Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Guest blogger – Adam Shand, author of The Skull

Early in The Skull I wrote how a former Deputy Commissioner Bob Falconer said either Brian Murphy was “the most corrupt and dangerous man ever to be a member of Victoria Police or the most maligned. I don’t know which.”

It’s a dichotomy that troubled me ever since Falconer passed the comment. Falconer was part of a Vic Pol team that investigated Murphy and his protégé Paul Higgins in the early 1980s for involvement in Melbourne’s brothel wars. Vic Pol’s investigations would eventually land Higgins in jail for five years, while Murphy escaped without charge. That a competent investigator like Falconer could come to this ambivalent position was daunting to say the least. How was I to trip up Murphy if the State with all its resources and coercive power could not? It suggested Murphy had a power and cunning that went far beyond the norm.

If I were pressed, I would agree that Murphy was “corrupt and dangerous” but not in the conventional sense of the phrase. No-one I spoke to had any first hand accounts of him copping a quid. Second hand accounts tended to disintegrate upon investigation. His lifestyle does not suggest a man living beyond his means. But I would say that he did manage to “corrupt” the system he worked under. However, as another colleague told me, Murphy’s methods may have appalled him but whatever he did was always in the service of the community. It might not have always been lawful but justice in the extra-legal sense is not always clear cut. That’s why the second half of the book is called Ways and Means, back then the public generally did not worry about the methods, only the results. That has all changed today.

It’s interesting that many complain police have lost the battle for the streets. People are no longer safe at night, they can’t walk home alone without fear. Despite all the public surveillance technology, few offenders are brought to book for random assaults and thefts. And putting them in jail is often a shattering experience for the victim in court. It’s no wonder then that people fondly remember the days when police inspired fear and respect in the criminal classes. If they lost in court, they would square up with the villain later on. As brutal as it seems now, there was a deterrence factor that was undeniable. If you wanted to walk the streets in Murphy’s district you had to submit to his power.

I wonder how a modern day Murphy would fare today. Would he be drummed out of the force, even jailed for his methods? Or would he survive in any era, able to adapt to changing circumstances. I wonder whether we need such officers today.

13 comments:

  1. I haven't read the account but I think a generic Murphy type character would do it tough today. There seems to be little tolerance for maxims such as "set a thief to catching a thief."

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  2. he would have to be very clever and have a mastery of forensics mwhich can be made to say anything!

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  3. As a taxi owner driver I saw what Murphy did the drugs,the brothels,the bank robberies the cover ups .He shamed all the decent police out there and continues to do so.Unfortunately he did so much damage that criminals boasted he would look after them and he did.Some of his students are now in the ethics department.Who said crime doesn't pay don't buy his boasting book.He made plenty out of crime.

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  4. Check up with Murphy on the State Saving Bank Robbery in High street Northcote.He was given the rego of the get away car before the robbery ,his reply was sorry the last digit was different right car right racial group of three southern Italians in the right blue overall,seen going to the right place at the right time. Right undercoat on car but the last DIGIT WAS AN 0 NOT A 6.

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  5. The biggest problem with forensics is corrupt police trying to change or introduce evidence with threats to staff who won't play ball. As many think DNA and Forensics are proof positive its a very dangerous problem as the off spring of Skull Murphy play with justice .

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  6. Mr Anonymous taxi driver, how interesting there is no evidence to back up your claims. Did Murphy manage to get everyone to shut up, he truly is a magician!

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  7. Lumps and lads have been our "coppers" I wonder what the average IQ?? of these people were in 69/79 compared to 2009? The above were my vintage (lumps and lads)tough hard bastards in many ways but never had problems with this group, you knew if you got caught or stuffed up you had to accept the cost! Yeah, there were blokes that took "back-handers" but not "evil men" just topping up their "ordinary pay". Crims not the "ordinary decent crim" the real bad bastards deserved the "full monty" like a good flogging or a swim (the last swim)!
    Bad coppers (the filth) deserve the same as the "evil crims" flogged or drowning etc. It is always the <1% that cause real problems , most coppers and decent ordinary crims are good fathers and mates and good husbands, just average folk.... leave the bastards alone!

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  8. I agree with the response to the anonymous taxi drivers comment - what a shame there is no evidence to back up your claims, and he is a free man. I am sure he could not have gotten away with all allegations, and kept every one quiet? Something would have had to have caught up with him. People seem to forget what it was like back then - different times. Different criminals. The actual "hard" criminals. Sure he may not have been a saint, and may have done it his own way, but he locked up more evil barstards than most, and kept the streets safe for the others. Its easy to forget and brush off what he did that helped the community when his tactics were less than conventional - but they worked!

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  9. People with criminal records and corrupt as this should be thrown in jail and not let go forever .... It's the least he can do ... The rest is left to imagination!

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  10. The above were my vintage (lumps and lads)tough hard bastards in many ways but never had problems with this group, you knew if you got caught or stuffed up you had to accept the cost! Yeah, there were blokes that took "back-handers" but not "evil men" just topping up their "ordinary pay".

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  11. Thanks for sharing this blog about Guest blogger – Adam Shand, author of The Skull is very interesting

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  13. Never a more honest family man has walked this earth.

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