Here’s another awesome collection of mugshots courtesy of the Sydney Justice & Police Museum, a series of men’s mugshots taken in NSW in the 1920s. I have to say, most of these men don’t look perturbed in the least by the fact that they’ve just been charged with a crime. They look almost relaxed, sitting with arms crossed, leaning back in their chair or joking in a lineup with their fellow conspirators. Many look smug, some are even smiling, and all of them are posed as if to convey the history and personality of the subject. Unlike today’s mugshots, where people are stripped bare of any defining characteristics, these photos are so compelling they almost glorify the criminal activity the men are charged with. Below you can see some of my favorites from their online archive, as well as the description accompanying the photo.
William Stanley Moore, 1 May 1925, Central Police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 1399. this picture appears in the Photo Supplement to the NSW Police Gazette, 28 July, 1926 captioned: ‘Opium dealer./ Operates with large quantities of faked opium and cocaine./ A wharf labourer; associates with water front thieves and drug traders.’
William Munro, 17 September 1924, Central Police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 1313. Munro is listed in the NSW Police Gazette, 1924 as charged, along with Harris Hunter, with receiving stolen goods to the value of 536 pounds 4 shillings and 1 penny, the property of Snow’s department store.
William Moon, 7 August 1922, probably Central Police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 1109.
William Joseph Evans, 26 May 1921, Central Police Station, Sydney.
Evans operated out of a small office at 95 Elizabeth Street. Claiming to be manager of ‘Insurance, Mercantile and Finance Agency Co’, he roamed the city and suburbs selling bogus insurance policies. For each policy sold he would request a cash deposit of 3 pounds, and would arrange for a medical examination of the insured. Nothing subsequently would be seen of Evans, the doctor or the 3 pounds. Evans cheated private individuals and business people alike, and even sold a bogus policy to the printer who produced his stationery. At the trial Evans’s counsel appealed for leniency, pointing out that when arrested, he, his wife and child had been living in penury. He received six months jail.
Walter Smith, 15 December 1924, location unknown.
Special Photograph no. 1357. 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 &c value 20 pounds (part recovered)’, and with ‘stealing clothing, value 26 pounds (recovered) in the dwelling house of Ernest Leslie Mortimer.’ Sentenced to 6 months hard labour.
Walter Keogh, 9 February 1922, Central Police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 731. 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.
Thomas Sutherland Jones and William Smith, 15 July 1921, Central Police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 439. Smith and Jones are listed in the NSW Police Gazette as charged with stealing seven packages of twine (value 14 pounds). Jones was further charged with stealing thirty horse rugs (value 15 pounds) and two bales of kapok (value 20 pounds). Smith was fined 20 pounds; Jones was sentenced to 18 months hard labour, suspended.
Thomas Craig, Raymond Neil (aka “Gaffney the Gunman”), William Thompson and FW Wilson, 25 January 1928, Central Police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 1606. This photograph was apparently taken in the aftermath of a raid led by CIB 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. Lessee Joe Bezzina was charged with ‘being the keeper of a house frequented by reputed thieves’, and some of the others were charged with assault, and with ‘being found in a house frequented by reputed thieves’. The prosecution cast the raid in heroic terms – the Chief of the CIB, desperately outnumbered, had struggled hand to hand in ‘a sweltering melee in one of the most notorious thieves’ kitchens in Sydney’. The defence, on the other hand, described ‘a quiet party, a few drinks, some singing … violently interrupted by a squad of hostile, brawling police’ (Truth, 29 January 1928). The gallery was packed with friends of the accused, who loudly jeered the prosecution and police witnesses.
Thomas Bede, 22 November 1928, Central Police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 203A. Thomas Bede was charged with ‘suborn a witness’ at Sydney Quarter Sessions on 11 December 1928, for which he was fined £8. No other details known.
Sydney Skukerman, or Skukarman, 25 September 1924, Central Police Station, Sydney
Special Photograph no. 17A. 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 business’.
Sidney Langby, 9 December 1924, location unknown.
Special Photograph no. 1364. Sidney Langby, 18, was one of a group of seven young men convicted in early 1925 of a series of break and enters in Sydney. Langby was charged with stealing watches, clothing and money from shops and with stealing a motorcycle and sidecar. He received 18 months hard labour on each charge.
Ronald Frederick Schmidt, 13 June 1921. Location and details unknown.
Phillip Henry Ross, around 1926. Location unknown, possibly Darlinghurst Police Station.
Phillip Elmsworth Smith, 19 May 1921, possibly Darlinghurst Police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 258. Details surrounding this particular photograph are unknown, but P E Smith appears frequently in police records of the 1920s. His photo appears in the Photo Supplement to the NSW Police Gazette of 1 August 1923 p. 12, captioned ‘Assault and robbery.’ Photo Supplement of 19 October 1927 has him as a ‘[p]ickpocket and confidence man.,’ who ‘[f]requents metropolitan and country racecourse meetings in the various states.’ Yet another entry, in the Supplement of 18 April 1928 (group 1 p. 2) is captioned, ‘[i]nterstate pickpocket and bogus agent. Frequents dance halls. Dresses well. A native of Queensland.’ Smith 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. See also ‘Mug shot Walter Keogh’.
