Nine Stories Nine Women -2- Rene Sykes

Nine Stories Nine Women  2 –  Rene Sykes

In keeping with the theme of Queensland Women’s Week 2019 – Invest in Women, Invest in the future.  Talking about financial insecurity and literacy.    The stories of the women of Boggo Road Gaol directly represent what goes wrong when women are faced with financial insecurity and other difficult circumstances.
This year, in honour of these women we have produced Nine Stories Nine Women a series of short stories representative of the different circumstances that women found themselves in.  Rene Sykes’ story is the second of our nine stories…

  Name (with aliases) Rene Sykes – alias Phyllis Sykes alias Rene Prince alias Phyllis Prince alias Phyllis Oro

  Native Place:  Western Australia

  Year of Birth: 1901

  Trade or Calling:  Domestic

  Religion:  Church of England

  Education: R &W

  Height (without boots):  5 feet

  Weight: 8 Stone

  Hair Colour: Brown

  Eye Colour: Blue

  Complexion: Dark

  Build: Slight

  Marks or features: Scar on Abdomen


Rene Sykes, could be described by some as a hardened criminal, however her decline into criminal activity all stems from an addiction to hard drugs and alcohol.  Opium.  A huge problem in the world still to this day. It was in its deadliest form – Heroin that was the drug of choice to Rene Sykes.

Her early life is difficult to trace as her correct name is unknown.  However prior to coming to Queensland in the late 1930s  Rene had been in trouble in Victoria and New South Wales with convictions ranging from  Vagrancy, Theft, Drug Possession and Assault.  All in all, twenty two prior charges.   She had lived on the streets and sadly had sold her body to support her habit of alcohol, then Cocaine and finally Heroin.

In Queensland, Rene was under the watchful eye of the police from the beginning, word being given that a woman matching her appearance was thought to have been travelling with or under the influence of opium.   Of course, this was proved to be true and Rene would do several stints inside the walls of Boggo Road Gaol right through into the 1950s.  Her time inside could not have been easy as an addict, she would have suffered terribly from withdrawal symptoms.

One cannot help but wonder, who was it that informed on her?  And how exactly did this girl of barely 19 get in trouble with drugs in the first place? What pain was she trying to hide?  Was she too a victim of circumstances?


Come and get locked up in Boggo Road Gaol for Queensland Women’s Week! Experience what life was like for the women from the earliest times of the female division in our fully immersive tour experience Join us for a History Tour on the 3rd, 6th or 8th of March to be a part of our very special Queensland Women’s Week events.

Tickets for Queensland Women’s Week are strictly limited so get in quickly to secure your spot.  You do not want to miss this! Click here to book now! 

BOGGO S2 E5 – Victim of Circumstance – Margaret Dove Fraser

BOGGO –  Season 2  Episode 5 –   Victim of Circumstance –  Margaret Dove Fraser

 Nine Stories Nine Women – Margaret Dove Fraser-  1.
In celebrating Queensland Women’s week with this year’s theme “Financial security and literacy”; we have chosen to highlight how the lives of women of Boggo Road Gaol were directly affected with financial insecurity and circumstance.  Over the next week, we will be sharing the stories of nine women in Nine Stories Nine Women. The first of which we are highlighting with a special episode of BOGGO.    In today’s episode we are sharing the tragic story of Margaret Dove Fraser a woman of her time and a direct victim of circumstance. We interview Margaret’s granddaughter Sandra for her story.

  Name (with aliases): Margaret Dove Fraser  alias Peggy Jones

  Native Place:  Scotland

  Year of Birth:  1899

  Trade or Calling :  Housewife

  Religion:  Presbyterian

  Education:  R & W

  Height (without boots) :  5 feet 3 inches.

  Weight: 10 stone 8 pounds.

  Hair: Brown

  Eyes: Brown

  Complexion: Sallow

  Build:  Stout

  Marks and Special Features:  Nil


Margaret was born in Newmains, Lanarkshire Scotland the eldest child of Robert Maxwell Fleming and Marion Dove.   Robert, a labourer was a staunch Presbyterian.  It was this religious foundation that would form part of the difficulty for Margaret later in her life.

