Escape! Benjamin Metcalfe
ESCAPE! Benjamin Metcalfe
Just before 9am on Thursday 21st February 1924, Benjamin Metcalfe was at his usual work in the bookmaker’s shop when he decided it was time to escape from gaol.
ESCAPE! Benjamin Metcalfe
Alias: George Benjamin Mitchell
Crime: Stealing, Break and Enter, Burglary.
Sentence: 7 Years with hard labour
Escaped: Thursday 21st February 1924
From: HM Prison for men Brisbane (later known as No 2 Division Boggo Road Gaol)
Just before 9am on Thursday 21st February 1924, Benjamin Metcalfe was at his usual work in the bookmaker’s shop when he decided it was time to escape from gaol. He approached the officer on duty and asked permission to leave his work to attend the sick ward at the hospital. For some reason, this was granted, and he was allowed unescorted to leave the shop. He scaled a fence at the back of the kitchen and gathered his fashioned rope ladder and threw it over the wall. Hooking it on the rail of the tower he quickly scaled the wall and disappeared. Sightings over the coming hours had him heading in the direction of Beaudesert.
No one missed Metcalfe until around 1pm when it became panic stations. Every officer was engaged in looking for him. The escape was reported to the police, but was kept from the public until the following day.
He wasn’t free for long however, as Metcalfe was recaptured just two days later at Logan Village.
Thirty feet in length, the rope was made of 24 strands of shoemaker’s cotton twine which was twisted and coated with bees wax. This made a light cord with great strength.
The rungs were of pine, neatly rounded to half inch thickness, about six inches in length. Apparently these were made out of the ends of kerosene cases.
The cord was carefully wound round each several times and further secured by a nail.
For the grappling hook, the handle of a cell bucket had been commandeered and was weighted with a cobblers hammer.
Metcalfe worked in the bookmaker’s shop and had ready access to the requirements of the ladder; however, it still would have taken months to squirrel away the pieces of his incredible creation.
But how did he construct it and keep it hidden from the authorities? That was the subject of a board of enquiry. Five officers were suspended until the enquiry, two found guilty of negligence and carelessness in discharge of their duty.
The tower which was unattended too had been a source of controversy. Ultimately the Home Secretary Shopford accepted the blame for the tower being unattended. Still, he had numerous questions on how an escape of this kind could happen in broad day light. The tower, at the end of the day, was unguarded due to budget cuts.
Bad from Boyhood
Metcalfe was certainly no angel, he had been in trouble from a young age, skipping school and running away from home at twelve. This was just the beginning of a lifelong career afoul of the law. At twelve and a half Metcalfe was sentenced to five years in Westbrook Industrial home for stealing a purse. Eventually he saw his first year in prison in 1908 this time for Burglary.
With the exception of his two years away in the army during World War One (even during that he misbehaved) he didn’t spend much longer than a month or two at a time out of gaol.
Somehow, he managed to meet and find a girl to marry and have two children. When he wasn’t in gaol, it seemed he was with either his family or staying with his mother.
His last known sentence at Boggo Road Gaol was for selling sly grog during World War Two. He was living with his mother at Albion at the time. The sentence was short (for him) just six weeks.
His mother died in 1950, after the funeral, he travelled south to Scone, New South Wales to visit family. Metcalfe died there just a few months later.
Want to see where Metcalfe went over the wall? You can! Join us for our Escapes tour this Sunday!
Hosted by Director Jack Sim, you will hear of some of the greatest escape stories from the history of Boggo Road Gaol. To book click here
This article was contributed by Research Coordinator Sue Olsen as part of the ongoing research program for Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd. The aim of the program is to bring to light and share articles relating to Boggo Road for the purposes of review and study. Do you have a story to share or something you would like us to know about? You can contact the research team here