Lifers – Frederick Emanuel Lewis and John Wilson

Lifers – Frederick Emanuel Lewis and John Wilson.

Shot her down in cold blood!
The most brutal and cold blooded hold up in Brisbane in many years took place at Pope Street off Gladstone Road at Dutton Park at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Stephens from the Paddington Picture Theatre.

Mrs. Lillian Maud Stephens

Shot her down in cold blood!

The most brutal and cold blooded hold up in Brisbane in many years took place at Pope Street off Gladstone Road at Dutton Park at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Stephens from the Paddington Picture Theatre.

It was 11:30pm on the 30th of January 1932, the Stephens family returned home from the theatre with the evening’s takings. As the family car pulled into the drive way and into the garage they were startled by a loud report.  Mr. Stephens thought it was a blow out.  Laughingly he said ‘we were lucky to make it home!’

While inspecting the tyres he heard a second report and was met with the shouts of “Stick Em Up! Quickly!” and a revolver pointed at him.  He laughed it off and said “Go on, that’s only a pop gun!  Clear out or I will get my own revolver to work! the bandit replied… come on Dick… just hand it over! Clearly the bandits knew the Stephens.

A struggle broke out between the two bandits and Mr. Stephens and his fourteen year old son Vernon. Vernon was holding the bag containing the £75 takings; he was felled by a hit on the head with the revolver.  Mr. and Mrs. Stephens grappled with both men, Mrs. Stephens swung one aside and screamed for help, As she did the bandit pressed the revolver against her chest and fired. She fell to the ground in a pool of blood.

The bandits fled on foot towards Gladstone Road. Mr. Stephens and Vernon gave chase.  The bandits firing at least eight shots at their pursuers, they reached a waiting motor car and escaped firing off a few more shots as they fled.

Not knowing his wife had been fatally wounded, Mr. Stephens attempted to revive her with Brandy. Unfortunately Mrs. Stephens had received a shot to the heart and nothing could be done.  Sadly, their youngest son George, seven, was sleeping inside the house and hadn’t heard a thing.

Mrs. Stephens was laid to rest in the Toowong Cemetery.

Frederick Emanuel Lewis

Twenty Five year old Frederick Emanuel Lewis was convicted of the murder of Mrs. Lillian Stephens.  He was the eldest son of Frederick and Elizabeth Lewis.  Frederick Lewis senior was of Indian descent.  He had a prosperous fish and chip shop on Given Terrace at Paddington just a few doors from the Paddington Picture Theatre and next door to the Paddington Hotel (The Paddo Tavern).  In the trial he admitted that he was the one that shot Mrs. Lewis, and also admitted to the location of the money.  Asking his brother to go and collect it and turn it into the police.   Francis, his brother refused to do so and said that he should tell the police himself and they would send someone to collect it.   He did.


Frederick Lewis died in the gaol hospital on the 17th of May 1944 of Heart Failure.

Arthur Jones, Senior Warder said that he heard Lewis knocking and went to his cell. Lewis complained of pains in his chest and under his arms and asked for an indigestion mixture. Lewis was already receiving medication for heart troubles and was immediately taken to the prison hospital. Lewis had collapsed three weeks previously from similar trouble.  Frederick Lewis was buried on the 19th of May 1944 by K.M Smith funeral directors in the family plot at the Toowong Cemetery.


A few months later, a coronial inquiry was held into the death of Frederick Lewis in front of Coroner J.J. Leahy. His brother Francis was in attendance and gave evidence that he had regularly visited his brother and that he was of good health.  After the evidence relating to his death was heard and the certificate of death presented. The finding of the inquiry was that his death was from natural causes. The inquiry was subsequently closed and a report listed in the Courier Mail newspaper on the 14th of July 1944.


John Wilson (known as Jack)

The younger of the two, a twenty year old labourer; was the only son of George and Kathleen Wilson.   John worked at the Newsagents just down the street from the Paddington Picture theatre.  John was equally charged with the murder of Mrs. Lillian Stephens, and sentenced to life imprisonment.  He was to serve fifteen years of a life sentence.  He was released under remission for good behaviour under a scheme for long termers release after the end of World War Two.

John Wilson was not the person that shot Mrs. Stephens however he set out with Frederick Emanuel Lewis to rob Mr. and Mrs. Stephens of their hard earned takings at the Paddington Picture Theatre.  He states for the Truth newspaper that he only received five pounds of the loot… in fact he had just shy of ten pounds on him when he was arrested.  Allegedly, he won the money gambling.  The remainder of the money was hidden… but as we know the location of that was quickly given up by his co-defendant.

When release, John Wilson turned to the trade that he had learned in Gaol; Tailoring.  He returned to live with his aged mother at Stones Corner.

This Sunday, you can hear more stories from a prisoner’s perspective.  Wayne Weaver, a former prisoner at Boggo Road, will guide you through some of the most turbulent years of the Gaol’s history.   To book tickets for our fascinating prisoner tour 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

Boggo Road Gaol
Boggo Road Gaol