25 years ago, on Monday 27 July 1992 Corrective Services Minister Glen Milliner closed the gates of Number One Division of the Brisbane Correctional Centre, officially ending the era of Boggo Road Jail Australia’s most notorious prison. In May 1988 the Kennedy Report had recommended the closure as well as a new focus on rehabilitation rather than retribution.

Over 119 years of operation, thousands of men and women served time behind its red-brick walls.

There were many infamous inmates including the “Houdini of Boggo Road” escapologist and jail-breaker “Slim” Halliday and the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub fire-bombers James Richard Finch and John Andrew Stuart. Forty-two prisoners were executed by hanging – the last in 1913.

In the 1980s Boggo Road was the scene of dramatic escapes, riots, hunger-strikes and roof-top protests which led to the prisons official closure 25 years ago in July 1992.

Heritage-listed No. 2 Division – the remaining section of Boggo Road – is as it was when it closed. It is part of the new Boggo Road Urban Village redevelopment.  Since 2012 Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd has conducted guided tours, events and experiences at the historic site.

SPECIAL EVENTS: Thursday 27 July 2017 – 10.30am outside the prison gates to commemorate 25 years since Boggo Road Gaol’s closure + History. Saturday night – Ghost Tours. 28 / 29 July – Hourly History Tours with re-enactments by the Prison Players.


Jail Open 7 Days – HISTORY tour (11am)  

Book Group Tours and Jail Hire / Events





Eighty-Two years ago… The prisoners of Boggo Road Gaol got a very rare treat.  They saw their first ‘Talkie’!  that may not sound like much to you and I but these are men who had never seen a motion picture with sound. Something that today is unheard of with the advancements in technology, surround sound, multidimensional extravaganzas that we see each week…. Not to mention the equipment we have in our very own living rooms and even on our mobile phones!  Some would say they should have never received such an opportunity. Some would say it was about time that prisoners were treated as human beings and witness some of the outside world.  All of this was very controversial at the time…

There were no better films at this time than Charles Dickens’s “David Copperfield”. It was and still is a masterpiece of its generation. If you haven’t seen it…I can highly recommend it.  So this Friday the 7th of July, get out the popcorn, and catch a ‘talkie’… in the comfort of your very own lounge chair.

Or, if you want a truly authentic experience…Join us at Boggo Road Gaol for the Prison Movie Series.  For dates and times visit


Boggo-Road Men See First Local Release of Film

Some Brisbane residents who previously had never heard or seen a talkie, yesterday of seeing such as had the privilege yesterday of seeing such a picture for the first time in their lives.
Unique in many ways was the occasion. For it marked the first showing of films in 10 years at Boggo-road Gaol, and the first exposition of talkies in that institution at any time.

One hundred and ten prisoners comprised the audience, among them many of the most famous criminals in the State – men who had seen nothing but the inside of the gaol since long before the first talkie was shown in Brisbane!

SILENT films were shown to the prisoners about a decade ago, and concert parties have visited the gaol on regular occasions, but many of the long-termers have never witnessed a talking film.

The program yesterday commenced with a colored “Silly Symphony”, after which the film version of Charles Dickens’s immortal “David Copperfield,” which has not yet been released to the public in Brisbane, was screened, and the show concluded with one of the famous Laurel and Hardy comedy shorts.
The effect on the 110 members of the motley audience was astounding. Men like Jeynes, Turner and Fountain-men whose crimes had shocked a nation- sat enthralled by the movements and voices of the silver figures on the sheet as the “David Copperfield” story was unfolded.
Like a well-ordered class of school boys at their first picture show they sat… Murderers, thieves, knockdown men, “con” artists, criminals of all descriptions… laughing uproariously at the antics of the comedians…charmed by the beauty and simplicity of Dickens’s famous creations.
Permission for the prisoners to see the films was obtained from the Home Secretary (Mr. E.M. Hanlon). The Comptroller of Prisons (Mr. J.F.Whitney) was host to a party of visitors that included Mr. Les. Andrews (MGM Films), F Mussared (Cremorne Theatre), G. Campbell (R.C.A Photophone), and Mr. McLeod a Brisbane engineer. “The men’s reactions to the films were a most extraordinary sight. “ Mr. Mussared said last night. “And it was an experience that one doesn’t have very often.

In the front row sat three men convicted of murder. In other seats, were men convicted of other crimes of violence. Yet the effect of the pictures on them was- well as far as was observable, the same as the effect on any ordinary, average, theatre audience.” “Mr. Micawber must have caught their fancy,” he went on, “for every time he appeared they burst into laughter. It was good to think that the pictures helped them to forget their own troubles for a little while, at least.”

Boggo Road Gaol Redevelopment Update 26.10.2015

The redevelopment at Boggo Road Gaol has entered into the next stage.

