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William George Bruhn entered the Geelong Gaol on 3 December 1930 for a 6 month imprisonment.  It is Geelong’s connection to one of the more infamous criminal families – the Bruhns

On December 2, 1930, William parked his car in a lane near the railway line in Lethbridge.  In the car was a crowbar, gelignite, fuses, detonators and blankets. The men were waiting for the goods train from Ballarat to Geelong to pass but had aroused the suspicions of the locals who called the police.  William and two other men with him were charged with loitering with intent to commit a felony and each given 6 months imprisonment.

William was the eldest son of Oscar Bruhn and Mary Ann McFarlane.  Oscar and Mary Ann had ten children, all born in Geelong – Ellen (1886), William (1888), Oscar (1890), Edward (1893), Norman (1894), Stanley (1897), Agnes (1899), Eric (1902), Roy (1905) and Catherine (1908).

Four of the sons would spend time in prison.

But Oscar himself, although with no prison time, was no stranger to the courts himself.

In 1908, Oscar was fined 10 shillings for throwing a rowdy spectator over the fence while he was umpiring a football game.  In 1909, Oscar was arrested for assaulting William after he arrived home in a foul temper, throwing a plate at his wife before picking up William up the legs and swinging him around the room before hurling him out a glass window. Then in 1911, Oscar was charged with the indecent assault of a 22 year old domestic servant.  Despite testimony from the young woman, her employer and the employer’s son, Oscar was acquitted.

William was brought up on a criminal assault charge in 1911 at Cressy but he was acquitted at trial.  In 1928, he was charged with larceny for stealing car tyres from the Railways using his position as an engine driver.  For this crime he served 18 months at Pentridge and Metropolitan prisons.

Brothers Eric and Roy also served time for various crimes such as receiving, larceny, unlicensed pistol and being a suspected person.

Roy was known for being a standover man and robber.  In 1930, he was shot in the chest because of a dispute over proceeds of a robbery.  In 1931, their father Oscar was shot in the leg with a bullet meant for Roy after a quarrel over money.  In 1937, Roy was implicated in the unsolved murder of John Demsey who was shot and buried in a shallow grave.

But perhaps the most famous brother was Norman Bruhn.  Norman came to the attention of police as a teenager with minor charges such as riding his bike without a light and offensive behaviours.  Norman enlisted in the army with his brothers and many of them were court martialled during their service.  Norman would be incarcerated for being AWOL in France for several months. It was when he returned that Norman spent time in and out of Melbourne prisons for various offences.

Norman became involved with Squizzy Taylor as a standover man with a reputation of a bad temper and a beater of women.  In 1926, when Norman shot a man and it was feared he would die, he took his wife and children and moved to Sydney becoming involved in the razor gang wars as an enforcer.  He would keep company with the likes of George Wallace the “Midnight Raper”, Snowy Cutmore, Sailor the Slasher Saidler and the albino Razor Jack Hayes.

In Sydney, Normans stay would be short lived when on the night of 22 June 1927, he would be shot and fatally wounded in a sly grog shop.  Norman never identified his killers nor did his drinking buddy, horse trainer Robert Miller.  It was believed the shooters were Tom and Siddy Kelly, Frank Green and George Gaffney but they were never identified and charged.

But the crimes continued down the family tree.  Norman’s grandsons Keith Faure and Noel Faure were imprisoned for the murder of Lewis Moran.  Keith served part of his sentence at Geelong Gaol before being moved to Barwon prison.

The Murder of Rachel Currell

23 February, 1926

Henry Tacke, 65, Importer, was charged in the Criminal Court today with the murder of Rachel Currell, 34, at St Kilda on December 15th.

Frederick George Currell, barman, admitted under cross examination that he knew his wife and Tacke went to Sydney and Adelaide together and that Tacke paid 80 guineas for an operation upon Mrs Currell.  She acted in a secretarial capacity for Tacke.  Currell denied he knew Tacke paid for the upkeep of his house.

Currell said he was awakened on the night of the shooting when in bed on the front verandah.  He told Tacke he could not see Mrs Currell.  They quarrelled at the gate and Mrs Currell said; “you had better come inside instead of making a scene in the street”.  As they were going inside, Tacke hit Currell behind the ear knocking off his hat.  When asked to return it, Currell saw Tacke turn as if to go and saw something shiny in his hand which he had whipped from his pocket.  Tacke fired a shot at Currell but missed and hit Mrs Currell instead.  When Mrs Currell retreated inside, Tacke fired a number of shots into the dark hallway in an attempt to scare Mrs Currell.  Mrs Currell was shot dead and had 10 bullet wounds – 5 entry and exit wounds.

