Brisbane True Crimes author Ken Blanch, will call on Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie to reopen the case of the 1938 mysterious disappearance of a Brisbane social identity when he launches his latest book nest Sunday November 5 at Boggo Road Gaol.

In Marjorie Norval: The Girl a railway Station Swallowed, Ken Blanch recalls the sensation and the massive police and fatal air force search that resulted when Miss Norval failed to return from a trip to Bundaberg to see a sick relative. He also produces evidence that her inquest was manipulated to avoid a political scandal.
Marjorie Norval was well known in Brisbane – the social secretary to the wife of Premiere William Forgen Smith was driven to Brisbane’s central railway station on the 11th of November 1938 and was officially never seen alive or dead again.
Miss Norval told her friends and work colleagues that she was going to Bundaberg, but had told her sisters that she was going to the North Coast with secret business for the Premiere.
The coroner, Mr J Leahy, concluded that she had died at the hands of an unidentified abortionist. The inquest was held was the first held in Queensland into a case where a body had not been found.
In this book Ken Blanch reconstructs Marjorie’s movements on the night she disappeared and shows she would have exited the railway station unobserved and walked the short distance to the rooms of Brisbane’s most active medical abortionist of the time in Edward street.
Blanch also accuses a former Police Commisioner of failing to properly investigate a sighting of Marjorie Norval the next day at the Doctor’s Caloundra holiday home and uncovers the men who conspired to perjure evidence given at the inquest to prevent a political scandal.
Blanch has published reviews of homicides that he covered as a Police rounds reporter during the 1950s with Jack Sim’s Classic Crime series, but is now self-publishing as Seagle Crime Stories. His new book Marjorie Norval: The Girl a railway Station Swallowed is the first in a series of a small books about unsolved Queensland crimes and is available from Blanch’s website and the Boggo Road Gaol Shop.

BOOK LAUNCH In Marjorie Norval: The Girl a railway Station Swallowed
When: Sunday November 9, 10.30am
Where: Boggo Road Gaol Shop at Boggo Road Gaol Precinct, Annerley Road, Dutton Park
Hear who Ken Blanch believes had a hand in the disappearance of Marjorie Norval Thursday 6.11.2014 on Australia’s longest running true crime show “True Crimes” – presented by Jack Sim on 4BC Nights with Walter Williams. Thursday evenings 9.35pm on Radio 4BC.



Early newspapers in Brisbane frequently carried reports of tragic deaths by drowning in the surrounding waterholes. Many sank to the depths by accident, unable to swim. Others stumbled in to the water drunk or committed suicide.


Nundah Cemetery – the final resting place of Reverend John Gregor

A sad story was posted in a local Newspaper in 1848. Reverend John Gregor was found dead in a Nundah waterhole. John Gregor, ordained as a minister of the Church in Scotland made his way out to New South Wales in 1837. Licensed as minister of the district of Moreton Bay, he arrived in Brisbane on 17 January 1843 with Captain John Wickham, the first resident police magistrate. Gregor was responsible for the whole inhabited area around Moreton Bay, a huge area for one man to manage.

He worked out of a crude church attached to a lumber yard. Under constant financial strain, supervising so many people and day schools his work started to wear him down. His first report, ‘Two Journals of Missionary Tours in the Districts of Maneroo and Moreton Bay, New South Wales in 1843’ (S.P.G., The Church in Australia, London, 1846), was enthusiastic, but the next indicated his growing discontentment. From 1845 he lived at the German station at Nundah, and this further distanced him from the flock.
Theodore Franz, a witness said that Reverend Gregor had been complaining of a headache and the heat, watching him walk down to the waterhole he assumed it was just to bathe and cool off.
“About ten minutes afterwards, I heard Nicquet calling to me and asking if Mr. Gregor could swim. I answered “No” and hurried to the place where he was. I did not see Mr. Gregor there. I undressed myself and sprang into the water and swam to the place where I thought Mr. Gregor might have sank— Mr. Nicquet also came into the water. He felt the body of Mr. Gregor with his feet, but could not succeed in raising him; but after another attempt he did succeed. I assisted to draw the body to the land—there was no appearance of life, although the body was warm. We did all we could to restore life, but without success.”