Calile Malouf Investments, who have the rights for the redevelopment, lodged their development application (DA), on Tuesday 20th October.

Boggo Road Gaol is the last undeveloped heritage site in the inner-city. Its value to the people of Queensland and Australia is immense.

Boggo Road Gaol Pty. Ltd. has held a license to operate tours and events at this historic site, for the past three-years. Boggo Road Gaol Director, Jack Sim – and his staff – have been associated with the jail for 18 years.

To date, we have had more than 50,000 people visit the Gaol on tours, functions and events, Mr. Sim said.

“Over the past-three years, we have developed the Gaol into a vibrant community space”.

“We’ve been in a unique position to gauge the public’s thoughts, as to what they want for the future of Boggo Road Gaol”.

“Visitors and locals want the Gaol to be a major tourist attraction for Brisbane and Queensland – like Port Arthur and Old Melbourne Gaols”, Mr. Sim Said.

To make Boggo Road Gaol a fantastic tourism experience, comparable to these heritage attractions, the remaining cell blocks and cells must be retained, to convey the sites historical significance.

“The proposed markets and entertainment precincts are great ideas. However, the balance between how much of the gaol is adaptively re-used for entertainment, café’s and bars, versus the retainment of cultural heritage tourism is not right”, Mr. Sim Said.

Excellent access for visitors, especially – senior citizens, schools, students and disabled groups – is essential.

The ability to drop these groups literally at the gates, will end with the current proposal.

The Gaol belongs to the people of Queensland. We encourage the public to play their role in Boggo Roads future, by examining the plans and submitting their thoughts.

You can comment on the development application (A004241967), to Brisbane City Council by going to this link

Boggo Road Pty. Ltd. will submit a proposal, in line with the development application process.

We will continue to work with the developers and Brisbane City Council to achieve a positive outcome for all stakeholders.

We have been greatly involved in the process to date. We will continue our liaison, as part of this process, and to share feedback from visitors and tourists alike.

Alternatively, you can contact council directly by:

Phone: 3403 8888


Or Post:

Brisbane City Council GPO Box 1434 Brisbane Qld 4001

You can follow our latest updates at the Boggo Road Gaol Facebook page:

Tours at Boggo Road Gaol will continue to operate.

To book, visit or call (07) 3844 0059.

To view this release online visit


Media Contacts:

Jack Sim

Boggo Road Pty. Ltd. Director

P: 0409 617 394



Kayla Pratt

Boggo Road Gaol Marketing Coordinator

P: 0478 191 901





Boggo Road Gaol will be closing for tours & events late 2015. The Gaol is to be redeveloped in 2016. The heritage-listed Gaol will be adaptively reused and the modern sections of the prison will be demolished to make way for bars, restaurants and cafes. Visitors will be able to eat and dine where prisoners served life sentences. Current plans are that one of the three original cellblocks will be retained in its original form; a new museum will tell the Gaol’s story with artefacts and displays. Please support Brisbane’s history and take a tour of Boggo Road before it closes. This is the public’s last chance to see the Gaol as it is.

Please join our Boggo Road Gaol Facebook page to be kept informed about the Gaol’s redevelopment HERE

Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd will be keeping you regularly updated with news on the development here on Facebook.
Please share this post with your friends.


Jack Sim recently visited the city of Sydney, and explored the Necropolis that is Rookwood Cemetery, – it is literally the City of the Dead and has lived up to its name. Parts of the cemetery are wild, overgrown with a bizarre combination of bushland and exotic flowers, vines, trees and shrubs. Wildlife abounds. It has been the scene of sorrow, reunion, salvation, sadness, tragedy, violence, crime, murder and death.

Rookwood was created to accommodate a growing population, the old cemeteries of Sydney had filled up. It would be a great gothic theme park, designed to entertain the living and honour the dead.

In 1868, far from the city of Sydney (so property values were not affected) the new cemetery was opened to the public. The first burials took place in 1867; the first cremation in 1925. The “crem‟ as it is known is the oldest operating crematorium in Australia. The original cemetery was 200 acres, the cemetery today has grown to cover 699 acres (283 hectares). The remains of approximately a million people are either buried or held here.

Mausoleums, crypts and vaults dot the landscape. Grand gravestones and memorials of the rich and powerful sit side by side with more modest tombstones. Many have been damaged by more than a century of vandalism, neglect or decay.

One of these graves is the Frazer Vault – Built in 1894, this grand mausoleum dominates the Rookwood Necropolis. It once belonged to the Frazer family. The largest mausoleum in Rookwood, this vault was once the resting place of seven members of the Frazer family:

John – died 27 October 1884, aged 57 (founding father)

John – died 15 December 1878

Arthur Griffiths – died 8 November 1900

Sarah & Alice Mary – died 21 February 1901

Elizabeth – died 2 July 1914

They are no longer there.

