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Monday to Friday: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
(excl. public holidays)
The second and last Saturday of every month

Showcase Record – Great Tobacco Scam

Texas Tobacco Plantations (QLD) Scam

The King vs Charles Anthony Brough

Frederick Joseph Field and Richard William Musson

 – Criminal Trial Brief -VPRS 30/P0 Unit 2507 Item 153

A deal, seemingly too good to be true, usually is…

In 1932 seven eager individuals were swindled into investing their money and goodwill into the ‘Texas Tobacco Plantations Propriety Limited’ Scam.

'Samples' of Tobacco leaves supplied by C Brough on behalf of the Texas Tobacco Plantation Propriety Limited.

Fig 1 – ‘Samples’ of Tobacco leaves supplied by C Brough on behalf of the Texas Tobacco Plantation Propriety Limited

No one would have suspected esteemed Army Captain Charles Anthony Brough and his well-to-do pals, Frederick Joseph Field and Richard William Musson of being fraudsters and so the well orchestrated ploy to relieve excited potential Tobacco Farmers of their hard earned cash was well advertised in the Argus and actively promoted by unaware business and estate agent, John Jessop.

The accused claimed that they were representing the Texas Tobacco Plantations directly in relation to land situated in Texas and Archerfield Queensland.  They offered investment and farming opportunities on both farms, going so far as to provide ‘Samples’ of Tobacco, Photographs of the plantation, bogus farm maps and a promise of rations, lodging and training once the farm was up and running.

Each man was to pay a 100 pound deposit to secure their rations and lodgings on the Archerfield tobacco farm for 12 months with future prospects of having individual options over 15 acres of Tobacco farmland once they were trained.

Such an exciting prospect was never meant to be.

Upon arriving in Queensland, the seven individuals followed instructions set out by Charles Brough to meet at a Farm house and were advised that they would be collected the following day and taken to Archerfield.  The following day their ride didn’t come.  After much wiring to and fro they finally made their way to Archerfeild, where it came to light that the Texas Tobacco company had no stakes or ownership over the land there, nor were there any prospects of them obtaining such land in the future.

A bogus Map of the Archerfield used as a prop to lure unsuspecting farmers.

Fig 2 – A bogus Map of the Archerfield used as a prop to lure unsuspecting farmers

The men, confused and angry, demanded their money back. This was refused.  Instead a pay off of 50 pounds was suggested to be given in installments. The men agreed as they were all broke.  Some of the men received their 50 pounds over a matter of weeks, but not all.

The situation went to Court and after a lengthy trial involving many witnesses and a plethora of evidence the three men were sentenced to three years imprisonment for ‘Conspiracy to defraud’.

Frederick Field and Richard Musson were released on good behaviour 2 years later, but sadly Captain Charles Brough passed away 6 months into his sentence at the age of 43.  It is claimed he died ‘peacefully of natural causes’.

Criminal Trial Brief -VPRS 30/P0 Unit 2507 Item 153  - Conspiracy to Defraud

Fig 3 – Criminal Trial Brief -VPRS 30/P0 Unit 2507 Item 153 – Conspiracy to Defraud


Lee Hooper – Access Services Officer

New Public Records Regulations 2013

27 November 2013

The Public Records Regulations 2013 (Regulations) were made by the Governor in Council on 19 November 2013, and are effective from 24 November 2013. The new regulations are the result of a lengthy review and analysis, which included two phases of consultation with PROV stakeholder groups. PROV sincerely thanks everyone who participated in these consultations.

Changes to conditions of use

The conditions of use have been revised to better reflect current expectations. Regular users of the Reading Room at the Victorian Archives Centre or the Ballarat Archives Centre will note that the proposed conditions are in line with existing practices which are available in a number of fact sheets.