Do you think it was just an accident? Find out on Australia’s longest running true crime show “True Crimes” – presented by Jack Sim on 4BC Nights with Walter Williams. Thursday evenings 9.35pm on Radio 4BC.


This week the people of Queensland have been amazed with the arrest of two men in relation to the disappearance of Barbara McCulkin and her two daughters in 1974. This 40 year old cold case suddenly appears close to having a solution. One line of inquiry pursued by Police to explain why Mrs McCulkin and her children were murdered, was that she had valuable knowledge relating to the Whiskey Au Go Go night club bombing. Another person who claimed to have inside knowledge was Billy Stokes.

(right) John Andrew Stuart

(right) John Andrew Stuart

37 years ago the Sunday Sun Newspaper published a story titled “ON THE RUN IN JAIL”. Prison officials were forced to transfer an inmate from Boggo Road to Wacol Prison following a confrontation with the Whiskey Au Go Go killer John Andrew Stuart.

In an incredible twist William Stokes, a staunch supporter of Stuart’s innocence turned on Stuart and labelled him as a killer. In February 1975 Billy Stokes published an account of the firebombing of the Whiskey Au Go Go Nightclub in Port News – which he claimed the crime was carried out by a group of criminals known as the “Clock Work Orange Gang”. As editor of this Brisbane publication Stokes used the magazine to publish strongly worded articles supporting the innocence of John Andrew Stuart and James Finch – the two men convicted of the firebombing in which 15 people died.

Hear what Stokes had to say on Australia’s longest running true crime show “True Crimes” – presented by Jack Sim on 4BC Nights with Walter Williams. Thursday evenings 9.35pm on Radio 4BC.

The First Anzac Day: Canon David John Garland

Whether getting up at the crack of dawn for the service, or remembering in silence those who fought and lost their lives in war – Anzac Day has become a huge part of our lives. But not many people think about how ANZAC Day came about or that the originator and architect of Anzac Day ceremonies and rituals – Canon David John Garland is buried in Toowong Cemetery.

Anzac Grave -Garland

Chaplain Lieutenant-Colonel David John Garland campaigned in Queensland for legislation so Anzac Day could be a public holiday for solemn commemoration which was achieved in 1921. Garland was also chaplain for soldiers assembled in Brisbane prior to embarkation from 1915 till late 1917. He then served as Chaplain in Middle East until 1919.

He developed special burial services for those laid to rest at cemeteries and raised funds for memorials to honour those who served, including management of the soldiers’ graves at Toowong Cemetery. He initiated the Anzac Day march, the returned soldiers’ luncheon, the two minutes silence, the wreath-laying ceremonies at memorials and the special church services. He also began a trust to use funds raised from selling Anzac Day badges and ribbons for the care of soldiers’ graves at home and overseas. The ceremonies ad badge were taken up in other States in Australia, in New Zealand and Great Britain. Garland inaugurated an ANZAC Day service at the cemetery in 1920.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Garland’s death, the Friends of Toowong Cemetery has facilitated the restoration of his grave as it will be the focus of visitation over the next four years during the commemoration of the centenary of World War One. Canon Garland’s grave was restored by Queensland Heritage Masonry funded by the Toowong Cemetery Heritage Fund established by Jack Sim.

On behalf of the Friends of Toowong Cemetery, we would like to invite you to observe the rededication of Canon Garland’s grave on Saturday 18 October 2014 at 2pm. The service, led by the Reverend Dr John Moses, will be followed by afternoon tea. Please enter Toowong Cemetery by the main gate and follow the directional signage to the grave site located in Portion One. RSVP not required.

Available for purchase on the day will be Anzac Day Origins: Canon DJ Garland and Trans-Tasman Commemoration by Rev. Dr J Moses and Dr George Davis.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”250″ iframe=”true” /]

Find out more on Australia’s longest running true crime show “True Crimes” – presented by Jack Sim on 4BC Nights with Walter Williams. Thursday evenings 9.35pm on Radio 4BC.


