Crime tourists relive Brisbane’s worst murders

Brisbane has seen some horrific murders, the worst the 1973 Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub firebombing that killed 15 patrons and staff.

Then there’s the gruesome Patrick Mayne case from 1848, Karl Kast’s 1955 shooting spree, and the 1989 slaying of City Council worker Edward Baldock by self-confessed “vampire” Tracey Wigginton.

The Queensland Law Society’s criminal history bus tour however isn’t only about shocking murders, illegal casinos and brothels.

A lead-in to National Law Week (14-20 May), the tour also looks at landmark events in Brisbane’s past to do with social justice issues like conditions for prisoners, women’s rights, and South African apartheid.

Also revisited is police corruption uncovered by the 1980s Fitzgerald Inquiry.

For tour guide Martin Burns SC, a criminal defence barrister, revisiting heritage listed Boggo Road Jail was a reminder of what a “horrible” and “miserable” place it was for his incarcerated clients.

“It was always a traumatic experience coming here; it chills me just coming back,” he said.

On the amusing side, there was the sign near the prison entrance warning unauthorised persons to keep out.

“Who would want to get in?” said Mr Burns.

Department of Housing and Public Works senior assistant manager Keith Bazely said prisoners took to the rooftops in 1988 in protest against underground punishment cells dubbed “black holes”.

“These [black holes] marked the lowest ebb in the prison’s history,” he said.

As to the jail’s reputation for being haunted by ghosts, Mr Bazely said some mornings he found security gates left open even though he had locked them the previous day.

“It’s a bit of a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not situation,” he said.

In the city’s history of human rights activism, two near-mythical locations visited on the tour were the Regatta Hotel in Coronation Drive at Milton and the Tower Mill Motel in Wickham Terrace at Spring Hill.

It was at the Regatta Hotel in 1965 that Merle Thornton (mother of actor Sigrid Thornton) and Rosalie Bognor chained themselves to the footrail in the men-only public bar demanding equal rights for women.

And it was outside the Tower Mill Motel in 1971 that anti-apartheid protesters demonstrated against the tour by the South African Springboks Rugby Union team which was staying at the motel.

The disappearance of Marjorie Norval, the tragic death of 11-year old Hector Vasyli, the Red Flag Riots, and the Battle of Brisbane are just some of the other fascinating incidents covered during the two hour tour.

Mr Burns said the illicit gambling, liquor and prostitution activities of the 1970s and ’80s, which had spawned an underworld rife with police corruption, were no longer illegal.

“All of those things are now freely available,” he said.

The QLS 9.30am criminal history bus tour will be running from 14-17 May.

6 Responses to “Crime tourists relive Brisbane’s worst murders”
  1. Shirley Way says:

    An interesting tour of Brisbane’s past.

  2. katie says:

    I have found no reference on any sites to the random shooting of the Main Roads employees and pedestrians in Boundary Street, Spring Hill during the mid seventies. I believe quite a few were shot and there were fatalities. I’m trying to refresh my memory but can find no articles. The shooter ran down Boundary street then on to Gregory Terrace where he held a couple hostage in their house. The police finally apprehended him. Can anyone enlighten me on this incident?

  3. Steph says:

    Yes, Katie, I have some memory of that incident. I was living in Allenby St at the time but as I was a small child much of the detail was kept from me. I have also been trying to find references to it which is how I ended up on this site.

  4. John Weyler says:

    Did you take the tour, Ian?

  5. Kristi says:

    Nothing about the woman who was framed either. Amazingly Brisbane’s corrupt official seem to have so far escaped penalty.

  6. Christian Francois says:

    I was a young ambulance officer working for the then QATB, Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade. I attended that incident, and transported a victim whom we found underneath the Mains Roads Dpt building in the car park He had been shot in the back. My recollection is that there were 6 people shot, 2 of them fatally. One was a 16yo girl in the milk bar across the street. I also went and stood by at the siege where the gunman held 3 teachers hostage. These were freed when the police stormed the house at Kelvin Grove. This would have been around 1976.

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