Changes to fees

As the fees are set by the Regulations, PROV has not been able to increase its photocopying or digitising charges in 10 years. This has resulted in fee levels being charged at a lower rate than the cost of recovery. PROV’s renewed Regulations include a relatively small increase in fees to address this. We believe that this small increase will help us to continue to deliver quality reproduction services to our users throughout the next decade.

In addition, many of the fees are now expressed in the Regulations as ‘fee units’. The value of the fee unit is set for each financial year by the Treasurer of Victoria in their annual budget, and is intended to allow for fees to rise in line with inflation. The value of the fee unit for 2013-14 is $12.84.

Please note: PROV welcomes and encourages all users to make their own digital representations of public records using their own digital cameras or digital cameras provided in the Reading Rooms.

Some services have been removed from the Regulations:

  • Microfilm services are no longer listed in the Regulations, however, material from microfilm can still be obtained in a number of forms:
    • A researcher can make a copy from a computer or a microform reader onto their own USB free of charge.
    • Printing from microform readers will be phased out as the equipment becomes unserviceable. In the meantime, there will be no charge for self-service printing.
  • Fees for inspection of records will no longer apply. PROV inspects all records on their admission to the archive.

The new Regulations can be downloaded: Public Records Regulations 2013

A comparison of the changes to Conditions of Use and the Fees can be downloaded: Public Records Regulations Comparisonvic_gov_logo_takecare_hiresNew PROV logo BLACK


Information Management Maturity Measurement Tool – IM3 Tool

On 29th November 2013, at the Records Information Management Professionals Australasia, State Seminar, the Public Record Officer Victoria (PROV) launched its newly created Information Management Maturity Measurement, titled the IM3.

The IM3 is designed for staff in Victorian Government agencies to assess the level of development of Information Management (IM) strategies and practices with in their organisation. It has been developed by PROV to assist government staff to negotiate the complex requirements of today’s IM environment.

Results from this assessment can be used to:

• Identify strengths and weaknesses in information management
• Prioritise areas of information management in the organisation that need attention
• Link to relevant WoVG documents, standards and guidelines
• Assist in setting goals for information management capability and skills development
• Support a case for resources or initiatives to improve information and records management.

The IM3.guides users through a series of 17 assessment questions based around four information management characteristics:

• People
• Organisation
• Information Lifecycle and Quality
• Business Systems and Processes

User’s answers to each question, denotes a level of maturitry ranging from Level 1: Unmanaged to Level 5: Proactive.
Assessment results are generated in graph and tabular format and accompanied by a ‘Developing Information Maturity in Your Organisation’ document which can be utilised to identify ways to develop particular information management characteristics.

As PROV is committed to the efficient management of public records and information, it would be greatly appreciated if organisations using the IM3 tool were able to provide PROV with user feedback and a copy of their assessment results. Information provided would be kept confidential and used for the purpose of continuously improving the IM3 tool.

For further information contact David Brown, Assistant Director, Government Services, PROV

or click to access the IM3 tool

War wounded: Mont Park Hospital for the Insane


Recently Australia stopped what they were doing for one minute to remember the men and women who put their lives on the line in the name of their country. At 11am on 11 November we stop to remember our diggers, our patriarchs and matriarchs who enlisted in wars for the betterment of their Australia.

During this time, inevitably news pieces crop up about the tragedies and triumphs of our diggers, the untold stories about their heroics in the line of fire. However, one story grabbed my attention in particular. When we think about soldiers returning home after the battles, when they are shipped back to the home front due to injury or the eventual cessation of the hostilities, we think about joyous rapture to be away from the brutalities of war and back in the arms and comfort of their families and loved ones. What is not so frequently written or discussed is what the brutal nature of war can do to a soldier’s mental health. Whilst today, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is recognised as a real part of the repercussions of war, at the conclusion of the First and Second World War’s common phrases such as “shell shock” were used to describe the state in which soldiers returned home. In hindsight, these cases of “shell shock” could possibly have also been cases of PTSD or further mental health issues related to the trauma and brutality of war. So it was in a recent piece about the influx of returned soldiers to the Mont Park (Hospital for the Insane 1912-1934) which made me delve deeper into available records held at the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV).

