Matthew Leveson’s parents warn young boys about Michael Atkins who put their son in shallow grave

‘Google Matthew Leveson’.

That is the desperate warning issued by the heartbroken parents of a young gay man, who was buried face-up in a shallow grave by a predatory older man.

After the 20 year old’s life was cut short when he was drawn into the orbit of a narcissistic controller and drug taker, Mark and Faye Leveson feel it’s their duty to warn others. 

Matt vanished after a fight at Sydney night club ARQ with his ageing lover on September 23, 2007 

Michael Atkins, now 59, was acquitted of Matt’s murder in 2008 and took off for Brisbane where he continued pursuing his interest in young men he met at a gay bar, The Beat, in Fortitude Valley. 

Atkins said he buried Matt in a shallow bush grave after panicking when he died of a drug overdose, but cannot be further prosecuted for any crime related to the disposal of his body due to a deal struck with authorities. 

‘He’s almost 60, three years younger than me,’ Mrs Leveson said, ‘and his target is still young boys.’

Matt’s remains were recovered from underneath a palm tree in the Royal National Park in Sutherland Shire in Sydney’s south in mid-2017, still clad in the Morgan brand black singlet he was last seen wearing

CCTV of Matt Leveson (left in circle by Arkins) wearing his Morgan brand singlet, light beige cargo pants and the white leather shoes which were also found near his forest grave   

Michael Atkins (above, after being forced to testify at Matt Leveson’s inquest) did a ‘deal with the devil’ to help police locate the 20-year-old’s remains in exchange for keeping the electrician, then aged 54, out of prison

Speaking on the podcast Matty, made by Casefile for Spotify and presented by missing persons advocate Loren O’Keefe, Matt’s parents bravely spoke about their ordeal in an attempt to protect others.

‘A highlight of the inquest was when nine of the boys said Atkins was a creepy old man and he didn’t know what Matt saw in him. The look on Atkins face was priceless,’ his mum explained.

‘He still goes after the same age group. They need to know.’

Mr Leveson issued a similar warning around the time of the inquest into Matt’s death, when it emerged that Atkins was carrying on with young men in his new life in Brisbane.

After meeting them at The Beat, a local gym, he would taken the men back to his flat for sex, holding ‘pool parties for porn stars’, one young attendee told Daily Mail Australia.

Atkins (pictured in 2016) was charged with Matt’s murder but acquitted by a jury. He has since relocated to Queensland where he works as an electrician and, the Levesons warn, is still on the prowl for young men

Detective Sergeant Andrew Lonergan with the Levesons in the forest near Upper Causeway on the Hacking River just after the stunning moment when their son Mark’s remains were uncovered beneath a cabbage tree palm

Mark and Faye Leveson (above at the dig site) were counting down the minutes on the last day of the search for their son when heaven sent heavy rains got the National Parks back hoe stuck, bringing in a commercial operator who pulled out the palm over Matt’s remains

‘He’d want the youngest and most attractive men he could find and we’d get ludicrously drunk and out of it,’ the man said.

‘He was always groping us. He’d want everyone’s shirts off and then he’d be grabbing young guys on the a**e.

‘We just thought he was an old guy trying to have fun while he still could.’

But after the revelations of the inquest into Matt’s death, he was banned from The Beat.

Having learning the truth about Atkins’ history, shocked members of Brisbane’s LGBTIQ community took up a petition to have him banned from gay clubs and venues around Australia.

As Mr Leveson did back then after finding out Atkins was associating with men as young as his son had been when he vanished, he telephoned the parents of Atkins’ new boyfriend.

He told the parents simply, as he would to any young man in Atkins’ sights today, ‘Google Matthew Leveson’.

Atkins drew this diagram of Matt’s body after claiming to police he ‘fell asleep in the lounge’ and he found Matt’s body dead in their flat the next morning and a ‘bottle of drugs’ in the kitchen

As a giant excavator works in the background, Mark and Faye Leveson with a friend walk through the site with a metal detector and pickaxes with which they searched for Matt in May 2017

Instead of contacting police, Atkins set about planning.

Detectives say Atkins spent some time with Matthew’s body before deciding to bury it in bushland.

He removed the boom box from Matt’s Toyota Corolla and drove to Taren Point Bunnings to buy a Garden Master brand mattock and duct tape.

Having wrapped Matt in a blanket or sheet he waited until after nightfall and carried him to the boot of the Corolla, and drove to the Royal National Park.

There, Atkins dug an 80cm deep hole roughly 2m long and 1m wide and after covering Matt in dirt, took off in the dead man’s car which he abandoned near Waratah Park Reserve in Sutherland.

Unbeknown to Atkins, he had carelessly left the Bunnings docket in the boot under Matt’s body, and it would remain in the empty car for police to find after he dumped the vehicle.

Matthew (right) was last seen leaving Darlinghurst’s ARQ nightclub on September 23, 2007 with his then partner Michael Atkins, then 44, (left) who was later acquitted of murder

The crude map Atkins drew of the area where he cruelly dumped Matt in a shallow grave, throwing dirt onto the face of the 20-year-old who had died in his company just hours before

After fighting hard not to testify, Atkins was compelled in 2016 to appear at the inquest and struck his infamous ‘deal with the devil’ with the authorities to keep himself out of prison. 

When police finally pinned Atkins down for dumping Matt, they would find the site was a turn-off from the Princes Highway roughly halfway on the 50km trip between his Cronulla flat and the home of his devout Catholic mother Pamela Atkins, on the NSW South Coast.

On the final afternoon of the dig for their missing son in the Royal National Park near Sydney, an extraordinary scene unfolded which remains chilling to this day.

Mr and Mrs Leveson stood deep in bushland where an excavator and police with spades had searched for days for the young man’s skeleton. 