West of Brisbane sits the tiny suburb of Tarampa near Lowood. This quiet rural setting was turned into a 5 mile long crime scene on Boxing Day, December 1961. The afternoon of celebration and time with family was cut short when the killer went on a rifle rampage through neighboring farms and streets killing a couple and severely injuring two others. When interviewed by Police he seemed to have no clear motive – and claimed “I had nothing against the people”.

Victim: Bernard Ralph

The killer was a youth of 17, living with his family on a small farm at Tarampa in the Lockyer Valley. John “Boots” Hobson was the eldest of 5 children, he was deeply tanned and well built from working on the family farm throughout the day. After a row with his father over feeding the fowls, Hobson took grabbed his 22. rifle and stormed out. Making his was through four neighboring farms he shot anything that moved, shooting birds, animals and people. When police converged on the area they followed the trail of dead birds and animals to Hobson.

John Hobson had willfully murdered Anna Freese 58, and her husband Albert Freese also 58. He attempted to kill Mary Jendra, 32 and Andrew Jendrachowski 44. The surviving pair were hospitalised and kept under close observation. Mary, who had been shot in the left side of the groin was in a satisfactory condition. Her brother-in-law Francis Jendrachowski who was shot in the side of abdomen was in a critical conditional and later passed away.

Hobson was charged before Mr.V.L Wilson. He was handcuffed during the court proceedings and only six members of the public were in court. Hobson was taken to the remand section of Boggo Road Gaol where he would serve out his life sentence.

On Monday, 7 March 1966, at 2.10pm, Bernard “Bernie” Ralph, aged fifty, devoted husband and father of three, was brutally attacked in the prison workshops by John Hobson. Hobson had clashed with warder Ralph earlier that day. Working in the boot shop Hobson struck the unsuspecting officer twice on the head with an iron bar severely fracturing his skull

Hobson’s motives for killing Ralph remain unclear, a psychiatrist testified that if Ralph had said “please” to Hobson he would have not been attacked. Already serving life, Hobson had nothing to lose. Ralph died in hospital from his extreme injuries.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”150″ iframe=”true” /]
Find out what happened to John “Boots” Hobson on Australia’s longest running true crime show “True Crimes” – presented by Jack Sim on 4BC Nights with Walter Williams. Thursday evenings 9.35pm on Radio 4BC.

THE END OF “THE ROAD”: Boggo Road Gaol (1989)


As prisoners sat on the tin roof of F Wing Cellblock in Number Two Division for a fifth day in March 1988 Corrective Services Minister Mr Cooper announced Brisbane businessman Jim Kennedy would chair an inquiry into the chaos that was Queensland’s prison system. Boggo Road Gaol was a national embarrassment with rolling riots, hunger-strikes, bashings, allegations of corruption, and roof-top protests by inmates.

end of the road

The Kennedy Report, delivered in 1988, recommended extensive and sweeping reforms – a complete cultural change – away from punishment and retribution – to correction and rehabilitation. Kennedy also controversially recommended the closure of Brisbane Prison – Boggo Road Gaol. Notorious Number Two Division – scene of so much trouble in the 1980s – was the first part to close a quarter of a century ago, on 25/26th September 1989 – the beginning of the end of “The Road”. Number One Division was next, in 1992 (the official closure date). The last section to close was the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre shut in 2002, only 12 years ago.

Heritage-listed Number Two Division is today the only remaining section of “The Road”. Since December 2012 Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd has been conducting historical tours, events, re- enactments & experiences at this historic site. Leighton Property will soon reveal future of Gaol and its surroundings – as part of the Boggo Road Urban Village.

During October 2014 Boggo Road Gaol is holding special events, tours and experiences including prisoner graffiti tours, ex-officer/ ex-inmate tours and book launches to acknowledge the 25th anniversary.
Click here to discover what’s on at Boggo Road Gaol


Thursday 25 September 2014 9.30pm

TRUE CRIMES with Jack Sim – 4BC Nights with Walter Williams On this episode of True Crimes 25years since closure of No 2 Div. This notorious section of Boggo Road, the scene of riots and rooftop protests in the 1980s, closed quietly a quarter of a century ago.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”150″ iframe=”true” /]

Tonight we discuss this, the success of reforms that followed the Kennedy Report and what the future holds for Boggo Road.