VPRS 7527 P1 Unit 1

Due to the nature of these records, the more recent files are closed under the privacy act, whereby if a record relates to a person this will be closed for 75 years from the date of creation (for adults) and for 99 years from the date of creation (for children). However, the timeframe in which I was looking was during and proceeding the years of the First World War. This time frame led me to unearth a box of records which relates specifically to the correspondence files of the ‘Military Mental Hospital’ at Mont Park.

These records are an insightful look into Mont Park Repatriation Hospital for returned soldiers and detail correspondence between such agencies as The Australian Red Cross Society, ‘the Lunacy Department’ and individuals seeking further information.

A few letters struck a particular cord; firstly the reply to a piece written to the editor of a newspaper in March 1925. This publication from the President of the Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Fathers’ Association of New South Wales was an objection relating to repatriated soldiers’ and ‘lunatics’ being housed together at Mont Park and Bundoora, thus slowing down the process of the returned soldiers’ recovery. The reply to this editorial piece came in the form of a letter from Dr. W. E. Jones. Inspector-General of the Insane. Dr. Jones stated that, ‘a very considerable number of returned soldiers have been sent to Lunatic Asylums, because their mental condition has been judged by the Department of Repatriation as not being due in any way to the stress of the war.’

Another piece of correspondence from a few years later in November 1927 ignited my interest. Dr. Jones wrote to the Deputy Commissioner in the Department of State Repatriation (Victoria) about one particular Private who had initially been voluntarily admitted to Bundoora, before being discharged and then subsequently immediately re-admitted under the Mental Treatment Act in 1925. The terse correspondence describes a battle between admitting the Private under the Mental Treatment Act rather than the Lunacy Act. Mr McPhee, the Deputy Commissioner argues that, ‘The Mental Treatment Act, it is understood, was introduced to protect the returned soldiers who became insane as the result of war service from the stigma of being certified as lunatics…’

These records are filled with correspondence relating to particular returned soldiers requesting leave, their mental capacity, queries from other Australian state departments as to the running of such institutions, and the disputes surrounding the reasons for soldiers needing to be housed in such institutions and classified as ‘lunatics’. It is an eye opening collection of correspondence which brings to light the aftermath of the bloody battle Australians fought to protect their King and country.

Phoebe Wilkens, Access Services Officer

VA 2846 Mont Park (Hospital for the Insane 1912-1934; Mental Hospital 1934-c.1970s; Mental/Psychiatric Hospital c.1970s-ct.)

VPRS 7424 Nominal Register of Patients

VPRS 7527 Military Mental Hospital Correspondence Files

Digging up the past: The Old Melbourne Cemetery

Just last week Melbourne’s Lord Mayor; Robert Doyle announced the state government’s intention to upgrade the Queen Victoria Market. This major project will inturn create thousands of jobs both in the market and its surrounds, as well as construction jobs.  Whilst this new upgrade might be great for the future of Melbourne, with the local economy likely to garner an abundance of new jobs, with additional tourist dollars flowing in; the historians amongst us may question the past.

What is today known as the Queen Victoria Market, a vast and vibrant iconic Melbourne institution that locals and tourists alike frequent, was once the Old Melbourne Cemetery. This burial ground was in existence from as early as 1837.  However, with the gradual expansion and encroachment of the market place, saw the slow demise of the cemetery holdings, with land increasingly being taken over for the purpose of the markets.

As early as 1877 sections of the original cemetery which was allocated to Aboriginal and Quaker burials, as well as unused sections of the Jewish area were taken over for the purpose of the growing market place.  In 1917 the final burial in the Old Melbourne Cemetery took place, with exhumations beginning in mid-1920 with only a ‘narrow strip of land affected’, and only marked graves exhumed.  The cemetery was eventually closed permanently by 1922, reportedly having been the final resting place for up to 10,000 early Victorian settlers.  However, with exhumations about to begin contention ensued, as there were many notable pioneers buried within the Old Melbourne Cemetery, who’s resting place would have to be disturbed in order to convert the space into market holdings. Such significant Victorians buried, included John Batman, the founder of Melbourne; Mr James Jackson, the first merchant in Melbourne; and Mr J. H. N. Cassell, the first Minister for Customs.

