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Portland wind farm rift between families before Nathan Lovett-Murray’s uncle died, correspondence shows

A feud over wind farms in Portland simmered between two families in the lead up to a fatal punch which killed the uncle of former AFL player Nathan Lovett-Murray, it is claimed.

A court dropped a manslaughter charge against indigenous leader Steve Saunders last month over the death of Darren Bell.

Mr Bell died after Mr Saunders punched him at a football match in Heywood, in western Victoria, last year.

The Herald Sun has now seen correspondence that shows a rift between Mr Saunders’ family and members of the Bell family over the development of wind farms in Portland. Both families claimed the right to veto the decision.

Claims have emerged that Mr Saunders was subjected to a terrifying campaign of retribution after giving evidence ­alleging corruption in approvals for wind farms around Portland.

Mr Saunders said his family had been subjected to duress and that he now wants a full investigation in to why he wasn’t protected after speaking out.

Despite receiving threats, Mr Saunders told a Senate committee on March 30 last year the Bell family were not traditional owners but had approved the wind farm developments that destroyed sacred sites and disturbed burial ground.

“My family, the Mitchell and Saunders family, are traditional owners of Cape Bridgewater. We feel that our traditional rights, laws and customs have been violated throughout this Portland wind turbine process,” Mr Saunders told the committee.

“We did not agree with the wind turbines, so we did not sign off on any of the process. Our stories were interfered with. We have sacred dreaming stories along the coastline here. One of them is one of only a few traditional dreaming stories that connects all the tribes in Australia”

Mr Saunders, who has since fled the state, thought he would be afforded some protection by the Senate committee after speaking out.

But when Mr Saunders returned to his car, he found his tyres had been slashed, it is claimed.

Mr Saunders was set upon at the Heyfield Football Ground on May 9 last year and was badly injured before Mr Bell was fatally struck.

Mr Saunders was charged with manslaughter days later.

But the case was abandoned after prosecutors said it was deeply flawed. Nathan Lovett-Murray later slammed “white man’s” law.