A well-respected far north Queensland tourism operator who died last month in a car crash has been unveiled as an American drug fugitive who faked his own death more than 40 years ago.
Crocodile cruise operator Dennis “Lee” Lafferty was mourned by the Daintree community after dying in a car accident in May.
US newspaper The Tampa Bay Times now says his real name was Raymond Grady Stansel Jr, an alleged drug smuggler who supposedly died in a scuba diving accident in 1974.
The article says Stansel was indicted that year for smuggling more than 12 tonnes of cannabis into Florida.
But his trial never proceeded, with his lawyer announcing in January 1975 his client had disappeared scuba diving in Honduras.
An aerial search of the coastline didn’t recover a body.
While many doubted the story, Stansel couldn’t be found despite rumours of his ongoing operations reaching the ears of police.
He eventually settled in Queensland before founding the Daintree River Cruise Centre in the late 80s, the Times reports.
“Our challenge was to make a living and keep a low profile,” his ex-wife Janet Wood told the paper.
“I’m surprised no one ever came looking for him.”