VPRS 9591/P0/1 Record of significant graves – Old Melbourne Cemetery

VPRS 9591/P0/1 Record of significant graves – Old Melbourne Cemetery – A TOOTAL

By the time exhumations were underway the responsibility fell to the Melbourne City Council, who identified 525 marked graves.  There remains, alongside many others were to be re-interred at the Fawkner General Cemetery, and later St Kilda, Melbourne General and Springvale Cemeteries.  However during further excavation works in the 1990s more remains were uncovered.  And again in 2011 the Melbourne City Council put together a plan for a proposed two-level underground car park at the markets, which brought the history of the site back into prominence, with Councillors arguing that the excavation of the site would not be ‘an issue’ if remains were to be uncovered.

VPRS 17131/P1/1 Correspondence, Old Melbourne Cemetery

VPRS 17131/P1/1 Correspondence, Old Melbourne Cemetery

Within the records held here at the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) is a plethora of interesting information from the Old Melbourne Cemetery, which includes such things as notes on exhumations, correspondence and letter books regarding the Old Melbourne Cemetery and records of significant graves.  These records, along with Melbourne City Council minutes and records from the Board of Land and Works and the Public Works department can be a great starting point to dig a little deeper into the history that is the Queen Victoria Market.

Phoebe Wilkens
Access Services Officer

Records available at PROV by agency and series

VA 4779 Old Melbourne Cemetery Trust

VA 669 Board of Land and Works

VA 511 Melbourne City Council

VPRS 8915/P2/33 Valuation Field Books: Painsdale Place to Queen Victoria Market

VPRS 17131/P1/1 Correspondence, Old Melbourne Cemetery

VPRS 9588/P1/1 Notes on exhumations

VPRS 987/P0/1 Cemeteries, outward letter book

VPRS 9591/P0/1 Record of significant graves – Old Melbourne Cemetery

VPRS 9583/P3 Alphabetical record of burials – Old Melbourne Cemetery (digitised)

Creative Commons and Open Data Presentations

On the 24th October, Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) hosted a short event, showcased two well respected speakers, Mr. Neale Hooper and Ms. Pia Waugh.

Mr. Neale Hooper is an intellectual property and ICT lawyer who worked for over 20 years in the Queensland Government’s Crown Law Office (in the Department of Justice and Attorney General), providing specialist legal services in these areas.  Since 2005, Neale has been part of the Creative Commons Australia team, working on licence revisions and implementation and open data/open government policy development.  Neale was the principal lawyer for the Queensland Government’s Government Information Licensing Framework (GILF) Project, leading the legal work on the project from its inception in 2005. In 2010-2011 Neale was engaged as the Principal Project Implementation Manager for GILF in the Office of the Queensland Chief Information Officer, working on the implementation of CC licensing across all Queensland Government Departments.  He has consulted widely on CC licensing with Government agencies in Australia and overseas and is recognised internationally as an expert on CC licences.

In his presentation, Neale talked about how Creative Commons licensing is being used in Australia, particularly in the government sector, and provided an overview of recent developments (including the version 4.0 international licence suite).

Neale’s slides can be accessed at 
For more information, the Creative Commons Australia page on Slideshare is located at
Ms. Pia Waugh is currently working as a Director of Coordination and Gov 2.0 for the Australian Government CTO looking at whole of government technology, services and procurement. This is in the Department of Finance, itself a central agency focused on whole of government operations.  Prior to that she worked in the ACT Government as an Open Government Policy Advisor and on the data ACT open data platform, the first of it’s kind in Australia.  