The family arrived in Townsville and as Robert found work and travelled down the coast, eventually the family settled in Mackay.  It is here that Margaret would fall in love with her first husband.  James Cole six years her senior.

Margaret and James married at the People’s Evangelistic Mission House in Spring Hill, Brisbane in 1916.   James Cole by this time was an enlisted serviceman in encampment for the first world war.   James one of fifteen children would leave three short months later.  Sadly, he would never come home again having died from wounds received in France.  In the year that had passed, Margaret had given birth to their first child, a daughter.

Now without the support of her husband, Margaret would return home to her family, with infant daughter.  It is important to remember that at this time, young women (Margaret being just 18 years old) had very few options available to them.  They either married or they lived at home with their family or they were on the streets. Margaret would be seeking a husband but, in the meantime, would get by with the help of her family.

It is not known exactly when Margaret met Robert Smith McIntyre.  He too was a serviceman that was wounded and sent home from the First World War.  However, they were married in 1918 and had a daughter.   Sadly, this family too would go through some terrible times.   Robert having been wounded would struggle to find work, however, would be involved on the home front aiding in the war.  Robert sadly was badly affected by the war, having been wounded and gassed he was prone to numerous health concerns. Indeed, he would eventually be admitted to a military hospital in Stanthorpe for treatment.   Over the next two years, he would be in and out of the hospital, however Robert would gradually get worse from complications of Tuberculosis –  A very common disease of its time particularly in returned servicemen that had been gassed on overseas battlefield.

Sadly in 1920, Robert would succumb to his Illness and died from Heart Failure.    Margaret was again alone, this time with two daughters.  Again, she would return home to her family, but only for a few short months.

She would meet her third husband, another returned serviceman in William Alexander Fraser.   Things are looking up, her husband is relatively well, though having been twice wounded and unfortunately also gassed, William was all in all pretty good.

Times were not easy, but they made the best of it having a daughter in the following spring.   This is where things would take a turn for the worst for Margaret.   Whether the couple were not getting along or if it was just the post war depression.   Margaret would give birth to a son in 1925, but sadly he would only survive for five short days.  The family said their farewells at the Toowong Cemetery.

It is thought by surviving descendants that this is the tipping point for Margaret,  she and her husband were not getting along and the sad death of her son pushed Margaret to alcohol to numb her pain.   This is where Margaret began her life on the wrong side of the tracks.

Her first stint in Boggo Road Gaol would come in the summer of 1926 for the theft of money from a purse in a hotel parlour.  Her excuse was that she was under the influence of drink at the time. She was given a fine or in default a two-month prison sentence.  Of course, she couldn’t pay so to Boggo Road Gaol she would go.

Margaret would be in and out of Boggo Road four times in 1926, in all cases for theft to support her habit.   Soon after her last stay at Boggo Road, Margaret would discover she was expecting another child, a son.  It is not known whether Margaret would continue with her addiction to Alcohol at this time, but it is presumed so.   Sadly, their son would only survive a short month after birth succumbing to fever.

Again, this would send Margaret into a further downward spiral, convicted just after Christmas of 1928 for another two months again for theft.  This same situation would repeat over and over again for the next nine years.  Margaret being convicted several times for stealing simple things, like clothing, beads and makeup from stores such as Woolworths and Coles.   Whether it was to make herself feel better, or whether it was for her to sell to support her habit it is not entirely known.

Margaret’s daughters by this time were being raised by her sister and her parents.  However, Margaret was not permitted to see them or have anything to do with them.  She was a convicted criminal and they would have nothing at all to do with her.  Her father, with his staunch, fire and brimstone belief system would not allow this to continue.  Margaret was completely cut off.

William and Margaret Fraser would go on to have two more children who were in the care of their father when Margaret took off to drink.   Margaret was a victim of her time.   Alcohol addiction was rife at the time.  Women being married to husbands that had survived the terrors of war, only to return wounded and suffering from what we would now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, then referred to as shell shock.   These men would tremble and shake and suffer horribly from their ordeal.   This would turn them often into Alcoholics and subsequent domestic related violence would ensue.

