Arthur Ernest Halliday – Notorious Burglar and Gaol Breaker
Derwent Evans Arkinstall- Convicted Murderer
Victor John Travis – Gunman and Housebreaker
They were three of the most desperate men to ever be incarcerated in an Australian prison, each determined as the other to get out of jail.
Seventy years ago, on the afternoon of Wednesday, 11th of December 1946 they accomplished the inconceivable – they broke out of the confines of His Majesty’s Prison a.k.a Boggo Road Jail.
The people of Brisbane and Southern Queensland lived in fear as the three dangerous fugitives roamed freely about the countryside. Despite a massive police search they remained at large long enough to create for themselves a legendary place in the nation’s criminal past.
Travis, 20, was keen to get home to his family instead of working in the prison storeroom. There, using the jet on a gas stove he bent a piece of metal into a curved hook, to this he secured a piece of clothes line – ready to use for getting over the prison wall. Travis then put together a set of worn warders’ shirts and trousers that had been returned to the storeroom – so that each of the three escapees would have “normal” clothes, allowing them to blend in once they were out.
“Slim” Halliday, 25, a hardened criminal and experienced escapologist after his successful gaol-break in January 1940, identified where the trio were going to escape from – over the corner wall of the workshops, merely 15 yards (13 metres) from “Halliday’s Leap” – the name given to the spot where he had escaped six years earlier – a “blind spot” where observation from the towers was impossible.
Incredibly, despite the furore over his one-man escape in 1940, the security of this part of the prison had not been improved.
Arkinstall, 25, was the final element needed. He saw Travis and Halliday regularly on his rounds from the library in Number Two Division to Number One Division. He had money – a “roll” of notes and some silver coins stashed in books in the library, smuggled in to him from the outside. Armed with money, they could buy supplies and sit tight somewhere. Seven years earlier Akinstall had murdered an elderly taxi-driver. The desperate killer, not wishing to grow old in prison, talked himself into Travis’ and Halliday’s scheme.
They chose Wednesday, 11 December, 1946 to go. Wearing their “civilian clothes” under their prison garb, the three avoided guards and met by the prison storeroom. They waited silently, fearing discovery at any moment. They had a mere five minute window of opportunity. They needed to go over the wall before the 4pm muster of inmates in the yards, when they would be discovered missing, but only after the 3.55pm patrol returned with prisoners from the garden on the other side of the section of wall they were going to breach.
Swiftly they assembled their equipment, throwing the pipe hook over the top of the wall. It held and they scrambled over one by one, unseen. On the other side, they pulled off their prison garb and took flight. Within minutes their absence was discovered and armed guards began pouring out of the jail. Their clothes were still warm when found. The jail Christmas party had to be cancelled.
Outside the walls the three men moved fast. They caught a taxi to the Northside of Brisbane and even tipped the driver.
What followed was one of the greatest police hunts in Queensland’s history. Police warned residents to lock themselves in. Taxi-drivers feared for their lives given Arkinstall’s previous crime and armed themselves.
Officers and warders, armed with revolvers, scoured Southern Queensland for the men, believing that they would have separated. Disused houses and buildings, caves, grasslands, swamps and forest were closely watched and searched.
Click image to read full article on trove
Arkinstall and Halliday were recaptured four days later. Though handcuffed to Halliday by his right wrist, Arkinstall stupidly made a grab with his left hand for Detective Sergeant Bill Cronau’s revolver: ‘You can’t blame a man for trying, can you?’
Asked why he escaped again Halliday replied: ‘A man’s liberty means everything to him. You can’t blame a man for trying…’ was the gaol-breaker’s poignant reply. Arkinstall added: ‘I am doing life. I have nothing to lose.’
Travis was not recaptured until Christmas Day at the Redbank military camp. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/49363771?searchTerm=halliday%20arrest%20arkinstall&searchLimits=l-decade=194|||l-title=12
In March 1953, Halliday would return to Boggo Road after being found guilty of the vicious murder of a taxi driver at Southport, for which he received life imprisonment. He would continue to try to escape to no avail. He was finally released in 1976 aged 66 years, by which time he had gained legendary status, the only man to that time to have escaped Boggo Road’s Number 2 Division twice.
Arkinstall did not die in prison as he had feared. He was released from Boggo Road Gaol at the age of sixty-two, believed at the time to be the longest serving prisoner in Queensland history. Victor John Travis was released at the end of his sentence and was reunited with his family.
The section they escaped from – the prison workshops – were demolished in the 1970s. However Halliday’s Leap came still be seen.
To visit the cell of Slim Halliday book your History of Boggo Road Gaol Tour via link: https://boggoroadgaol.ticketleap.com/history-of-boggo-road-gaol-tour-2015-2016/
Private group bookings of 20 or more are also welcome, please call 0411 111 903 to arrange your tour.
Want to learn more about the daring escapes from Boggo Road Gaol?
The Escapes Tour – How did they do it? This new tour of Boggo Road Gaol examines in detail some of the dramatic escapes from No 2 Division. We visit the actual places where desperate men implemented their plans and went over the wall.
Hear about the characters, their backgrounds and the equipment they used. The ESCAPES tour includes the two gaol-breaks by “Slim” Halliday – the Houdini of Boggo Road – in his time Australia’s greatest escapologist! The Tour is based on the book BOGGO ROAD GAOL ESCAPES Volume 1 written by Jack Sim, Director of the historic prison.
To book your Escapes Tour – click HERE
Boggo Road Gaol Escapes Vol 1
Boggo Road Gaol – ESCAPES Volume One is a comprehensive collection of the thirteen gaol-breaks between 1883 & 1949. Boggo Road Gaol – ESCAPES Volume One is extensively researched and includes over 50 original images, many never before published, revealing the criminal characters who pitted their minds and wits against the system to regain freedom at any cost.
Boggo Road Gaol – ESCAPES Volume One includes rare in-text images including mugshots of each escapee gathered from police records, authentic black and white newspaper images from the early twentieth century, as well as photographs from state library collections. Essential to every serious crime buff’s library.
Boggo Road Gaol Escapes Vol 1 is available for purchase online or within the Gaol Shop. RRP $25.00