger than the hitman's size eight feet.

Murder victim Robert Purvis died after being shot in the chest at close range.
Murder victim Robert Purvis died after being shot in the chest at close range.

The hit on Robert Purvis was done just before 10pm on August 20, 1993, when he was shot in the heart with a shotgun blast fired through a window beside the front door of his Drouin West home. His three sons, aged 6, 11 and 13 were all home at the time.

While the two elder boys ran for help, Holt ran across a muddy paddock to the $800 getaway car, leaving a false trail from the new shoes, stuffed with paper so he could wear them more comfortably.

The shoes had an unusual sole pattern, which left a distinctive trail through the paddock but proved a challenge for crime scene investigators. They compared the footprints to 3000 sole patterns imported to Australia, but were unable to find any brand of shoe which matched the impressions left in the paddock.

Within four months of the murder, Holt's drinking, violence and erratic behaviour had caused his de facto wife to become frightened enough to leave him.

Two months later, after hearing he had a gun and had threatened to shoot her in the head, she contacted police and made a series of statements

She told detectives Holt, whose prior convictions included theft, burglary, serious assault, drug offences and cattle stealing, prepared for the contract killing by pulling on his special shoes, polishing his shotgun with Mr Sheen, putting on surgical gloves and drinking another stubby of beer.

Robert Purvis was killed while his three boys were home.
Robert Purvis was killed while his three boys were home.

Former homicide Detective Bill Taylor said later Holt's downfall was that he "couldn't keep his gob shut".

An example was the revelation that he'd told a neighbour he'd known less than three weeks that he was "a hitman for the painters and dockers".

When his partner asked him when he returned home the night of the murder why he had worn the oversized shoes - and why he was now burning them and his clothes in the fireplace - his knowing reply was "To throw the cops off - they're not stupid ".

The same could not be said for Maxie Holt, although he wasn't the only one who made a mess of trying to cover his trail.

Three weeks after Robert Purvis's murder, Robinson was shot in the foot while trying to cast himself as an intended victim. The Crown later alleged Robinson paid Holt and Merriman $15,000 to shoot him in a bid to persuade detectives he was a victim rather than a villain.

The charade lost a little credibility, however, when Robinson - apparently reluctant to damage a good pair of boots - took off his boot and sock before they shot him.

When Robinson was released on bail after 10 months remanded in custody awaiting trial, police were told he had made inquiries while in jail about hiring another hitman to silence his ex-lover, Angela Purvis, who was by now under police guard.

An artist impression of Angela Purvis.
An artist impression of Angela Purvis.

Within a week of his release on bail Robinson withdrew $30,000 in cash from the ANZ in Glenroy, but was relieved of $10,000 of it by a conman who had heard he had problems and convinced the cattleman he could sort them out for him.

Robinson's next and last attempt to clean up Holt's mess was also an abject failure when, at a meeting near the foot of West Gate Bridge, he proudly told his third would-be hitman that he'd "got a bloke f….. knocked". He said he needed another job done because he didn't want to spend the rest of his life "in the bin".

Unfortunately for Robinson, he was sharing these insights with an undercover policeman, not a hitman, and it was straight back to the bin for the cattleman who thought he could buy whatever he wanted.

Holt was found guilty and sentenced to life with a 15-year minimum.

Merriman was sentenced to 14 years with a minimum of 12.

Robinson was convicted at a separate trial, which ended three weeks earlier than Holt and Merriman's trial, and jailed for life with a 14-year minimum.

But the 66-year-old former slaughterman had other ideas. On April 13, 1996, only six weeks after the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against conviction and sentence, he was found dead in his B division cell at Pentridge, having slashed his throat with a sharpened kitchen knife.

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.

Originally published as Maxie Holt a bungling hitman 'who couldn't keep his gob shut'

Gippsland cattleman Jim (William James) Robinson hired Holt to murder Robert Purvis.
Gippsland cattleman Jim (William James) Robinson hired Holt to murder Robert Purvis.
Robert Purvis’s family.
Robert Purvis’s family.


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