It was exactly this situation that Margaret and William would find themselves in.  Foolishly trying to keep their family together but all the while suffering the horrible circumstances.  William was most definitely suffering from PTSD and we know now was also addicted to alcohol.   What a terrible environment to try and survive.

Eventually Margaret would leave William and her two small children.  It is not known exactly why but it is presumed that it was all too much.  With nowhere else to go, Margaret would be found living in a homeless camp drinking nasty cheap wine known as Pinkies by her sister.  All attempts to save Margaret from this life failed.  She was an addict.


Margaret was arrested the final time in August of 1935 for the theft of clothing and compressed powder from Coles.  She received a three-month sentence in Boggo Road Gaol.   William too by this time had lost his battle with addiction and was completely off the rails. The youngest children were placed into state care and would never see each other or their parents again.

Sadly, just two months after the completion of that sentence Margaret was found deceased in a shelter in Victoria Park.  She was just 37 years old.

  Listen to this weeks episode of BOGGO here for free!

Queensland Women’s Week Events at Boggo Road Gaol –

Join us for a History Tour on the 3rd, 6th or 8th of March to be a part of our very special     Queensland Women’s Week events.  Tickets  are strictly limited so get in quickly to   secure your spot.  You do not want to miss this!  Book Now

Remember to check back here everyday for more Nine Stories Nine Women in Queensland   Women’s Week (March 1-9)

For all other Tour times and Prices or to host a Special Event of your own at Boggo Road Gaol please visit 



The Great Escape

The 1980s were the most turbulent decade in the history of Boggo Road Gaol.

Riots, roof-top protests and hunger-strikes by prisoners became the norm. On Saturday 11 March 1989 the biggest mass-breakout ever took place when eight prisoners managed to escape Brisbane Prison.

Officers remember it as the “Laundry Truck Escape.” Journalists called it “The Great Escape.” Prisoners called it the “Boggo Road Fun Run.”

As the prison laundry van readied to leave No.1 Division, 30 prisoners exercising on a nearby oval raced towards the inner hydraulic gate. One got his leg caught as it closed; eight made it into the gatehouse.  Armed with replica guns, they forced officers to open a side door before fleeing down the driveway to a waiting vehicle under gunfire from the tower.

All were recaptured, including the mastermind of the escape Frankie Post, convicted rapist and armed robber.

Blame was laid on the gatehouse officer who was selling raffle tickets at the time of the escape – though this was unfair. He had not received an internal memo issued two days earlier warning an escape was planned. A breakdown of communication and chronic under-staffing were really to blame.

This dramatic escape is now part of Queensland’s prison history…

Come along for one of our very special Escapes Tours on the second Sunday of every month! For prices and booking, click here

Discover more of Boggo Road Gaol’s infamous Escapes with Gaol Director Jack Sim’s book – Boggo Road Gaol Escapes. Find it in our Gaol Shop or click here now!

BOGGO – S2 E4 – Documenting SLIM

BOGGO – S 2 E 4  –  Documenting SLIM

In this episode Research Co-ordinator Sue Olsen is talking with Director Kate Jorgensen about the short documentary SLIM that has been made at Boggo Road Gaol documenting the life of the notorious Arthur Ernest Halliday, otherwise known as Slim.
Kate shares with the audience the process of developing the documentary and we discuss the upcoming launch date for SLIM.


Over the past few episodes we have been sharing a few pieces of the story of Arthur Ernest Halliday otherwise known as SLIM.   In July 2017, a small documentary crew from the SAE institute approached us at Boggo Road Gaol looking for a suitable subject for their short documentary assignment as part of their degree.    Of course, We shared the story of the notorious escapee and convicted murderer Slim Halliday.

Over two months, they researched, planned and executed a remarkable short piece.  Each week having to pitch their story and share their progress to their class.   With the list of films being shortened each week SLIM was selected as the number one documentary that everyone wanted to work on and be a part of.

