BOGGO S2 E11 – The Secret Inquiry
In the 1950s conditions at Boggo Road Gaol were at fever pitch. The prison was horribly over-crowded, prisoners and officers were unhappy. There were riots, protests and regular violence. Finally, late one night there was an escape attempt by notorious violent offenders. This attempt and one officers firm stance would be the subject of a secret inquiry held within the walls of Boggo Road Gaol.
In October 1953, Boggo Road Gaol was at capacity, in fact, it was well over capacity. During the preceeding month… there were up to 60 extra prisoners being held in Boggo Road Gaol. These prisoners were being locked in less secure buildings and even left out of cells and secured in a block.
Two young prisoners were among 20 prisoners that were loose in number 1 division Boggo Road Gaol in the A Wing Cell block. The cells on the three tiers of the block already being occupied the officers had no choice but to simply secure the extra inmates in the block… the prisoners sleeping on the floor in the hallways.
These two prisoners took advantage of this freedom by breaking through a lattice door in the cellblock and escaping into Number 2 yard. It was just as they were climbing over a picket fence into the track that they were seen by guards and rounded up using fire hoses.
In the inquiry to follow, the prisoners were punished with an additional month on their sentence for attempted escape. The officer however would be the subject of a major inquiry. Ultimately it would be decided that he would be allowed to remain in the job, however, his pay would be cut significantly from £702-10 a year to £687-10 a year.
The officer, Waldemar Howard Winsen admitted that he had left his post to go to the kitchen to stoke the fire, and later to the woodyard to obtain more wood before returning to his post.
However, when his Barrister Mr William Boden stated that he was in possession of orders that the officers were required to stoke the fire in the kitchen at night and that since then a memorandum changing these orders. Also that the prison was extensively overcrowded and that the officers lives were in danger. Comptroller General of Prisons Mr Rutherford demanded that the setting for the inquiry be removed from the Public court of Petty sessions to the security of Boggo Road Gaol. Of course, He was in control of the prison, therefore no public or press would be permitted.
The inquiry would then become secret and held behind prison walls. Of course, there would also then be no public record of anything that is said in the inquiry.
The public smelling a cover up… would complain extensively. Eventually, some two weeks later, a secondary inquiry would be held again in the court of petty sessions. However, none of the evidence that was obtained from the secret inquiry would be shared in court. It was dodgy from the start.
There was however a significant outcome from this escape attempt and the secret inquiry that followed. The results would affect Boggo Road Gaol forever.
To find out more listen to BOGGO the official podcast of Boggo Road Gaol. Gaol Director Jack Sim and Research Coordinator discuss the inquiry in full and its outcome.