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They had even used pickaxes and a metal detector themselves to help with the search. 

A search the previous year down a remote road off a walking track in the vast national park had yielded nothing, and this second search, conducted in heavy rains, was nearing to a close.

Matt’s parents cannot believe that Atkins dumped their beloved son Matt (above) face upwards and then threw soil on top of him

Forensic officers sift the soil near the site of the five-year-old palm tree under which they found Matt Leveson’s remains which his parents said was only removed on the last afternoon, revealing the shallow grave

But with the final minutes ticking away on June 1, 2017, the Levesons had a heaven-sent stroke of luck – the excavator got bogged in the rain-soaked ground.

Mr Leveson told Daily Mail Australia this week what happened, as he and Faye promote the new podcast about their quest to bring their son home and the spine-tingling moment they found him.

‘The National Parks back hoe got stuck very badly and they had to bring in  a commercial operator to retrieve it,’ Mr Leveson explained.

‘And (the commercial guy) said “my back hoe has caterpillar treads and can go anywhere”, and he was less tree friendly.

‘I don’t think the National Parks guy would have pulled out the palm.’ 

At the location, 500m from the previous year’s dig, the machines were trying a surface scrape that was closer to the road instead of a deeper dig further away.

Police had determined Atkins could not have dug anything more than a shallow grave closer to the road after they had forced him to carry in a 70kg mannequin, the size and weight of Matt, from Matt’s actual car which was on loan from his parents. 

‘He was a very caring kid who put thought into presents he bought you and made his own cards,’ Matt’s mother Faye told guests at his funeral in March, 2018

Mark Leveson (above, onsite in the Royal National Park in 2017) and wife Faye conducted their own searches for their missing son before Atkins finally led police to the area where he had dumped Matt almost a decade earlier

Investigators had also made Atkins draw a sketch of the site where he had taken Matt’s body just hours after his death – into the rainforest of cabbage tree palms near Hacking River.

Still dressed in the cargo pants, black Morgan brand singlet and white leather shoes he was wearing when see on CCTV outside ARQ early on September 23, 2007, Matt was found dumped face up beneath the palms.

‘He’s there lying face up. Atkins has just thrown dirt on his face, someone who supposedly had feelings for him,’ Mr Leveson said this week.

The site Atkins had drawn on a map was 4km from Waterfall Railway Station, down winding McKell Avenue along Waterfall Creek until a hairpin bend by the Hacking River.  

About five years after their son was secretly left among the trees, a seed from a mature cabbage tree palm dropped or was blown onto the soil above his body and began to germinate.

‘That palm was only about five years old,  from a massive palm behind it (and) Matt had fertilised it,’ Mr Leveson said. 

In 2016, then detective Gary Jubelin had taken Atkins with his map into the vicinity of Matt’s resting place and police found a pair of white leather shoes, but no body.

The couple farewelled their beloved boy more than a decade after he went missing at a funeral in the South and West Chapels of Woronora Cemetery in Sutherland in March of 2018

Mark Leveson brings flowers to the site where he and wife Faye witnessed the recovery of their son Matt’s remains in one of the most extraordinary moments in Australian criminal history

On the afternoon in question the following year, the commercial operator with his caterpillar tread hoe scraped back the surface and removed the five-year-old palm.

Forensic officers brushed back soil to uncover the first of Matt’s bones, and the ‘M’, and then an ‘R’, a ‘G’ and an ‘A’  of a rotted black Morgan singlet. 

‘We didn’t need DNA that last afternoon and they were going to clear us out when they were digging him out, but we said, “we’ve been here for the whole journey”.’

The ensuing incredible moments caught on camera show Fay hugging detectives and the couple both in tears of deep emotions mixed with relief. 

Detectives had told Mr and Mrs Leveson that if Matt had not been found, Atkins’ lawyers would argue ‘our boy told you the truth’ and that police hadn’t worked hard enough.

Matt Leveson (right as a teenager) loved travel, music, and his family and friends, and was a young man looking forward to his future when he died and his body was dumped by his older, controlling lover

The then 55-year-old could escape charges of perjury after lying to the inquest and as the Levesons were to learn, the so-called ‘deal with the devil’ signed off by police hierarchy protected Atkins from being prosecuted for interfering with a corpse.      

But the Levesons got Matt back, and with his mostly complete remains carefully reassembled, they could finally hold his funeral.

‘We used to look and people attending funerals and say “you lucky bastards”,’ his mother said.

On March 9, 2018, the Leveson family finally farewelled their beloved boy at a funeral in the South and West Chapels of Woronora Cemetery in Sutherland.

Hundreds attended the ceremony, including those among Matt’s friends who Mr and Mrs Leveson have come to regard as their own children.

They celebrated, Mrs Leveson told Daily Mail Australia, the essence of Matty – ‘a lovable kid who hung around with a harem of girls at school, a prankster, a loving son who loved travel, and adored his mates and his brothers’.

The Levesons had endured a lot of since the bewildering first days of Matt’s disappearance, not the least of it Atkins’ murder trial which ended with a not guilty verdict after weeks of stress.

There were the never-ending strains during the family’s rollercoaster ride with the justice system, Atkins’ conviction for drug dealing, and the inquest which concluded with an open finding because Atkins’ serial lies obscured the truth. 

In December 2017, Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott found ‘I do not accept Mr Atkins as a witness of truth,’ the coroner said.

‘In any event the lies he has told do not allow me to make a finding that any act performed by him caused Matt’s death.’ 

Hundreds of friends and family members attended Matt’s funeral in March, 2018, to celebrate the life of the son the Levesons remembered as ‘bright, vibrant, creative and caring’

Jacky

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