Kate Jorgenson, Demi Bird, Alfred Naupoto, Euan Paterson and their incredible cast filmed SLIM at the gaol over a four-day time period… and the whole process took a little over 7 weeks from research and development to completion.

In an exciting first, Gaol Director Jack Sim and Former Journalist and Author Ken Blanch shared the story of SLIM live in front of the camera, with the cast and crew creating the visual scenes for the audience.

In this week’s podcast, Research Co-ordinator Sue Olsen and Film Director Kate Jorgenson talk about the making of the film,  and for the first time we can share the upcoming release date for the film in 2019.

Listen to this week’s episode of BOGGO – The official podcast of Boggo Road Gaol – Here

Did you know that you too can hire the gaol for the purposes of making a film or documentary?

For more information on filming at Boggo and for tour times and prices visit our website

The book – Slim Halliday – The taxi driver killer is available for purchase in the Boggo Road Gaol Shop.

BOGGO S2 E3 Partners in Crime – Halliday Exhibit

BOGGO –  S 2 E3 –  Partners in Crime – Halliday Exhibit.

In this Episode Gaol Director Jack Sim and Research Coordinator Sue Olsen are joined inside by Tiana Adair, Museum Assistant from the Queensland Police Museum – our partners in crime.  Tiana is here to promote our new Crime, Law and Justice Trail and to discuss with us a fascinating exhibition at the museum on Arthur Ernest “Slim” Halliday and reveals how one piece of evidence was crucial in the conviction of Halliday for wilful murder – “Peter the Dog.”

Arthur Ernest Halliday otherwise known as Slim Halliday is one of the most notorious characters in Queensland History.   In Boggo Road Gaol we are regularly  greeted with people who know of Slim , Halliday or are somehow connected with his story.  However the majority of Queenslander’s wouldn’t know that some physical items also remain from the story of the notorious Slim Halliday.

It is one of these items that we are talking about today.


Currently under development in Brisbane is a new Crime and Justice Trail. Boggo Road Gaol is one of the four sites and museums on the trail.   The sites each hold a crucial piece of the story of crime and justice in Queensland.  Covering from the earliest of convicted felons in colonial times through to modern policing and criminal justice.

Our partners in crime and one of the most integral sites on the trail is the Queensland Police Museum located in Roma Street in Brisbane.   The 125 year old museum holds an extensive collection of items related to crime and policing and one of the most crucial pieces of evidence in the Slim Halliday Story.

But let’s step back for a second, we know from our previous episode of BOGGO that Slim Halliday was locked up in Boggo Road Gaol for Housebreaking.   Well Slim actually had three major stages in his notoriety.

Firstly, as a product of the great depression, he was a petty criminal – committing small crimes in his early career that saw him spend numerous short sentences in gaol.

Then the second part of his career where in February 1939 – 80 years ago this month he was sentenced to his first long stint in gaol. Five years.    It was in this second part of his career that he would become known as the Houdini of Boggo Road having escaped twice!

And finally the third stage where he was convicted of the horrible murder of Athol McGowan a taxi driver at Southport.  It is for this murder, Slim Halliday was to serve life in Boggo Road Gaol.

In Episode 3 of BOGGO released today, we talk to Tiana Adair from the Queensland Police Museum where she shares with us the story of the most exciting and pivotal piece of evidence this horrible crime.  Peter the dog.

Want to know more of the story?  Listen to the latest episode of BOGGO for free!

Slim Halliday – The Taxi Driver Killer tells the story of the murder in remarkable depth including images of pieces of evidence involved in the crime, including Peter the Dog. The book is available for purchase from the Boggo Road Gaol Shop.

For more information on Tours and Prices visit our website

To visit our Partners in Crime – The Queensland Police Museum visit


BOGGO – S2 E2 – Halliday-The Early Years

BOGGO –  S2 E2.  Halliday – The Early Years

Arthur Ernest Halliday is one of the most notorious characters ever locked up in Boggo Road Gaol.   Eighty years ago this month, Halliday began a five year term with Hard Labour,  his longest sentence to date by far.

