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STEVE MARESCA plays Norman Bruhn

As an actor, people often ask me if it is hard to play a “villain”?

Norman Bruhn was a notorious and violent Australian dockworker, armed robber and standover man with links to the criminal underworld in both Melbourne and Sydney. Bruhn’s criminal gang used the straight razor as a weapon of terror. They are attributed as Australia’s first ‘razor gang’ at the beginning of gang violence in Sydney in the late 1920s, known as the ‘razor gang wars’.

As an actor, people often ask me if it is hard to play a “villain”? An actor cannot see “heroes” or “villains” with who they are portraying, only people. Reading Norman’s life story, I saw a man full of ambition to be at the top of the table, and he would not let anyone get in his way. History was a favourite subject of mine in school, and to get to tell these stories of a turbulent time in Sydney’s history is quite a joy.

Chris

CHRIS MILLER plays Jim Devine

He was placed on the spectrum of morality

I was very fortunate to lead Razorhurst True Crime Walking Tours in King Cross for a while, having plenty of time to understand Jim Devine’s story before starting rehearsals. Knowing that Jim was originally a Sapper that went AWOL, then met a mid-teen Matilda Twiss (soon to be Tilly Devine) in London and convinced her to come to Australia to help tend to his “Kangaroo Farm”, it was pretty clear where he was placed on the spectrum of morality.

 

He would control drug addled prostitutes with cocaine, paying their wages in the “snow” to keep them hooked. He and Tilly would have parties (shavoos) early into the morning, then massive fights involving weapons, shooting each other on multiple occasions. Jim would get heavily intoxicated, blow all his money on the punt, then stand over and bash Tilly for more money. On one occasion, he separated Tilly’s jaw from her face with a long neck bottle. She still gave him money and didn’t report the assault. He certainly was a piece of work.

 

So, I just program that character into my psyche. I’ve played many different people of history, including Lt Peter Handcock, serial killer Lennie Lawson, Defense Attorney Hugh Lusk and career criminal Kevin Simmons to name a few. Building a character is one thing, craft another, yet there is also something to be said for letting all the work go and just being an open channel for the spirit and energy of the individual to enter, as if I’m a radio antenna tuning into their frequency. That’s where the magic happens.  

 

Letting go of them once the job is done is equally important.

PoliceWoman

DONNA RANDELL plays Lillian Armfield

Portraying a trailblazing Australian policewoman

I was very fortunate to lead Razorhurst True Crime Walking Tours in King Cross for a while, having plenty of time to understand Jim Devine’s story before starting rehearsals. Knowing that Jim was originally a Sapper that went AWOL, then met a mid-teen Matilda Twiss (soon to be Tilly Devine) in London and convinced her to come to Australia to help tend to his “Kangaroo Farm”, it was pretty clear where he was placed on the spectrum of morality.

 

He would control drug addled prostitutes with cocaine, paying their wages in the “snow” to keep them hooked. He and Tilly would have parties (shavoos) early into the morning, then massive fights involving weapons, shooting each other on multiple occasions. Jim would get heavily intoxicated, blow all his money on the punt, then stand over and bash Tilly for more money. On one occasion, he separated Tilly’s jaw from her face with a long neck bottle. She still gave him money and didn’t report the assault. He certainly was a piece of work.

 

So, I just program that character into my psyche. I’ve played many different people of history, including Lt Peter Handcock, serial killer Lennie Lawson, Defense Attorney Hugh Lusk and career criminal Kevin Simmons to name a few. Building a character is one thing, craft another, yet there is also something to be said for letting all the work go and just being an open channel for the spirit and energy of the individual to enter, as if I’m a radio antenna tuning into their frequency. That’s where the magic happens.  

 

Letting go of them once the job is done is equally important.