It was commissioned by John Frazer prior to his death. Born in Ireland in 1824, Frazer immigrated with his brother and two sisters to Australia in 1842. In partnership with them, he built John Frazer & Co into one of Sydney’s biggest businesses.

Though John Frazer died relatively young, aged only 57, in 1884, he died very wealthy – the third richest man in the country, leaving an estate worth over 400,000 pounds.

Before his death he commissioned the building of an elaborate and theft-proof mausoleum to contain himself and his family for eternity – forever. It was never meant to be disturbed. In reality, it was to hold them all less than a century.

In 1974, Mr Mervin Manning, who was then the Manager of the Independent Cemetery here at Rookwood, received a bizarre telephone call at his office.

A funeral director requested permission to remove the coffins of the Frazer‟s from the vault. Apparently a distant relative of John Frazer wanted to have their remains cremated at the crematorium.

The undertaker was merely following the directions of the relative. Unable to believe that anyone would want to do such a thing, Merve decided to meet the person. The lady seemed nice enough – she was the great granddaughter of John Frazer – but determined to have her ancestors removed, no matter the cost.

A whole crew of people assembled on the day that the bodies were to be exhumed. It took a week for the experienced mason to dismantle each onyx sarcophagus. Each had been designed to never be opened after being sealed. Despite this, great care was taken to ensure that nothing was damaged. Mr Manning made the mason number each section in the hope one day maybe somebody would put them back together again.

When the first crypt lid came off a strange smell filled the room. It was not decay for the occupants had been dead for years. It was some kind of gas, perhaps methane. One by one, as each tomb was opened, the sweet smelling vapour, sealed for decades inside the stone vessels, drifted out.

The lady was adamant that every person was to be removed. Armed with records of who was buried there, each coffin had to be identified, opened and matched to the old registers.

When the lids were removed, the coffins inside were found to be in very good condition, but they discovered something unsettling.

A Boring Escape: Joseph Alexander Raymond Valentino (1927)

The name Valentino was making headlines in 1927, nearly a year after the death of silent screen actor Rudolph Valentino. He was regarded by his legions of female fans as the personification of sex. Joseph Alexander R. Valentino, on the other hand, was certainly not in the headlines.

In Boggo Road Gaol for vagrancy, this young man had only just started serving his sentence when he decided it was time to return to the outside world. As he was deemed a low risk prisoner, he was given work outside the prison walls, often unsupervised.

There was nothing sensational about Valentino’s escape. His actions were so commonplace that no notice was taken when he simply downed his garden tools and casually walked out of the prison grounds. When out of sight, he quickened his pace to a run and the subsequent search failed to find him. He did not stay in one place, moving from Spring Hill and the Valley, but he was eventually recaptured in Woolloongabba.

He finished his time and was discharged on the 25th of August 1927 and once again disappeared into the public.


Charters Towers, a beautiful outback town South West of Townsville was once a thriving hub due to the large deposits of gold (the second largest city outside of Brisbane). As the gold dried up, mining became uneconomic, Charters Towers population slowly declined, but the stunning old buildings and ghosts remained.

On the outskirts of Charters Towers sits what the locals call “the old cemetery”, the Lynd Highway Cemetery was established in 1895. This bleak, barren and dead flat cemetery is bordered by a well maintained cast iron perimeter fence and charming front gate. It is the resting place for a number of interesting local characters including Jupiter Mossman who, as the local lore has it, was one of the party that discovered gold in Charters Towers; Doctor Leonard Redmond who discovered Australian Dengue Fever; Frederick Pfeiffer, owner of the rich Day Dawn PC Mine and James Kenniff who was the last bushranger in Queensland.

The Grave of James Kenniff

The Grave of James Kenniff

James and his older brother Patrick were expert horsemen who made a living by horse stealing – a very serious crime.

They were wanted in connection to the theft of a horse. A police constable, Aboriginal tracker and station master pursued the brothers for several days through hard, mountainous country in Western Queensland. Surprising Patrick and his brother James they managed to overpower and arrest them both. As the tracker was sent to get handcuffs from the constable’s packhorse, gunshots rang out and the tracker ran for his life.

A later search found the constable’s horse wandering through the scrub and the burnt remains of the constable and station master. The brothers were tracked down again and following a shootout, both were captured and tried for murder.

Throughout the trial Patrick maintained his innocence and was denied the right to appeal to the Privy Council in London, by the judge Samuel Griffith. Though there was public shock and outcry, the Queensland Government seemed to be determined to see him hang.

Patrick was sent to the Gallows of Boggo Road Gaol, protesting his innocence to the very last. His final chilling words were saved for one man, the Chief Justice, now Sir Samuel Griffith: “I am as innocent as the judge who sentenced me.”