In her presentation, Pia discussed what is happening in open data throughout Australia and how it will help government agencies in all spheres of government to do our work more efficiently and effectively. She outlined the improvements and roadmap, and how that fits in the broader landscape of opening up government public sector information.

Pia’s slides can be accessed here  

A copy of the mind map is located at

Pia’s blog on her NZ Open Data and Digital Government Adventure –

Pia’s blog on OKFestival 2012: Open Data, Open Gov & Open Science in Helsinki –

Overall reception received was excellent.  The presentations opened up further dialogue and interest among colleagues, particularly on the use of creative commons and open data and how that benefit government operations.

Why is Melbourne Cup Day a public holiday?

The first assertions to provide for a public holiday on Melbourne Cup Day were made in 1873.  At that time provisions existed to allow for the proclamation of special bank holidays under the Bank Holidays Act of that year and for special civil service holidays under the Civil Service Act.  Although these holidays were proclaimed by the Governor in Council and then published in the Government Gazette, the task of preparing documentation and making recommendations to the Governor was the responsibility of the Chief Secretary’s Department.

On 30 October 1873, the Department prepared the necessary documentation for the birthday of the Prince of Wales (9 November) to be declared a special public holiday under the Civil Service Act.  William Henry Odgers, the Under Secretary of the Department annotated the margin with “Also the “Cup” Day sug[gests]s CS [Chief Secretary]”.  This was duly approved by Chief Secretary James Goodall Francis.  The documentation for the proclamation of Cup Day (6 November) was also added to the Bank Holiday proclamation for the Prince’s birthday.

But this did not please everyone.  The file containing these arrangements (VPRS 3991/P0, unit 710, file 73/C15451) also contains a letter of complaint from the Society for Promoting Morality.  It argued that the proclamation of the public holiday may lead to young men “…contracting the habit of “gambling”.”  It is unclear whether this had any effect but a Cup Day was not proclaimed the following year.  By this time Chief Secretary Francis had vacated his position and this might appear to bear our Odgers’ annotation of the previous year that the holiday was his idea.

The 1874 Cup meeting was the last one to be run on a Thursday.  In 1875 it was moved to the second Tuesday of the month.  This meant the Cup was to be run on 9 November, the Prince of Wales birthday.  As a result civil service and bank holidays were gazetted.

So, did the Victorian Racing Club (VRC) move the day for the Cup meeting in 1875 to a Tuesday in order to take advantage of a likely public holiday?  Or was it soliciting a public holiday irrespective of the day?  In this respect it is worth noting that in 1876, the Secretary of the VRC, R.C. Bagot wrote to the Chief Secretary with the following proposal:

“Will you make Tuesday 7th a holiday instead of Thursday 9th.  Sir James informed me it was in your hand.”  (VPRS 3992/P0, unit 883, item 76/K13038, file 76/K13126.)  “Sir James” was most likely Sir James McCulloch, the Premier at the time.

William Odgers subsequently annotated this item to record that the Chief Secretary had “seen” Mr Bagot but did not disclose any further detail.  Subsequent to this meeting both of the 7th and 9th November were Gazetted as Civil Service and Bank holidays.

From then on the precedent appears to have been set and a special public holiday for the Cup was proclaimed annually.  The extent of coverage of the act was adjusted via these annual proclamations over time and legislation specifically providing for a public holiday on the first Tuesday of November was not enacted until the Public Holidays Act of 1993.

