The Killing Streets by Tanya Bretherton

‘It was early morning on Saturday, 10 December 1932 when a forest-green dress was spotted, hooked in a spiky thicket of lantana in Queens Park.’

In her third true crime book, Ms Bretherton writes about a series of horrific murders that began in Sydney during the 1930s. The first body was found in Queens Park on 10 December 1932.  A woman violently murdered in a popular park, and no-one noticed anything.  Other women were found murdered: their bodies left in public places.  But it was not until the body of a young aspiring Olympic swimmer was found that an arrest was made.

Eric Craig was arrested, and eventually charged over the deaths of two women.  He was gaoled.  But similar murders occurred.  Was Eric Craig guilty?  And why were some of the murders apparently considered worse than others?

‘Bad police work, inconsistent witness statements and gendered assumptions plagued all of these investigations.’

Sydney in 1932 was in the grip of the Great Depression.  Jobs were scarce and, for some women, sex work was one of the few ways in which they could make money to feed, clothe and house their families.  Some of the murdered women were sex workers.  Assumptions were made, judgements followed.

I wonder how many deaths could have been prevented if the initial murder had been investigated more thoroughly?  Granted, much of the forensic science we now take for granted was not available.  I still feel that more could have been done.

I was unaware of these murders before reading this book.  I appreciate the effort Ms Bretherton has gone to in providing the socio-economic background for these murders in eastern Sydney during the Great Depression.  If you have an interest in true crime, then I recommend this book.  Was this killer Australia’s first serial killer (as stated on the cover of the book)?  I wonder.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith