Dulcie Markham

The Angel of Death

Early life

Dulcie May Markham was born in the inner city Sydney suburb of Surry Hills on 27 February 1914 to John Markham and Florence Millicent née Parker.

She became one of Australia’s most notorious prostitutes and underworld figures. She became a prostitute when she was 15. and Sydney’s most extravagant gangster’s moll by the time she was 18. She was attracted to, and associated with, many major criminals of the era.

A Life of Crime

On 13 May 1931, in William Street, Sydney, stall keeper Alfred Dillon and 21-year-old gunman Cecil “Scotty” McCormack came to blows over the attentions of Markham and in the resultant melee, Dillon stabbed McCormack to death. She was present at the time. Markham and McCormack were planning to marry.

Her first marriage was to a sideshow worker and small-time mobster Frank Bowen in Brisbane on 4 March 1936. Two months later, aged 21, Markham (as Bowen) was in court accused of falsifying a telegram on behalf of her new husband.

By 1936, Markham was involved with Guido Caletti, another notorious Sydney gunman, the then-husband of Nellie Cameron, another prominent Sydney sex worker of that period. Caletti was shot dead in August 1939 in Sydney at a party he attended with Markham. Reportedly, Markham was grief-stricken at his funeral.

By December 1937, Markham had shifted to Melbourne and now had gunman Arthur Taplin as her pimp and lover. Taplin was subsequently shot dead later that year.

By mid-1940, the 24-year-old ‘prettiest and most notorious woman in the Australian underworld’ was romantically involved with 26-year-old Fred Erick James ‘Paddles’ Anderson, and once divorced, was going to marry him (being still married to Bowen); where she was also nicknamed the ‘Hoodoo Girl’ given of three previous lovers, one had been stabbed, and two shot. In the same year her first husband, Frank Bowen, was shot and killed in Kings Cross.

In 1943, Markham relocated to Queensland‘s Gold Coast to take advantage of the influx of American GIs. When picked up for vagrancy by local police,[5] ‘Pretty Dulcie’ protested that she lived with her current de facto husband, taxi-driver (ames Arthur Williams, and that while he gave her money and groceries, she was not involved in the local sex industry at that time, and was not aware of Williams’ involvement in the sly-grog or bootleg alcohol distribution networks that flouted wartime beer and spirits rationing mandates. She also used the pseudonyms and aliases: “Dulcie Williams”, “Dulcie Bowen”, “Tosca de Marquis”, “Mary Eugene”, and “Tosca de Merene” during that period. In September 1945, her then-boyfriend and leading Melbourne criminal Leslie Walkerden, was shot dead in Richmond, Victoria.

Markham had outlived most of her criminal contemporaries from Sydney’s tempestuous razor gang era. Markham’s funeral was held at St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Bondi and the eulogy was given by Detective Frank “Bumper” Farrell. She was cremated at Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park.

In 2009, Markham was one of the figures from that era featured in an exhibition about that era at Sydney’s Justice and Police Museum, entitled “Femmes Fatales: The Female Criminal.

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