True Crime is a weekly program – Tune in for Free!


This year marks 62 years since Betty Thomson Shanks – a kind, thoughtful young woman, was brutally murdered in the Brisbane suburb of Wilston, only a few hundred meters away from her home. It is still Queensland’s longest running cold case. This was the crime said to have stolen Brisbane’s innocence. The Brisbane of the 1950s was a place of unlocked doors, open windows and the belief that women would be safe walking home in the evening – all of that changed within 24 hours of the murder, there were fears the maniac would strike again.
There have been plenty of theories and speculation about this cold case including possible suspects and false confessions. There have been four major theories about who killed Betty; one of them was an accusation that came to light in 1999.

The allegation caused a sensation at the time and was reported on the front page of the Courier Mail. A woman (Desche) accused her father of murdering Betty Shanks. She told authorities her violent and short tempered father Eric had been having an affair with Betty Shanks and was furious she had returned late from a lecture that fateful night.

According to Desche, the night of the murder her father left her with her brother in the family car, just around the corner from the crime scene. Her father disappeared leaving them alone while he flew into a frenzied attack, beating, kicking and strangling Betty to death. Returning home, he stripped off his bloodied clothes and burnt them. The next morning he ordered Desche to clean the car and his shoes.

Desche remembered cleaning off slimy brown material from the car, a substance she now believes was blood.

“I started picking stuff off his shoes with my fingers to get all the bits out of the groove where the leather meets the sole.” she said. “I thought I was picking off mud because it was kind of slimy, brown and other colours. Now I realise it was skin, tissue, hair.”

Detectives investigated Desche’s allegations, but were unable to link her father to the killing. This was a claim many thought would finally solve the infamous murder mystery, but there has been no evidence to suggest his guilt.


Former journalist and author of Who Killed Betty Shanks – Ken Blanch believes the killer may still be alive. Tonight listen to this fascinating story on Australia’s longest running true crime show “True Crimes” – presented by Jack Sim on 4BC Nights with Walter Williams. Thursday evenings 9.35pm on Radio 4BC.

Experience Boggo Road Gaol through Tours and Events


This week we conclude our chilling story of the Haunted Hobo. We take up our tale in the Brisbane City Morgue as the government pathologist examines the body of the victim Harry Brown, who’s life was brutally ended in Victoria Park by a man he thought to be his friend.

outside the Brisbane City Morgue

outside the Brisbane City Morgue

A violent maniac on the lose, police blocked all roads into and out of Brisbane, intent on capturing the killer before he struck again. As the injuries to the victim were revealed detectives knew that they were dealing with a lunatic driven by the belief that ghosts were after him. When they finally captured their man, even hardened investigators realised just how demented the situation was.

For this and more crime & ghost stories listen to Australia’s longest running true crime show “True Crimes” – presented by Jack Sim on 4BC Nights with Walter Williams. Thursday evenings 9.35pm on Radio 4BC.

Experience Boggo Road Gaol through Tours and Events


While notorious characters often gain headlines, internet, TV and radio coverage the people behind them, their families and friends rarely do. Although popular media often portrays criminals as violent, mindless monsters for those that love these men (and women) they are still husbands, fathers, lovers and parents. It is rare to hear about the private life of these unlawful figures. Gloria McSweeney wife of jail-breaker and armed robber Harold McSweeney shared her life with such a man.

Remains of the jail gates after prisoners smashed through them with a truck

Remains of the jail gates after prisoners smashed through them with a truck

22 years ago, Harold John McSweeney – Harry to those who knew him – had become a household name. McSweeney was the mastermind of what became known as the “garbage truck escape”. Along with 3 others he commandeered a garbage truck doing a pick up inside Boggo Road Gaol and smashed it through the front gates of the prison. While on the run, Harry robbed banks and armoured vehicles. McSweeney was eventually recaptured, after surrendering to Channel 7 News presenter Frank Warrick at Crows Nest near Toowoomba. Gloria McSweeney, Harry’s wife was witness to it all.