When arrested at Sorrento, Tacke said it was all an accident and he had intended to commit suicide.

In Tacke’s statement, he said he had spent 2500 pounds on Mrs Currell for dinners and theatres and by allowing her 2-10 pounds weekly for the past 3 years.

Tacke had met Mrs Currell in City Picture Theatre in February 1923.  Their friendship developed into intimacy and he fell deeply in love with her.  At the time of their meeting, he was friendly with own wife.  He had lost his whole family of 8 in infancy.  On Mrs Currell’s recovery from an operation he sent her to Daylesford and paid all her expenses.  He was also in the habit of sending out roast fowls and bottles of wine when she was in ill-health.

The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter.

Injury at Pentridge

2 April, 1927

When wardens went to Tacke’s cell as usual, to escort him to the warders library where he worked as a librarian, Tacke suddenly climbed up the bars to a height of 18 feet, then pitched headlong to the stone floor of his cell.  Tacke was conveyed to the Melbourne Hospital in an unconscious state.

Tacke was at one time a well known clubman, member of the MCG and conducted a successful business in the city.

The Death of Henry Tacke

10 September 1927

Henry Tacke, aged 65 years, who was serving a sentence of 7 years imprisonment for the manslaughter of Mrs Rachel Currell at St Kilda in December 1925, died in the Geelong Hospital last night.

Tacke was admitted to the Geelong Gaol on April 28 after he sustained a broken ankle the result of a fall from a gallery at Pentridge.

The coroner held an inquiry today.  Dr Purnell, the gaol medical officer, said Tacke’s ankle remained in splints until the middle of May when massage commenced.  On June 16, he went for a walk in the exercise yard.  Dr Purnell then formed the opinion that Tacke had no desire to get better and malingered at every possible opportunity.  He refused to try and walk and would let himself to the ground at every opportunity.

On July 30, while in the hospital, Tacke rubbed his back on the floors, producing large bed sores and feigned insanity.  Towards the end of August, he refused to take nourishment.  Death was due to heart disease.

A verdict in accordance with the medical evidence was recorded.

September 7, 1869

Yesterday a prisoner named M’Henry, who at the last sittings of the General Sessions was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment
for stealing saddles, made his escape from the Geelong Gaol in a manner which leads to the presumption that he received assistance from outside.
M’Henry succeeded in changing his prison clothes in the water closet, and dolling an ordinary suit, which must have been left
there by some associates. He then eluded the eyes of the warders, and escaped from the neighborhood of the gaol, taking his way
through the town, for some of the cabmen on the Market Square stand, observed him hurrying through the streets, with a handkerchief tied over his head. They knew him, but supposed that he had served his sentence, and was discharged, and it was only on learning different an hour after, that information was given
to the police.  Chase was immediately given, and the runaway was traced as far as the Duck Ponds (Lara), where the clue was lost, and nothing more had been heard of the escaped prisoner up to a late hour last evening.
The reason of his escape would seem to be that another charge
of horse-stealing is hanging over M’Henry’s head, and he probably heard of this, for it is not likely that for the sake of two or three
months he hnd still to serve that he would expose himsslf to a further sentence for attempting to escape.
He is an old soldier, and up to th time of his conviction was the recipient of a pension for services rendered in the Crimean and Indian wars. His conviction for felony, however, had the effect of making him ineligible of receiving any further payments on
that account.

2018 has been a big year for the team at Twisted History!

And we could not have done it without our customers who come week in and week out to our range of tours across Victoria.

In November we were extremely proud to take away the bronze award for Cultural Tourism in the Victorian RACV Tourism Awards.

We continued to be accredited for the third year, one of only 2 “ghost” tour companies in Australia.  This means we maintain a business standard that allows as to use the national tick.

2019 will see the introduction of at least one new tour with the Castlemaine Cemetery tour beginning in mid January with our miner Andrew O’Reilly and schoolteacher, Miss Myrtle!

We have already locked in a range of dates for our haunted hotel tours, with negotiations continuing with a couple more.

Our murder tours will see Chinatown take on a more “ghostly” focus and will see the introduction of a new guide.  Carlton and Melbourne tours will continue as required.

