BACK­STORY 1906

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - TIME OUT - Myles Sin­na­mon

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.

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