‘It is about crime, but not port and cigars crime, hatched at the big end of town. Most of the matters here are obscure and small time …’
In this book, Peter Doyle explores the dark side of suburban Sydney in the 1950s and 1960s. Mr Doyle does so by drawing partly on the private papers of his late uncle, Assistant Police Commissioner Brian Doyle, in combination with his own research. The result is a vivid picture of everyday life and crime during this period. It’s a different social landscape. Those of us aged over sixty may remember when money was left out for the milkman, when men routinely wore suits, hats, and ties, and when fewer people owned cars.
Many of the crimes are relatively small (including thefts of milk money), some are tragic such as the strangling of a baby by his young mother, and the arsenic poisoning of a young man by a thirteen-year-old girl. Some are bizarre: a 1968 siege prolonged when the police gave the gunman a loaded rifle. Two of the cases, in which (then) Detective Brian Doyle played a role, were much larger. Firstly, the Kingsgrove slasher who was arrested in 1959 after terrorising women in their homes over a three-year period. Secondly, the kidnapping for ransom and later murder of schoolboy Graeme Thorne in 1960 after his parents won the Opera House Lottery (£100,000).
In addition to the stories, there are a selection of crime scene photographs, some drawings by Mr Doyle as well as his personal memories. From being in the wrong place at the wrong time to planned cases, Mr Doyle shows us the less savory side of suburban life in Sydney during the 1950s and 1960s.