Harold McSweeney (Left)

To say she is a colourful character is an understatement. Gloria McSweeney has been a champion kick boxer, prison councillor, drag racing driver (she drove a Toyota Celica called “Kickboxer”), hosted 4 Triple-Zed “Prisoner Show” and also a “crim” herself. The defacto wife of Harold McSweeney, Gloria had an intimate insight into the mind and machinations of a man that few ordinary people thankfully never had to know. To her however he was special.

Together since he was a ‘pimply-faced, smart-arse’ Gloria was the most important person in Harry’s life, as he was hers. Gloria carries on her body several tattoos showing her devotion to her husband. Thursday 28th August 2014 on True Crimes we speak with Gloria about her life and her life with Harry

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”200″ iframe=”true” /]

For this and more crime & ghost stories listen to Australia’s longest running true crime show “True Crimes” – presented by Jack Sim on 4BC Nights with Walter Williams. Thursday evenings 9.35pm on Radio 4BC.

Experience Boggo Road Gaol through Tours and Events

Our policy is to allow people who claim a connection with Boggo Road to tell their story, in their own words, without editing so long as it is not libelous or defamatory. Sometimes what they say is challenging and even incorrect as memories can be fallible, however it is still their story. Readers can decide whether they believe her account or not. Relatives do not believe Gloria’s story that she was in a relationship with Harold. Harry McSweeney was married before he went to jail and was still married at the time of his death.


Brisbane has a fascinating Haunted History. Jack Sim manager of Brisbane Ghost Tours loves nothing better than finding old ghost stories and trying to discover whether there is any truth in the tale. A great Brisbane oral tradition is the story of the “Haunted Hobo”. Told by homeless men and Queensland Railways workers in the 1940s, 50s and 60s the story centred on a brutal murder which happened at Victoria Park. While many people still do not believe in ghosts, Jack has found that ghost stories are rarely fabricated out of thin air. Almost invariably ghost stories circulated before the digital age were sparked out of a real incident – a death, tragedy, crime or murder. The hard part is finding that original incident. While carrying out research at the Queensland State Archives, in a musty old crime file, Jack found the answer to this old Brisbane ghost story that he first learned of from his Grandfather in the 1970s…


The spirits told “Darky” to kill

When hobo Harry Brown was found murdered in 1937 police had a mystery on their hands. There was some difficulty identifying him. His fingerprints were not known to them (i.e. he was not a “crim”) and detectives suspected that “Brown” was not his real name. Harry was an itinerant railway worker, living with other workers in a camp at Normanby in Brisbane. Harry had travelled the state in the company of a younger man whose mental condition had begun to deteriorate; believing that he could speak to the dead Harry’s friend became increasingly paranoid. Spirits told “Darky” to kill. The men at the camp were increasingly concerned that their demented co-worker was dangerous.

Close midnight “Darky” brained his friend with an iron bar and cut Harry’s throat. Harry’s mutilated body was found later that night. By the early 1940s railway workers believed that Harry’s ghost lingered near the place where he was murdered. Queensland Railway engine drivers during their training were warned about the ghost which was said to appear on the railway tracks below the Normanby overpass. Engine drivers were advised to slow their trains as they approached the bridge and to keep an eye open for this spirit.

Want to hear about more local ghost stories? HAUNTED BRISBANE contains 13 Haunted Sites and Ghost Stories. Buy your copy on

HAUNTED BRISBANE: Ghosts of the River City - Jack Sim

Experience a HAUNTED BRISBANE Ghost tour on a walking tour or coach tour.

For this and more crime & ghost stories listen to Australia’s longest running true crime show “True Crimes” – presented by Jack Sim on 4BC Nights with Walter Williams. Thursday evenings 9.35pm on Radio 4BC.

Designed By Marketing Eye