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Vintage Police Mugshots Of Australian Criminals From The 1920s

Dressed like gentlemen with ties, hats, and looking innocently towards the cameras, these men and women seem to pose for a portrait. But behind tidy appearances are guilty personalities that hide some of the sinister crimes. These are mugshots of Australian convicts from the 1920s, who had committed murders, robberies, burglaries, and other crimes.

Australia’s Justice & Police Museum has released pictures of murderers, bigamists, bootleggers, prostitutes, and several other criminals from the early 20th century. These photographs were mostly taken in the cells at the Central Police Station, Sydney. The images themselves are of excellent quality, beautifully composed and in many cases, quite artistic.

#1 Thomas Craig, Raymond Neil (aka “Gaffney the Gunman”), William Thompson and F.W. Wilson. 1928.

Thomas Craig, Raymond Neil (aka “Gaffney the Gunman”), William Thompson and F.W. Wilson. 1928.

This photograph was apparently taken in the aftermath of a raid led by Chief Bill Mackay – later to be Commissioner of Police – on a house at 74 Riley Street, ‘lower Darlinghurst’. Numerous charges were heard against the 15 men and women arrested. It was a house frequented by ‘reputed thieves.

#2 William Stanley Moore. 1926.

William Stanley Moore. 1926.

He was an opium dealer. Operated with large quantities of faked opium and cocaine. A wharf laborer; associates with water front thieves and drug traders

#3 Albert Stewart Warnkin and Adolf Gustave Beutler.1920.

Albert Stewart Warnkin and Adolf Gustave Beutler.1920.

Albert Stewart Warnkin is listed in the NSW Police Gazette of 10 November 1920, as charged with attempting to carnally know a girl eight years old. No entry is found for Beutler, whose picture is inscribed ‘willful and obscene exposure’.

#4 Eugenia Falleni, alias Harry Crawford. 1920.

Eugenia Falleni, alias Harry Crawford. 1920.

Crime: murder. Eugenia Falleni spent most of her life masquerading as a man. In 1913 Falleni married a widow, Annie Birkett, whom she later murdered. The case whipped the public into a frenzy as they clamored for details of the ‘man-woman’ murderer. Aged approximately 35.

#5 Joseph Messenger. 1922.

Joseph Messenger. 1922.

Joseph Messenger and Valerie Lowe were arrested in 1921 for breaking into an army warehouse and stealing boots and overcoats to the value of 29 pounds 3 shillings. The following year, when this photograph was taken, they were charged with breaking and entering a dwelling. Those charges were eventually dropped but they were arrested again later that year for stealing a saddle and bridle from Rosebery Racecourse. As an adult messenger was active in inner-Sydney underworld through the 1920s, and he appears in the NSW Criminal Register (16 July 1930 entry No. 171) as a seasoned criminal and gang affiliate. The description of his modus operandi includes, ‘Violently [resists] arrest…frequents wine saloons, billiard rooms, and racecourses … consorts with prostitutes.’ This photograph shows Messenger at age 18.

#6 Guiseppe Fiori, alias Permontto. 1924.

Guiseppe Fiori, alias Permontto. 1924.

No entry for Fiori/Permontto is found in the NSW Police Gazette for 1924, although this photo appears in a later photo supplement, in which Fiori is described as a safe-breaker.

#7 Walter Keogh. 1922.

Walter Keogh. 1922.

Walter Keogh appears in the Photo Supplement to the 1923 NSW Police Gazette (7 February Group 1 p. 4) identified as a pickpocket, and later in 1928 (26 December, Group 4 p. 15) as a ‘suspected person and bogus land salesman’. Keogh was also profiled in exposes in the newspaper truth in 1928, as a ‘go-getter’, ie a con man who sells suburban building blocks at grossly inflated prices, by falsely leading the buyers to believe the lots may be promptly resold for a huge profit.

#8 De Gracy and Edward Dalton, 1920.