James’s life was spared, but he was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour. Being released in 1914, he refused visitors and lived out his life alone. Some say he was the one who pulled the trigger. He took the secret to his grave in Charters Towers.

Grave of Patrick Kenniff

Grave of Patrick Kenniff

Hear about this amazing 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.

Visit the grave of Patrick Kenniff on a South Brisbane Cemetery Ghost Tour

James Kenniff

Fish in Prison: Riots from a prisoner’s perspective (1980s)

In the 1980s Boggo Road Gaol was constantly in the headlines. It became a place of riots, hunger strikes and rooftop protests. Many of the prisoners were prepared to starve themselves and even die to tell the world that Boggo Road Gaol needed to go. Within No.2 Division, cells had no toilets and running water, food was inadequate, and prisoners were often treated harshly. Compared to the rest of Australia, it was like going back a century.

Over the years there were many riots and protests leading up to the closure of Boggo Road Gaol. In 1983 rioters took over and destroyed the Industrial Division, damaging cells to the point they were uninhabitable for six months. They rioted in D Wing, burning their sanitation tubs, urinating and dropping burning debris on the fire brigade and officers as they attempted to subdue the inmates.

Finally the authorities started to take notice and in 1986, construction of three new prisons was granted and work began to build the Wacol HM Brisbane Industrial Prison, HM Prison Chewko and Borallon Prison. In 1988 the Cabinet commissioned Mr Jim Kennedy to review the corrective services in Queensland bringing about the closure of Boggo Road Gaol, with No.2 Division being closed in 1989.

Glen “Fish”, a former prisoner at Boggo Road Gaol during the 1980s, witnessed firsthand the chaos within the red brick walls: being crammed in exercise yards with 30 other men, the brutal bashings and hunger strikes. On 4BC TRUE CRIMES Jack Sim will be discussing this tumultuous time in the Prisons history and the closure of Boggo Road Gaol.

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.

DUPED BY A CON.WOMAN : Gladys Hardgrave (1935)

On the 24th of February 1935 The Truth Newspaper reported that Gladys Hardgrave was found guilty of astute confidence tricks, after a dramatic legal fight. This short, slim woman with tear brimmed sparkling blue eyes stood weeping as she was sentenced to 37 weeks imprisonment. As she was led to the watch house cells she murmured “to think it has come to this”.

News article from 1935

News article from 1935

At large in Queensland for little over a month, Gladys Hardgrave posed as a gentlewoman, robbing businesses in Brisbane, Caboolture and Southport of more than £123 (roughly $10,670). She was revealed to be a clever swindler, tricking over 7 stores, banks and business people. Purchasing shoes, hotel rooms, clothing by handing them boomerang cheques and simply walking away with goods and money. Dud cheques fell like autumn leaves.

The C.I.B. Branch started their investigation, Detective acting Sergeant “Nobby” Clark, Detective Currey and Purcel were assigned to the task of catching this fraud. They found her in one of the leading hotels in Sandgate, posing as a wealthy widow, with a trained nurse to attend to her 17 month old daughter.

When arrested, Gladys was wild and uncaring, but after hours in court she began to weep with her head bowed. She told detectives her crimes were committed in order to live well and look after her baby.


Hear more about Gladys 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.



Did she kill her husband or was she unfairly executed? (1887)

At 8 o’clock on Monday morning, 13 June 1887, Ellen Thomson was hanged at Her Majesty’s Brisbane Gaol for the murder of her husband. She is the only woman to be executed under Queensland law and on the gallows of Boggo Road Gaol.
But did she receive a fair trial, and did she deserve the ultimate punishment?

ReasonableDoubtCover Author Vashti Farrer’s latest book reveals a tropical Queensland alive with goldrush excitement, and the hard lives of pioneering communities in Port Douglas, from English immigrants to Chinese settlers, all looking to make a better life. Into this world stepped a young widow, Ellen Thomson, who married an older farmer, Billy Thomson. After many years of working the farm on the Mossman River together, on the night of 22 October 1886, Billy Thomson was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head. What happened?

VASHTI FARRER was fascinated by the life and death of Ellen Thomson after stumbling upon her story in the museum at Port Douglas. Initially Vashti wanted to write a novel, weaving the perspectives of Ellen, her lover and her husband together, but instead has created a wonderful work of non-fiction set in the historical and social context of the times. Beyond a reasonable doubt outlines events of that fateful night, the subsequent trial and executions and gives a fascinating insight into life at the time. It also raises the question, was Ellen Thomson guilty beyond reasonable doubt?

Listen to Jack Sim and Vashti Farrer discuss the story of Ellen Thomson 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.

You can purchase Beyond a reasonable doubt at the Boggo Road Gaol shop. Join Ghost Tours Pty Ltd on a ghost tour within the walls of Boggo Road Gaol and hear the story of Ellen Thomson.

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