Patrick Riley, 11 August, 1924, location unknown.
Special photograph no. 1298. Patrick Riley (alias Matthew Edward Riley) was convicted in October 1924 of making counterfeit coins, and of having a coining instrument (ie a mould) in his possession, for which he was sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour.
Norman Wallace, 29 May 1923. Location, details unknown.
Kong Lee, 27 November 1922, location unknown.
Special Photograph no. 915. Kong Lee makes numerous appearances in the NSW Police Gazette as a ‘safe blower’ and ‘thief’, and is noted in the issue of February 1929 as having recently been seen riding trains ‘in the company of card sharpers and spielers’.
Joseph Messenger 15 February 1922, Central police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 745. 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.
John Walter Ford and Oswald Clive Nash, June 1921, possibly North Sydney Police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 407. A week after the photograph was taken the pair, both aged 16, appeared in North Sydney Police Court on break, enter and steal charges, for which they were put on bonds to be of good behaviour for twelve months.
John Dempsey, 2 August 1927, possibly Darlinghurst Police Station.
Herbert Ellis. Presumed Central Police Station, Sydney, around 1920.
Special Photograph no. 86. 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 langauge, stealing, eceiving and throwing a missile.’ His MO includes the entry ‘seldom engages in crime in company, but possessing a most villainous character, he influences associates to commit robberies, and he arranges for the disposal of the proceeds.’ It adds that he has the nicknames ‘Curley’ – his hair is thinning – and ‘Deafy’, as he is by then quite deaf. He is seen leaning heavily on a walking stick in the later image.
Harry Chapman, 30 June 1924. Location unknown.
Special Photograph no. 1272. Harry Chapman, then aged 19 was arrested in June 1924 for breaking and entering a dwelling-house, and stealing articles, value 2 pounds 16 shillings and 6 pence. In September that year he was arrested again and charged with stealing a motor cycle and side car (value 175 pounds) and a till containing money, value 17s. 6d, in league with Harold (‘Tarlow’) Tarlington (15) and Alfred Fitch (17). Tarlington went on to become a well-known criminal and was eventually shot dead in St Peters by Myles Henry ‘Face’ McKeon, who was himself later shot dead in Chippendale. Fitch also went on to become an active member of the Sydney underworld (see ‘Mug shot of Alfred Fitch’ in this collection). Chapman was sentenced to two years hard labour for the motor cycle theft.
Hampton Hirscham, Cornellius Joseph Keevil, William Thomas O’Brien and James O’Brien, 20 July 1921, Central Police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 446. The quartet pictured were 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.
Guiseppe Fiori, alias Permontto, 5 August 1924. Location unknown.
Special Photograph no. 1294. 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 safebreaker.
George Whitehall, 24 February 1922, possibly rear of Newtown Police Station.
Special Photograph no. 1092. George Whitehall, carpenter, handed himself into Newtown police after hacking to death his common-law wife, Ida Parker on Thursday afternoon 21 February 1922, at their home in Pleasant Avenue, Erskineville. This photo was apparently taken the following morning at Newtown Police Station.
Frank Murray alias Harry Williams, 4 February 1929, Central Police Station, Sydney.
Special photograph no. 199A. Harry Williams was sentenced to 12 months hard labour 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] leadlighted door 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’.
Frank McGowan, Robert McFarlane and John Dennis McFarlane, 23 May 1921, Central Police Station, Sydney.
Special Photograph no. 263. Robert McFarlane (the middle man in this trio) is mentioned in the Police Gazette, 7 September 1921 in connection with the theft of ‘three clocks, two sports coats and other articles’ from the warehouse of Dobson Franks Ltd. He appears in the NSW Criminal Register (24 September 1930) as a ‘thief and petty larcenist’. His MO includes visiting foundries with a horse and cart and stealing ingots of iron copper and tin. He also ‘steals laundered articles from clothes lines’. He is described as being of ‘violent disposition’, ‘addicted to drink’ and is said to associate with ‘the vagrant class’.
Francis Flood, Central Police Station, ca. May 1920.
Special photograph no. 128. An entry in the NSW Police Gazette, 5 May 1920 lists Flood as one of two men arrested over the theft of 400 blouses from a Kent Street merchant. Both were sentenced to two years hard labour.
De Gracy (sic) and Edward Dalton. Details unknown. Central Police Station, Sydney, around 1920.
Special Photograph no. 129. A cropped print of this photograph appears in a police photo book from the 1920s, annotated in pencil “magsmen,” with no further information offered.
B. Moody, Newtown Court, around 1919. Details unknown.