Cup day

Tragedy at Ross Bridge – Irish Famine Orphans

When Catherine Toland (or Tolland) arrived on the “Lady Kennaway” with her sister, Sarah, to start a new life half a world away from her native Donegal, she could never have imagined the tragedy that would occur in her life.
Catherine married Michael Murphy, a Shepherd, in 1850 at St. Francis Catholic Church in Melbourne and went on to give birth to eleven children – only three of whom would survive to adulthood.
It is undeniably tragic to lose one child but to lose eight children – four of them in the one devastating incident – must have been unbearable and enough to threaten any parent’s sanity and will to go on living.
Early one morning in 1863, Catherine left the family’s slab hut with her husband and four children still asleep in bed, When Michael left shortly after, the children – John, William, Elizabeth and Michael James – were all still in bed. At approximately 8:00, smoke was noticed in the direction of the Murphy’s hut and the landowner, James McDonald, was informed.  On arrival, Mr. McDonald found the hut ablaze and partially collapsed and was unable to locate the children. 
He went to where Michael Murphy was minding sheep and, on return to the hut, found that the fire had died down and they were able to retrieve the bodies of the four children – still in their beds.
All this information can be found in the Witness Depositions for the Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of the young children – how heartbreaking must it have been for Catherine to relate the sequence of events that resulted in the deaths of four of her children?
Catherine died in 1899 and left all her estate (which included a town allotment in Kerang) to her sole surviving child, Sarah Ellen Gleeson (nee Murphy).
You can read more of Catherine’s story – don’t forget to follow the link to Records relating to Catherine Tolland to view the rest of the Inquest (VPRS 24/P0000/124 File ref. 1863/149).
VPRS 24-p0-124 ref 1863 149 page 9 sml

Showcase Record – November 2013

Showcase Record – November 2013

VPRS 947/P0 Inward Overseas Passenger Lists 1852 – 1923

Immigration Records:

Immigration records that are held by Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) provide information about the administration of inward and outward immigration for Victoria. The inwards records relate to both assisted immigrants and those who came unassisted or were privately sponsored.

The term “unassisted” was used to describe passengers that paid their own fare, to distinguish them from passengers that migrated under sponsorship schemes, known as “assisted passengers”.

Famous People of the Past on our Unassisted Passenger Lists:

The assisted, unassisted and outward passenger lists have all been fully indexed and are available to search online. When searching these indexes you can find famous people of the past listed. Two of these world famous people are Saint Mary Mackillop of the Cross, who is just listed on there as Mary Mackillop and her profession/calling is listed as Nun, The other famous person is Dame Nellie Melba who is listed on there as Mme Melba and her profession/calling is listed as Lady.


Saint Mary Mackillop of the Cross:

Mary Mackillop was travelling back from Rome, Italy in October 1874 onboard the ship the SS St Osyth. She made it back into Melbourne, Victoria on January 1875. Mary Mackillop, as we all know is a world famous Australian who was beatified on 19 January 1995 in Sydney, Australia by Pope John Paul II  and then canonised and recognised as Saint Mary Mackillop of the Cross on 17 October 2010 at St Peters Basilica in Vatican City, Rome by Pope Benedict XVI.

Mary MacKillop 1_20130723_201190

Dame Nellie Melba:

Dame Nellie Melba was travelling back from Marseilles, France in February 1909 onboard the ship the SS Orontes. She made it back into Melbourne, Victoria on March 1909. Dame Nellie Melba who was born in Richmond, Victoria on 19 May 1861, was a world famous operatic soprano and prima donna. She was one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian era.Dame Nellie Melba was travelling back to Melbourne in 1909 because she was embarking on a concert tour of Australia.

MME Melba 1_20130723_201193

Various Creating Agencies:

Colonial Secretary’s Office: VA 856, 1852 – 1855

Department of Trade and Customs: VA 606, 1855 – 1900

Public Works Department: VA 669, 1900 – 1923


Agencies currently responsible:

Public Record Office Victoria: VA 683, 1973-continued

Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, State Office, Victoria: VA 4369, 1996-cont.

Charlie Spiteri – Access Services Officer

Mark “Chopper” Read – Did he or didn’t he?

Whilst no one should glorify death at the hands of someone else, it is something that is a part of our society.

