“Squizzy” Taylor The King of Melboure’s Underworld

Sidney Kelly

Joseph Theodore Leslie “Squizzy” Taylor (29 June 1888 – 27 October 1927) was an Australian gangster from Melbourne. He appeared repeatedly and sometimes prominently in Melbourne news media because of suspicions, formal accusations and some convictions related to a 1919 gang war, to his absconding from bail and hiding from the police in 1921–22, and to his involvement in a robbery where a bank manager was murdered in 1923.

Taylor enjoyed a fearsome reputation in 1920s Melbourne. A “spiv“, described as the Australian equivalent of the ‘American bootleggers’, his crimes ranged from pickpocketing, assault and shopbreaking to armed robbery and murder. He also derived income from sly-grog selling, two-up schools, illegal bookmaking, extortion, prostitution and, in his later years, is believed by some to have moved into cocaine dealing.

Fatal gunfight

John “Snowy” Cutmore

Taylor was wounded in a gunfight with a rival gangster, John “Snowy” Cutmore, at a house in Barkly Street, Carlton, and died at St Vincent’s Hospital, Fitzroy, on 27 October 1927. Cutmore, a standover man associated with the Razor Gang of Sydney, was also fatally wounded. Cutmore was an old foe of Taylor’s. The animosity dated back to the Fitzroy Vendetta in 1919 when Cutmore was a member of the rival Fitzroy gang. Well known to the police as a violent criminal, Cutmore had a string of convictions in Victoria and NSW for assault, stealing and resisting arrest. In 1927 Cutmore was living in Sydney, then the scene of a ‘razor gang war’ between opposing factions of the Sydney underworld. Cutmore joined standover man Norman Bruhn, also originally from Melbourne, in a notorious razor gang who stole the illicit gains of their underworld peers, knowing their crimes would never be reported to the police. Bruhn was murdered in the Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst in June 1927.

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