De Gracy and Edward Dalton, 1920.

A cropped print of this photograph appears in a police photo book from the 1920s, annotated in pencil “magsmen”, with no further information offered.

#9 Frank Murray alias Harry Williams. 1929.

Frank Murray alias Harry Williams. 1929.

Harry Williams was sentenced to 12 months’ hard labor on March 1929 for breaking, entering and stealing. Murray/Williams’ entry in the NSW Criminal Register, April 30, 1930, describes him as a housebreaker and thief, whose MO includes ‘[breaking] lead lighted doors or windows or [forcing] the fanlights of dwelling houses during the absence of tenants’. He ‘disposes of stolen property to patrons of hotel bars or to persons in the street … professing] to be a second-hand dealer’. Although he ‘consorts with prostitutes’ and ‘frequents hotels and wine bars in the vicinity of the Haymarket’, he is described as being of ‘quiet disposition’.

#10 Gilbert Burleigh and Joseph Delaney. 1920.

Gilbert Burleigh and Joseph Delaney. 1920.

Gilbert Burleigh on the left is identified as a ‘hotel barber’, and Delaney‘s picture is labeled ‘false pretenses & conspiracy’. A companion photograph makes it clear that in fact Delaney was the hotel barber – meaning one who books into a hotel, boarding house or residential and robs (or ‘snips’) fellow patrons, usually in the dead of night. In this instance Delaney was charged with stealing a cigarette case, a hairbrush, a clock and a quantity of clothing from a dwelling house. A month later he was further charged ‘being about to abscond from bail’. He is described as ‘a fireman and a returned soldier’.

#11 William Cahill. 1923.

William Cahill. 1923.

Mug shots of William Cahill, 30 July 1923, Central Police Station, Sydney. Details unknown.

#12 Sydney Skukerman or Skukarman. 1924.

Sydney Skukerman or Skukarman. 1924.

An entry in the Supplement to the NSW Police Gazette Sydney for Skukerman (alias Kukarman, alias Cecil Landan) is captioned ‘obtains goods from warehousemen by falsely representing that he is in businesses.

#13 “Silent Tom” Richards and T. Ross. 1920.

“Silent Tom” Richards and T. Ross. 1920.

Mug shot of “Silent Tom” Richards and T. Ross, alias Walton, 12 April 1920, presumably Central Police Station, Sydney.

#14 George Whitehall. 1922.

George Whitehall. 1922.

George Whitehall, carpenters, handed himself into Newtown police after hacking to death his common-law wife, Ida Parker on Tuesday afternoon 21 February 1922, at their home in Pleasant Avenue, Erskineville. This photo was apparently taken the following morning at Newtown Police Station.

#15 John Walter Ford, Oswald Clive Nash. 1921.

John Walter Ford, Oswald Clive Nash. 1921.

Mug shot of John Walter Ford and Oswald Clive Nash, June 1921.

#16 Ernest Joseph Coffey. 1922.

Ernest Joseph Coffey. 1922.

Mug shots of Ernest Joseph Coffey, 2 June 1922, location unknown.

#17 Thomas Bede. 1928.

Thomas Bede. 1928.

Mug shots of Thomas Bede, 22 November 1928. Captioned: ‘This man refused to open his eyes'

#18 Masterman Thomas Scoringe. 1922.

Masterman Thomas Scoringe. 1922.

Mug shots of Masterman Thomas Scoringe, 29 November 1922, Central Police Station, Sydney.

#19 Patrick Riley. 1924.

Patrick Riley. 1924.

Patrick Riley (alias Matthew Edward Riley) was convicted in October 1924 of making counterfeit coins, and of having a coining instrument (ie a mold) in his possession, for which he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labor.

#20 Alfred John (or Francis) West. 1922.

Alfred John (or Francis) West. 1922.

West is mentioned in the NSW Criminal Register as a ‘pickpocket and spieler’.