Arthur Ernest Halliday is one of the most notorious characters ever locked up in Boggo Road Gaol.

Eighty years ago this month, Halliday began a five year term with Hard Labour,  his longest sentence to date by far.

Halliday had had a long career of housebreaking prior to 1939 with sentences in both New South Wales and Queensland, including a short sentence in Boggo Road Gaol.

But this time Justice Henchmen threw the book at Halliday convicting him of nine counts of housebreaking in the suburbs of Hamilton, Bowen Hills,  Clayfield and Newstead.   The sentence five years with hard labour was Halliday’s first serious stretch in Gaol.

This sentence was to have a profound effect on the life of Halliday.  This is where his life of crime would truly begin.  It was in Boggo Road Gaol where he would meet other notorious prisoners that would lead him on a path of jail break,  escape and murder.

Listen to S2 Episode 2 of ‘Boggo’ – the official podcast for Boggo Road Gaol.

In this episode of BOGGO Gaol Director Jack Sim and research Co-ordinator Sue Olsen discuss the early years of Arthur Ernest Halliday otherwise known as Slim Halliday.  2019 marks 80 years since Slim came to Boggo Road Gaol for his first serious stretch of time. 

Visit to book tours and events.



BOGGO S2 E1 – Sneak Peek of 2019

‘BOGGO’ – S2 E1.  Sneak Peek of 2019.   

Happy New Year to our listeners and readers alike.   It is fantastic to be finally back for a second season of ‘BOGGO’ the official podcast of Boggo Road Gaol – recorded live inside its walls.


Happy New Year to our listeners and readers alike.   It is fantastic to be finally back for a second season of BOGGO the official podcast of Boggo Road Gaol – recorded live inside its walls.

2019 has a number of significant anniversaries and special events.  We thought perhaps you would like a sneak peek of what we will be discussing this year and for the first time, you will get to influence what we talk about!  There will be more special guests this season too!

Here are just a few of the exciting events that are coming up this year!


The 80th Anniversary of Arthur Ernest Halliday or Slim as he was known doing his first long stretch at Boggo Road.  Five Years for Housebreaking.   Slim is a notorious character.  This month we explore his story a little closer.


Queensland Women’s Week and International Women’s Day.   Look out for a series of events promoting Boggo Road Gaol from a female perspective.

March is also the 30th Anniversary of the Boggo Road Gaol “Fun Run” the greatest mass escape in the Gaol’s history.  It is also the 90th Anniversary of the construction of the Prison Workshops… constructed in 1929 these buildings formed an essential part of prison life.


The Colossus of Boggo Road Gaol – 30th years since Nathan Jones was sent to Boggo Road.  Nathan has gone on to make a successful life in Hollywood for himself.  Keep an eye out for this giant character in April!

For more about what is happening at Boggo Road Gaol in 2019 Listen to S2 E1 of BOGGO 
Gaol Director Jack Sim and Research Co-ordinator Sue Olsen talk about this year’s special anniversaries and important dates.  They also reveal some of the stories that will be covered in this season of BOGGO.
Visit to book tours and events.

‘BOGGO’ – EPISODE #12 – Christmas at Boggo

‘BOGGO’ – EPISODE #12 – Christmas at Boggo.

Salvation Army band at Boggo Road Gaol

Christmas is a magical time of year.  Just as it is on the outside, the prisoners in Boggo Road Gaol, received special gifts as part of the celebration of Christmas.

Prisoners received an extravagant meal, one far beyond their normal rations.

Here is an example of a menu from  1949


Regular prisoners’ rations


12 oz (340 grams) Chops – Breakfast

1 lb (450 grams) Roast Beef – Main Meal (Lunch)

1 lb (450 grams) Plum Pudding

12 oz (340 grams) English Potatoes and Vegetables

Extra Tea

Extra Sugar

Extra Bread

Tobacco Ration increased from 2oz to 4oz in Christmas Week.  (56 grams to 113 grams)

While the prisoners were excited about the extra food, it was the extra tobacco ration that was the gift of the season.   You see, Tobacco is the currency inside prison.  Tobacco is used to pay for everything, from a new toothbrush, to passing a message to a mate in a different section, even sneaking a message to the outside.   Tobacco rations were everything to the prisoner… and having double the ration… well that was gold, Literally.

