Snitching lawyer Nicola Gobbo's secret police informing put gangland clients behind bars for decades, but now she claims to be the victim and fears she'll be killed by Victoria Police.
The woman known as Lawyer X is reportedly preparing to sue the force, claiming she's been left stateless overseas facing the removal of her children if she returns to Australia.
Her informing is "a complicated story", she's told the ABC's 730 program, breaking her silence despite a year of requests from a royal commission for her to share her story.
"It's been grossly misreported and is perhaps misunderstood," she said from an undisclosed location.
"I have been snookered by Victoria Police."
Ms Gobbo said she is sick, exhausted and in fear of her life from others and her "greatest fear is police themselves" who might "either try to kill me or to lead to a position where I am killed".
She said Victoria Police warned that if she returned to Australia her two children would be removed from her custody for their safety.
The state's top policeman Graham Ashton has defended the force against Ms Gobbo's claims, saying if she had an issue she should raise it with the anti-corruption watchdog IBAC.
The chief commissioner was in the witness box at an inquiry into the underworld lawyer's informing on Tuesday, but spoke to reporters outside about her safety fears.
"She need have no fear from any police officers," he said.
Mr Ashton said he has never believed he did anything wrong in relation to Ms Gobbo and her informing, which he learned about when working as a top corruption investigator at the independent police watchdog.
He admitted in his evidence he'd never before heard of a lawyer being used as an informer and conceded it was a concern, but stood by his decision not to raise questions.
"What I did at the time was reasonable and I don't think there was anything driving me at the time to want to probe into it," he said.
He said Ms Gobbo was a police informer in July 2007 when she was called to give evidence at an inquiry into suspicions about a then-policeman's links to two deaths.
Mr Ashton cited one officer's concerns about her appearance at the compulsory hearings, noting fears for her safety if she was exposed as a snitch.
"She was also concerned about (examiner Tony) Fitzgerald knowing that she'd had sexual relationships with police," he said.
Mr Ashton conceded, when questioned if he wished he'd looked into it more back then, that he could have brought Ms Gobbo's informing to light earlier.
But he said he felt comforted the "highest levels of the police force" were aware and there was no evidence then of "police acting badly in relation to it".
"There wasn't anything at play indicating integrity or misconduct concerns," he said.
Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt rejected Ms Gobbo's comments, pointing out she had consistently rejected support from the force but now claimed she was concerned for her safety.
Ms Gobbo has been ordered to give evidence to the commission by phone from January 29, despite maintaining that she's too unwell to do so.
Commissioner Margaret McMurdo can't compel her to appear, but can recommend prosecutors charge her if she fails to comply with the order.
Australian Associated Press