#21 Walter Smith. 1924.

Walter Smith. 1924.

Walter Smith is listed in the NSW Police Gazette, 24 December 1924, as ‘charged with breaking and entering the dwelling house of Edward Mulligan and stealing blinds with a value 20 pounds (part recovered)’, and with ‘stealing clothing, a value of 26 pounds (recovered) in the dwelling house of Ernest Leslie Mortimer.’ Sentenced to 6 months’ hard labor.

#22 Sidney “Pretty Sid” Grant. 1921.

Sidney “Pretty Sid” Grant. 1921.

A picture of Sidney Grant (alias, ‘Pretty Sid’) appears in the ‘Criminal Photographs’ section of the New South Wales Police Gazette, 2 May 1923 captioned ‘Confidence man (notes for gold)’. In his landmark sociological work, The Big Con (first published in 1940) David Maurer describes a con trick known as “the hot seat”, then being practiced in Europe by “such masters of their profession as Pretty Sid, Snowy T-, Kangaroo John, Melbourne Murray, Devil’s Island Eddie, Slab B[rennan]…” It was not unusual then for the most accomplished Australian con artists to seek fresh fields in Britain, Europe (especially France) and North America, where their skills were held in high regard by fellow professionals.

#23 Hampton Hirscham, Cornelius Joseph Keevil, William Thomas O’Brien & James O’Brien. 1921.

Hampton Hirscham, Cornelius Joseph Keevil, William Thomas O’Brien & James O’Brien. 1921.

The quartet pictured was arrested over a robbery at the home of bookmaker Reginald Catton, of Todman Avenue, Kensington, on 21 April 1921. The Crown did not proceed against Thomas O’Brien but the other three were convicted, and received sentences of fifteen months each.

#24 Sidney Kelly. 1924.

Sidney Kelly. 1924.

Details surrounding this particular photograph are unknown, but Sidney Kelly was arrested many times and much written about in newspapers during the 1920s, 30s and 40s. He was charged with numerous offenses including shooting, and assault, and in the 1940s was a pioneer of illegal baccarat gaming in Sydney. This image appears in the Photo Supplement to the NSW Police Gazette, 26 July 1926, p. 6 captioned, “Illicit drug trader. Drives his own motor car, and dresses well. Associates with criminals and prostitutes.”

#25 Harold Price. 1923.

Harold Price. 1923.

Harold Price was a thief and gunman. This photograph was taken after he was arrested and charged with committing robbery under arms at a house in Randwick, Sydney, for which he was sentenced to two years’ hard labor.

#26 Frederick Edward Davies. 1921.

Frederick Edward Davies. 1921.

The handwritten inscription on this unnumbered Special Photograph reads, ‘Frederick Edward Davies stealing in picture shows and theaters Dets Surridge Clark and Breen Central 14-7-21’. Police held sneak thieves in particular low regard, which may account for the decision to photograph Davies in front of the police station’s toilet stalls.

#27 Herbert Ellis. 1920.

Herbert Ellis. 1920.

The precise circumstances surrounding this picture are unknown, but Ellis is found in numerous police records of the 1910s, 20s and 30s. He is variously listed as a housebreaker, a shop breaker, a safe breaker, a receiver and a suspected person. A considerably less self-assured Ellis appears in the NSW Criminal Register of 29 August 1934 (No. 206). His convictions by then include ‘goods in custody, indecent language, stealing, receiving and throwing a missile.

#28 Esther Eggers. 1919.

Esther Eggers. 1919.

Crime: malicious injury to property and wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm. When a police officer arrived to arrest Esther Eggers for malicious damage, she attacked him, causing serious injury. Eggers was sentenced to 12 months’ prison. Aged 22.

#29 Ernest James Montague. 1927.

Ernest James Montague. 1927.

Mug shots of Ernest James Montague, 29 August 1927, Central Police Station, Sydney.

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Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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