Prisoners were entertained too!  The Salvation Army Band attended the prison each year, providing the prisoners with musical accompaniment for their Christmas concert.

To hear more about Christmas inside.. Listen to Episode #12 of ‘Boggo’ – the official podcast for Boggo Road Gaol.


In this episode Gaol Director Jack Sim and Research Coordinator Sue Olsen, discuss what life was like for the Prisoners of Boggo Road at Christmas and how they were permitted rare privileges reserved for special occasions.


Visit to book tours and events.


“BOGGO” Episode #11 – An officer and gentleman – Frank ‘Trooper’ Hills

‘Boggo’ Episode # 11 – An officer and gentleman – Frank ‘Trooper’ Hills.   

An officer and  gentleman – Frank ‘Trooper’ Hills

Frank Hills known as ‘Trooper’ was an officer and a gentleman in the truest sense of the word.  A Boer War and World War One veteran twice wounded at Gallipoli and again in the Somme in France.  Trooper rose through the military ranks to Regimental Sergeant Major, the highest ranked non-commissioned officer in the Australian Army.    Trooper survived the war to become a prison officer and eventually would become involved in one of the greatest conspiracies to kill in Boggo Road Gaol History. The infamous Cyanide Plot.

The Cyanide Plot

Perhaps the most interesting and sensational time of Trooper’s career at Boggo Road was the discovery of the Cyanide Plot of 1940.   A prisoner smuggled a deadly vial of Cyanide under his armpit into Boggo Road Gaol.  It only being discovered on a pat down search of the prisoner before putting him in his cell.   The prisoner shouted to the officers “For god sake tell that man not to open that vial and smell it – it will knock him _____ out”.  It was soon discovered that the vial contained enough Cyanide to kill 50 people!



Listen to Episode #11 of ‘Boggo’ – the official podcast for Boggo Road Gaol.

In this episode, Director Jack Sim, and Research Coordinator Sue are talking about the fascinating life of an officer and gentleman – Frank ‘Trooper’ Hills.

Visit to book tours and events.






“BOGGO” Episode #9 – Victims of Vice

‘BOGGO’ – EPISODE # 9 – VICTIMS OF VICE –The tragic tale of Juett sisters.

Lily Juett

Lily and Minnie Juett were sisters born in Bundaberg, the middle of eight children, in quite an impoverished family.  As soon as they were old enough to pull their weight, the children did work of some sort.   Unfortunately, the family was split up, the father getting into a bit of trouble and ending up in prison.  The children were packaged off to various farms and domestic work.  The girls were sent to work in some of the finest homes in Bundaberg, as domestics.

Lily and Minnie were not too fond of that type of work and really just wanted to be teenagers and have some fun.  Around twelve and fourteen at the time. They weren’t in their new profession very long.  They both got into trouble for stealing from their respective employers and for some improper conduct and general misbehaviour.

Both of them knew that they could not return home, there was nowhere to go anyway. So, they ended up turning to the streets to make their living, they were indeed victims of vice.

Young women in this time, were commonly on the streets, when orphaned or unable to live at home for whatever reason.  Those that exploited these women are often given little more than a fine and a slap on the wrist. The women were not so lucky and found themselves in front of the Court.

Lily and Minnie worked hard and saved their money, occasionally pinching a extra bit from their drunken clientele.  After some time had passed, they managed to pay their fare on a coastal ship to Brisbane. Hoping to change their futures for the better…


Listen to Episode #9 of ‘Boggo’ – the official podcast for Boggo Road Gaol.

In this episode, Research Co-ordinator Sue, and Researcher and Prison Player Anique are going to be talking about the research project currently being undertaken on the female division and we will share with you the tragic tale of the Juett sisters – The Victims of Vice.


Visit to book history tours and events.



Designed By Marketing Eye