Who was involved with the disappearance of Juanita Nielsen

Allegations regarding disappearances of Juanita Nielsen and Donald Mackay

It is alleged that Fred Krahe became a criminal for hire after leaving the police force. Investigative journalists David Hickie and Tony Reeves name Krahe as the ringleader/organiser of a gang of “heavies” employed by developer Frank Theeman, who intimidated residents and assaulted protestors during the campaign against Theeman’s high-rise development in Victoria Street, Kings Cross in the early 1970s. In that context, there have been repeated allegations that he was involved in the 1975 disappearance and presumed murder of anti-development campaigner Juanita Nielsen.

There have also been allegations that Krahe was involved in the disappearance and presumed murder of Griffith, New South Wales anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay, in 1977, although the allegation about the Mackay killing was made by notorious Melbourne criminal James Frederick Bazley. Bazley is himself widely believed to have been paid to kill Mackay by infamous Griffith Mafia figure and drug dealer Robert Trimbole. Author John Jiggens claims Fred Krahe was responsible for dispensing, through his Fairfax Media newspaper connections, the rumour that Mackay had not been murdered, but instead ran away with a woman who was not his wife. Jiggens is also a strong proponent of the theory that Krahe murdered Mackay with Keith Kelly, and that Bazley was a patsy.

Defenders of Fred Krahe

Krahe’s memory has had some defenders. One of Australia’s prominent crime reporters of the time, Bill Jenkings, described his former source (and coworker at Fairfax Media) as a ‘clever investigator, who left no stone unturned in his quest to solve the most baffling of cases’, but that, ‘unfortunately, Krahe became far more famous for the crimes he was wrongly alleged to have committed himself’. Jenkings also refused to believe allegations about Krahe’s reputed partner in crime Ray “Gunner” Kelly.[15] In a 1981 letter to the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, Detective Ray Blisset (Queens Police Medal) wrote to express his ‘disgust at the obituary tendered for former Detective Sergeant first Class Frederick Claude Krahe’. He went on to say that during the years he served in the police force he had worked side by side with Krahe, and knew him as a great investigator of crime, and that ‘as a detective he had no peer.’ Blisset showed little regard for the journalists who publicised allegations against Krahe, writing that they should, ‘show respect for all the good he did and not rewrite scandalous rumours to satisfy some salacious minds’.

Lenny McPherson himself, giving testimony in 1983 at the Juanita Neilsen inquest, told the court, ‘I didn’t like Fred Krahe. He arrested me hundreds of times. If I had any information (on him) I would be giving it to you’. It was at this inquest that McPherson strongly denied telling two police officers, one Commonwealth, one New South Wales, that he’d heard that Krahe had murdered Mrs. Nielsen, an allegation that was quoted initially by journalists Barry Ward and Tony Reeves in an article in the National Times.

Lillian Armfield

Trailblazing Australian policewoman

Lillian Armfield was a trailblazing Australian police officer who played a pivotal role in fighting crime in Sydney during the early 20th century. Born in New South Wales in 1884, Armfield was one of the first female police officers in Australia.

Armfield began her career in law enforcement in 1915, when she joined the New South Wales Police Force as a Special Constable. She was not given a uniform, gun or badge. She quickly proved herself to be an effective and dedicated officer, and was soon promoted to the rank of Constable.

As a police officer, Armfield was known for her tireless work ethic and her commitment to fighting crime. She was involved in a range of high-profile cases, including the arrest of notorious criminals like Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh.

Armfield’s greatest contribution to law enforcement was her work in the area of forensic science. She was a pioneer in the field of forensic photography, and was one of the first police officers in Australia to use photography as a tool for crime scene investigation.

Armfield was also instrumental in the establishment of the Criminal Investigation Branch, a specialized unit of the New South Wales Police Force that focused on investigating serious and organized crime.

Despite facing significant challenges and discrimination as a female police officer in a male-dominated profession, Armfield was respected and admired by her colleagues and by the public. She retired from the police force in 1949, after more than three decades of dedicated service.

Today, Lillian Armfield is remembered as a pioneering and trailblazing figure in Australian law enforcement. Her legacy lives on in the many women who have followed in her footsteps, and in the ongoing fight against crime and injustice.