The Travelling Trooper Goes To The Slammer

For our second full day in Sydney, Trevor and I decided to take in a hike. We hiked from Bondi Beach to Bronte. It’s an easy 4 kilometre hike along the coast, with some beautiful beach views along the way.

We took our time with the hike and took much longer than the estimated 1.5 hours. We stopped to take pictures.

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We stopped to watch the surfers.

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And we stopped to do some reading. And by reading,  mean falling asleep after 4 pages.

Once we were done with the hike, it was on to the Justice and Police Museum. This place had some stories to tell.

Andrew George Scott robbed a bank where one of his friends worked. He disguised himself, not with a mask, but with a cloak, and called himself Captain Moonlite.

Scott moved to Sydney to start a new life, but the heist money quickly ran out. He tried to buy a yacht with a cheque that bounced, intending to start yet another new life in Fiji, but he was arrested out on the waters.

He served twelve months for the yacht, and was then brought before the court again to pay for Captain Moonlite’s actions.

Once he had served his time, he tried to make a go of it as an outlaw. His boys were killed in shootout with some police officers. One officer was taken out in the process.

Finally, Scott was arrested and taken to the gallows.

Alfred Lester and George Nichols met the same fate. They were a couple of chums, they were. They didn’t meet in the school yard, though; they met in the jail yard.

They set up a scheme in which they put a fake ad in the paper for a job. They assessed their supposed potential hires based on their wealth, and chose the sucker who looked to be the richest. One of these poor souls, of whom there are believed to be many, was a man by the name of John Bridger. They took their new hire up the Parramatta River and sent him to swim with the fishes.

The crazy part is that these guys were killing people for next to nothing. They usually walked away with just a few bucks, some shabby clothes, and maybe a crappy watch. That’s how much a person’s life was worth to them.

When they were eventually brought before the court, they claimed the blood found on their boat was from a successful fishing trip. Forensic evidence, however, proved that the blood came from a mammal, and not a fish.

And that was the end of Nichols and Lester.

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I present to you Caroline Grills. This woman looks like a loving ol’ grandmother. In fact, she actually reminds me of Granny from the Bugs Bunny cartoons!

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But looks can be deceiving, people. This woman one day decided to start poisoning her friends and family! Nobody is certain of her motives, though it is believed she may have had some level of mental illness.

Grills was known for her baking prowess, so it wasn’t difficult to coax loved ones into eating some of her baked not-so-goodies. Plus, it was post-World War II Australia we’re talking about here. People were grateful for any food, let alone sweets. Her secret ingredient wasn’t love, though. Oh, no sir. It was rat poison.

She would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for that meddling relative, John Downey, who had suspected something. And this tells you just how good her baked goods were. Even though Downey suspected something was up, he STILL tried one of her treats! Thankfully, he was only hospitalized.

He ended up taking some samples to the police station for testing. She was charged with four murders and three attempted murders.

Louisa Collins was also in the poisoning game. She married young, and went on to have a series of affairs, including one with a man who was paying rent to live in the house with her and her husband. Shortly after an argument over Collins’ affair with their tenant, her husband mysteriously died.

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A few months after collecting the life insurance, Collins and the tenant got married. Obviously, the neighbourhood was rattled by this.

The honeymoon didn’t last long, and Collins quickly became unhappy with her new marriage. Two years after her first husband’s death, this guy began suffering from debilitating stomach pains and quickly died.

The doctor suspected something was up and notified the police. The game was up.

Or was it?

It took four trials to finally convict Collins. Her sentence of death by hanging put the community in an uproar. Some insisted that if it took four trials to convict her, there must still be some reasonable doubt. Others argued that it was uncivilized to hang a woman.

Either way, she was hung. Collins would be the last woman hung in New South Wales.

Then there’s the story of Henry Louis Bertrand, “The Mad Dentist.” This is something straight out of a bad movie.

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Bertrand was married, but he ended up having an affair with one of his patients. He was so in love with this woman that he was set to row across Sydney Harbor to stake out his lover’s place and shoot her husband.

Instead, Bertrand’s wife invites the couple over for dinner!

How does Bertrand play this one? He tried to shoot the man in the house…while the two women were there! And he missed! Well, sort of. He wounded the poor man in the HEAD.

When the police arrived, Bertrand, his wife, and his mistress convinced them that it was an attempted suicide. Why the women went along with this, I have no idea.

Bertrand then convinced Maria, his newly widowed lover, to poison her husband and finish the deed. Again, they brushed it off as suicide.

I’m not sure what happened to his wife, but Bertrand and Maria then got a letter from an ex lover of Maria’s, claiming to know all about the murder.

Then Bertrand did the most gangsta thing imaginable: He reported the guy to the police and had him charged for attempted blackmail! Genius!

He was eventually caught, though. The women were acquitted, while he was sentenced to life in jail. He was released after 28 years, though, due to some trial issues.

Now here’s one of the good guys. Frank Fahy, aka “the Shadow.” He was a great undercover cop. One time, he was able to nab a group of safe crackers who had been able to open what had, up until then, been considered an uncrackable safe. The clue: A cloth that was found at the scene of the crime was only sold in Italy.

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The Shadow went undercover as a vagrant and watched as this same group of guys make metal tools in a workshop. He followed them around and discovered that they’d rented an office space above the Union Bank of Sydney.

When the police finally came in with guns a-blazing, they discovered that the guys had cut a hole in the office floor and were breaking into the bank.

The men were arrested, but the Shadow was never given credit for his work. He just went back to being a regular police officer. Just another day’s work.

Fahy’s identity was so top secret that police officers would often arrest him, unaware that he was one of them.

These classy dames over here? Cocaine smugglers.