Mark “Chopper” Read’s final interview, which aired on Sunday 20 October on 60 Minutes, displayed a callous and cold blooded murderer, with a complete and utter lack of remorse. Until Sunday’s confessional, “Chopper” had never been convicted, and therefore incarcerated for the act of murder. He had spent years behind bars for a litany of offences, including armed robbery, assault, arson and kidnapping.  Sunday’s confessional from the grave identified four murders, one of which had been deemed a ‘missing person’ case.

PROV holds inquests and coronial investigation records from 1840-1985, and it is within this date range, which two of these murders took place.

Inquests can hold a range of information, including photographs of the victims and crime scene, witness statements, police statements and any relevant information which may have helped to identify the victim.

Desmond “Dessie” Costello had a long criminal history which included violence and dishonesty dating back to 1943. Costello, a union heavy weight and painter and docker by trade was found dead from gunshot wounds in December 1971.

The first of four murders, which Read confessed to in his final interview, was an organised ‘hit’ and took place in Clifton Hill. Costello’s body was found in an excavation pit where construction was taking place for the new Eastern Freeway on Alexandra Parade. Unidentifiable at first, the body was assessed by a fingerprint expert, who identified the victim as Desmond St. Bernard Costello. Once the identification had been made enquiries began to trace his movements prior to his death. Police hit road blocks when Costello’s associates on the docks refused to assist in their investigations. At the time an election was underway and several painters and dockers had been shot and severely assaulted in what appeared to be ‘shows of strength by the two factions attempting to gain control of the union’. This would come to be known as the ‘Waterfront Wars’.

The final findings from the coroner into Desmond Costello’s death stated that he died from ‘gunshot wounds to the head feloniously inflicted on or about the 12th day of December, 1971 by a person or persons and at a place unknown to me’.

Desmond Costello

VPRS 24 P3 Unit73 Item1973-2095 

VPRS 24 P3 Unit73 Item1973-2095 Image5VPRS 24/P3 Unit 73  Item 1973/2095

Reginald Edward Isaacs was first sent to prison in 1952 for child sex offences.  He was subsequently sentenced several more times for various crimes, including murder.  In his final trial for murder in 1974 Isaacs was sentenced to the death penalty and sent to Pentridge Prison.

In his native Britain, Isaacs had been discharged from the Army as medically unfit on psychiatric grounds.  After his time in the National Service was involuntarily cut short he migrated to Australia, where his family subsequently followed. It would be in Geelong in 1950 where Isaacs’ first attempted suicide by drowning himself in the Barwon River after he started to experience ‘homosexual urges’. And it was noted throughout his lengthy inquest that he had suicidal tendencies.  So when he was found dead in his cell in ‘D’ Division having likely hanged himself, it was deemed suicide and the case was closed. All of the evidence had pointed towards him taking his own life, and with his history of self-abuse it was apparently unsurprising to the prison officers, police, his psychiatrist, prison medical staff and the coroner that this was the eventual outcome of his life of crime.

However, “Chopper” Read’s final interview told another story about the death of Isaacs.  Read ‘confessed’ to playing a part in Isaacs’ death, alongside Charles “Mad Charlie” Hegyalji, a known underworld gangland criminal in Melbourne.  The pair reportedly made their way into Isaacs’ locked cell and beat him to death before tying him up and making it look like he’d taken his own life.

Reginald Isaacs

VPRS 24 P1 Unit45 Item1975-1758VPRS 24 P1 Unit 45 Item 1975/1758

Whether these deathbed confessions by Mark “Chopper” Read, who led a life of crime, are in fact true will be for the Victoria Police to investigate if they so see fit. However, for now, we can only speculate.

To order to view the original inquest records, please click on the below links.  Please note: You must register as a public user prior to ordering this record.

Desmond Costello – VPRS 24/P3 Unit 73  Item 1973/2095

Reginald IsaacsVPRS 24 P1 Unit 45 Item 1975/1758


*Please note that any information obtained here has been done so with the use of the inquests held at Public Record Office Victoria (PROV).
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