On the evening of August 7, 1906, two detectives waited patiently outside a residence in the northern Sydney suburb of Mosman. Eventually a man appeared from the house and the detectives confronted him on the footpath. “Well, the game is up. I give you every credit for arresting me,” confessed the man as he was taken into custody.
The man was Francis George Smedley, who had been on the run for the previous six weeks. In late June, Smedley, who was employed as a messenger for the Police Court in Brisbane, had hatched a plan to steal money from the public purse. The money was taken over the course of a couple of days, as Smedley was given several large sums to take to the bank. The bank book was tampered with to appear as though the money had been deposited, but close inspection revealed the forgery, with £1400 missing (almost $200,000 today).
Smedley took flight as sketches of the wanted man ( example, above) were published in the Queensland Police Gazette, along with a detailed description: “Englishman, between 40 and 45 years of age; 5 feet 9 inches [1.7m], stout build, inclined to corpulence, about 14 stone [89kg] in weight. Walks erect, fair hair clean shaved, round full face, protruding chin with dimple, shows teeth when smiling … ” The notice ended by stating Smedley had caught a train from Wallangarra, on the Queensland border, bound for Sydney, and that he might be disguised as a priest.
After his arrest, Smedley confessed to detectives the reason for the heist: “I was receiving such a small salary and moneylenders were pressing me, and I knew if I was reported I would lose my billet.” Smedley was escorted back to Brisbane for trial. On September 26, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year and 10 months’ imprisonment with hard labour.