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This one once took a fake 20 pound note out of her bra and tried to eat it before it could be taken in as evidence.

 

The story of Graeme Thorne reads like a bad episode of CSI: Sydney. Graeme’s parents won the lottery, and he disappeared shortly after. Somebody called their house and demanded 25, 000 pounds for his safe return.

Six weeks later, his body was found in a park, wrapped in a rug. A scarf was wrapped around his neck, and string was used to tie his arms and legs together. Forensic examination found traces of soil, pink mortar, and cypress plants on Graeme’s clothing, the rug, and the scarf.

With help from the public, police were able to narrow down the search to a house owned by a Hungarian immigrant. His car had been seen in the area where Graeme went missing. He also owned a Pekinese dog whose hairs were also found on the rug.

Cherry, the dog, was accidentally killed during the trial, and was subsequently sent to a taxidermist so they could introduce her as evidence.

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It’s like a weiner dog mated with a seal.

This whole ordeal was all Australia could speak about in 1960. For one thing, it was the first case of child kidnapping Australians had been exposed to. Secondly, TV had only been introduced in this part of Australia in 1956! This episode brought Australians together in a way they’d never experienced before, thanks to the new technology.

Tess became the first police dog to join the force in the 1930s. It seemed that catching bad guys and finding missing persons wasn’t enough, though, so she was also forced to perform in dog shows, fetching, jumping really high, and climbing ladders.

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Zoe’s biggest trick was driving a miniature car. Honestly? She probably could’ve saved a couple lives in the time it took to train her to drive that car. Zoe was often used to go into small spaces where people couldn’t fit. She had a radio strapped to her back so officers could speak with the person they were trying to rescue.

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Now on to less fun things: The stupidly named “Aboriginal Protection Act of 1909” wasn’t meant to protect Aboriginals, as the title might make you think; no, it was meant to “protect” Australians. Aboriginals were forced off their land and onto reserves. The Inspector General of Police served as chairman of the Aboriginal Protection Board, and so he decided where Aboriginals can live, where they can work, whom they could marry, etc. They controlled every aspect of life for the Aboriginal community. Then, in 1915, without so much as a court order, the board also decided they were entitled to remove Aboriginal children from their parents and force them into orphanages, foster homes, or apprenticeships.

Doesn’t this sound familiar, Canada?

It was possible to sidestep all of this nonsense and become an “honourary” citizen if you were believed to be leading a “white” lifestyle. Aboriginal people referred to this status as “dog tags.” Your tags could be revoked at any time.

And just like in Canada, the legacy of these reserves drags on. They are still over-represented in the criminal justice system. In fact, an Aboriginal person is 26 times more likely to be arrested than a non-Indigenous person.

While the first female police officer was appointed in 1915 (way to go, Australia!), the first Aboriginal officer wasn’t appointed until 1971. Since the 1980s, though, the police force has been trying to diversify its staff. Hopefully this leads to less hostile encounters. The appointment of an Aboriginal Community Liaison officer in 1986 hasn’t really done much to improve this.

Back in the day, Aboriginals even used their tracking skills to find outlaws or missing persons; but they were never paid for their service, let alone given status as police officers.

One last thing I’d like to mention from this fantastic museum: The mug shots. The police archives have over a thousand photos of “confidence men and women, forgers, false pretenders, pickpockets, housebreakers, sneak thieves, ‘hotel barbers,’ bag snatchers, safe crackers, drug sellers and thieves.”

But the fascinating thing isn’t the wide array of career choices for would-be criminals; it’s their attire. Some of these guys look downright dapper! They look like proper gentlemen! The guy in the bottom left looks like a police detective!

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And they’re allowed to pose! That seems like a really nice gesture, though, when you consider that this is probably the first and only time many of these people were ever photographed.

Other random photos:

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Typical cell.
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My khukuri knife!
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Never leave home without one.
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I’ll take the second from the left.

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After a night of little sleep, a morning of walking under the baking hot sun, and an afternoon of reading in the museum, I was ready for bed. But I couldn’t leave without checking out the Cuban Place. It’s a Cuban restaurant that a girl on the Great Ocean Road tour raved about. I had to check it out. Trevor and I got to the restaurant, only to find that they wouldn’t open for another forty minutes.

Forget it. We’ll just head back to Arjen’s. We still had the leftovers from yesterday anyway. We started to make our way to the train station, when we came across a sign that caught my attention. It was promoting a one-night only performance of The Beatles Orchestrated. It’s a Beatles cover band and the Australian Symphony Orchestra.

I looked up the price, and it was $100 for a ticket. Trevor and I then had the following exchange.

Me: “One hundred dollars?! That’s way too much for a ticket.”

Trevor: “True, but it IS the Beatles…and the Australian Symphony Orchestra…”

Me: “Good point. I’ll get the credit card.”

Suddenly, I was wide awake, and all too aware of my hunger pains. We headed back to the Cuban Place and waited for them to open.

I eventually had a fantastic trio of Cuban tacos.

The Beatles show was worth every penny.

The song selection was clearly calculated to make good use of the orchestral support. Admittedly, the trumpets were subpar on “Sgt. Peppers,” but the flute on “Here Comes the Sun” and the strings on “Eleanor Rigby” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” gave me chills.

Other highlights included “Dear Prudence,” Help!,” “Imagine,” “Let It Be,” “All You Need is Love.”

The guys who played Paul and John were also fantastic. John man looked and sounded like John. He even had the quick wit to boot during the banter. He was hilarious. But as far as I was concerned, Paul stole the show. The man’s voice was stellar. It almost knocked me off my seat a few times.

I felt bad for getting back to Arjen’s so late, but he was very cool about the whole thing. We talked for a bit before calling it a night. I was beyond exhausted.

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