Geelong Gaol will be back with a ghost tour and an investigtion tour tomorrow night (26/12).  We have a new longer investigation planned for later in the first half of the year.  We will also be expecting some special interstate guests around Easter – now to find a cool location to investigate near Geelong!

Besides all this, with our newly vamped website up and running, we are hoping to bring back our regular blog – not daily unfortunately as we have been too busy!  But we will have some new content up in the new year!

But thats enough from me for now!

So the team at Twisted History would like to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  We hope to see you somewhere on a tour in 2019!

On This Day ……. 31st of July 1890

An inquiry into the supposed murder of George Avery, at the Camperdown Hotel, the particulars of which appeared in The Argus, was commenced in the Camperdown Police Court on this day in 1890, Mr. Heron, P. M. , and a jury of five. A man who occupied the same room with Avery on the night the fatal blow was struck, and who disappeared the next morning, was present in custody, having been arrested yesterday in a hut on Mr. Thomas Shaw’s Wooriwyrite Station, about 17 miles from here. He is a man about 58 years of age, strongly built, has a very marked Scottish accent, and gives the name of William Tudehook. For two days and nights the police have been scouring the country in search of this man. They were accompanied by Mr. Henry, the landlord of the hotel, in order that he might identity the man, who had been at his hotel on the previous Saturday night. When the man was seen at the hotel he carried a bush walking stick, but,when arrested the stick could nowhere be found, and he stated to the police that he had thrown it away. At the inquest, Dr. Pettigrew described the nature of the wound on the top of the deceased’s head, which appeared to have beeninflicted by some sharp instrument, and could not from its position have been easily caused by a fall. Some men who were about the hotel gave formal evidence. Senior constable Quinn, who arrested the prisoner, gave the substance of a conversation he had with him. The prisoner stated that when he left the room on Sunday morning the deceased was in bed, and that he did not notice anything peculiar about him. During the night Avery and he had a conversation in which Avery told him that he had had some trouble with his family, but beyond this nothing more passed between the prisoner and the deceased. The prisoner is a stranger in this district, and unknown to the police. He was remanded to the Geelong Gaol, and the inquiry was adjourned until August 19, to allow the police to collect further evidence.

 

On This Day ……. 30th of July 1929

An Aboriginal, aged 74 years, was on this day in 1929 completed two months imprisonment in Geelong Gaol, declined to leave when he was discharged. It was only after several hours of trouble that he was pressured to sign his property out and go. It was the first time he had been in gaol. He looked the picture of health, and, apparently enjoyed life in the gaol.

 

On This Day ……. 29th of July 1913

A very bright service was conducted at the Geelong gaol on this day in 1913, by
Rev. Robert Kelly, who was accompanied by a small party of ladies to assist the music. Thirty-three of the prismiers took part, and entered into the singing most heartily. Mr. Kelly addressed them briefly, and the rest of the service consisted of solos and duets by Mrs. Clias. Fagg, Miss Elsie Fagg, Miss Rita Robertson, Miss Georgo (Miss McDonald assisting with the accompaniments) and hymns.

 

On This Day ……. 28th of July 1926

Royston Rennie, the young Geelong man who is awaiting death for having murdered John Greville, a bank clerk, made an unsuccessful application to
the Court of Criminal Appeal on this day in 1926, for leave to appeal against his execution.

 

On This Day ……. 27th of July

Mr. G. Read Murphy, P.M., paid an official visit to the Geelong gaol on this day in 1911. Amongst the generally orderly lot of old and infirm prisoners there he found few complaints of any moment, and no cases, of insubordination were brought under his notice.

 

On This Day ……. 26th of July

Mr. G. Read Murphy, P.M., paid an official visit to the Geelong gaol on this day in 1911. Amongst the generally orderly lot of old and infirm prisoners there he found few complaints of any moment, and no cases, of insubordination were brought under his notice.

 

On This Day ……. 25th of July 1910

Three prisoners will be transferred from tho Geelong gaol to Pentridge on this day in 1910. Two of them are for discharge, and the other, a man, who was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment for shooting, at Constable Salisbury at Portarlington
some years ago, is being taken down for medical examination.

 

On This Day ……. 24th of July 1910

John Williams, an elderly man, received on transfer in December last from the Ballarat Gaol, died in the Geelong Gaol on this day in 1910. On the 12th instant he had a series of paralytic fits which deprived him of speech, and pleurisy afterwards developed. Dr. Croker certified that death was due to pleurisy and debility, and Mr. Murphy, P.M., who held an inquiry, found accordingly.