Unsolved Great Bookie Robbery

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Bunk Moreland

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Can’t really have a crime board without this one. In terms of Australian heists, nothing comes close. And although the perpetrators are widely known, it’s technically still unsolved, with no conviction ever recorded.

On 21st April 1976, after another successful day, dozens of Melbourne bookmakers were winding down and settling up at the Australian Jockey Club on Queen St. Six heavily armed men burst into the club, took everybody hostage, and relieved them of every last cent in the room. Although the figure reported stolen was $1.4m, it’s widely believed that the total take was as high as $15m – that’s around $90m in today’s money. Bookies being bookies, amounts disclosed to authorities tend to vary wildly from the actual take.

The crew had rented an office in the building a few months earlier, from which they planned the robbery and staked out the eventual crime scene, even (according to some legends) running full dress rehearsals whilst the building was empty on public holidays.

On the day, an inconspicuous repairman arrived at the foyer of the building to attend to a leaking fridge in the Jockey Club. His real job was to stake the room and wait for the bookies and their cash (delivered via armoured truck) to arrive. Once the scene was set, he slipped downstairs and let his accomplices in - five burly men cloaked in masks and overalls, all brandishing automatic weapons.

The thieves quickly took control of the room, taking everybody hostage. Two men kept the room at gunpoint, whilst the remaining four broke into the padlocked cash boxes with bolt cutters and transferred the loot into large calico bags. In terms of armed robbery, it was extremely efficient – the whole thing was over in under 10 minutes, with no perpetrators or hostages injured.

What happened next is the subject of some debate. There’s no doubt that at least four of the crew quickly piled into a van waiting in the street, and sped off with the cash in hand. However it’s believed that this was a ruse to fool police and anybody seeking swift recovery of their dough – the bags on board the van were actually empty, and the actual bags were hidden in the rented office upstairs, and quietly spirited away weeks later.

Ultimately, nobody was caught that day, no cash was ever officially recovered, and nobody ever convicted of the crime. The gang is believed to have consisted of six career criminals:

Ray Chuck-Bennet: the leader and mastermind of the gang. After being arrested on a minor charge in 1979, Chuck-Bennet was famously executed by an unknown gunman posing as a journalist, on the steps of a city courthouse whilst in police custody. Brian Kane was the main suspect in his murder, though rumours pointed to a conspiracy involving senior members of the Victorian Police.

Les Kane: violent standover man and well-known member of the Melbourne underworld. Thought to have demanded a larger slice of the proceeds from Bennet after the robbery. Reputedly murdered by Bennet and others after his demands became more and more violent, his body was never found, and nobody was ever convicted of his murder.

Brian Kane: brother of Les. Thought to have murdered Bennet in retaliation for the killing of his brother. Murdered in an underworld execution in 1982.

Ian Carrol: also shot and killed execution-style in 1982.

Laurence Prendergast: mysteriously disappeared in 1985. Not seen since, and no body ever recovered.

Norman Lee: the only member of the gang ever charged with the robbery. He was acquitted on a lack of evidence. Shot dead by police during another armed robbery attempt at Melbourne Airport in 1992. It’s from Lee’s lawyer, Phillip Dunn, that we know much of the detail regarding the robbery. With all of the assailants were either confirmed or believed dead, he eventually publicly disclosed what he knew of the heist.

The mystery of what ultimately became of the considerable loot remains. With the perpetrators so well known in the Melbourne underworld, it’s thought the majority was passed on in “tax” to angry standover men and corrupt senior police, irate that such a daring heist was pulled right under their noses and without their “permission”. Another theory is the gang eventually came to an agreement with victims to return much of the money, in exchange for the bookies refusing to co-operate with any investigation. One conspiracy theory, citing the lack of security and resistance from the victims, even has it that the whole episode was an elaborate stage show planned by the bookmakers in order to vastly reduce their official turnover in the eye of increasing attention from the Australian Tax Office.

Whatever the fate of the cash, it remains one of the most famous and daring crimes in Australian history.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Bookie_Robbery

http://www.progroupracing.com.au/horse-racing-articles/great-bookie-robbery
 

bunsen burner

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I can't believe the Underbelly franchise is serving up sh*t like Razor and Squizzy when they should be doing TGBR and Mad Dog Cox. Mad Dog Cox was brought into Chuck Bennett's crew. There was nothing made about him - he was calm as cucumber. Had a bevy of disguises and escaped jail at one point.

There was a movie made in about 1984 called TGBR.

Gary Sweet
Alf Stewart as one of the Kane brothers.
They had a character called Cracka Park who was based o Russel Mad Dog Cox. They didn't use the real names.

Worth finding the torrent and d/l'ing it.
 

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CAS79

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Les Kane: violent standover man and well-known member of the Melbourne underworld. Thought to have demanded a larger slice of the proceeds from Bennet after the robbery. Reputedly murdered by Bennet and others after his demands became more and more violent, his body was never found, and nobody was ever convicted of his murder.
I've heard one of the detectives called in to review this case after umpteen years speak of what they surmise to Les Kane and it involved a business partner of Norman Lee. After been shot dead he was taken to the Mernda abattoir and minced up and mixed up with the crappy processed offal and packed into various small good containers and plastic food bags trucked out for disposal in various parts of the state as spoiled product. The drivers did not know what they were carrying,
 

bunsen burner

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I was under the impression that the Kane's were not in Bennett's crew and were not part of TGBR. I thought they were just pissed because they felt they controlled crime in Melbourne and deserved a cut of every job so tried to standover Bennett's crew.
 

Bunk Moreland

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I was under the impression that the Kane's were not in Bennett's crew and were not part of TGBR. I thought they were just pissed because they felt they controlled crime in Melbourne and deserved a cut of every job so tried to standover Bennett's crew.
I think an Underbelly episode presented a “version” of TGBR in which this was the case (the Kanes not being a part of the original job). Apparently this version is fiction however. I haven’t seen it though, maybe somebody else has.
 

bunsen burner

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I think an Underbelly episode presented a “version” of TGBR in which this was the case (the Kanes not being a part of the original job). Apparently this version is fiction however. I haven’t seen it though, maybe somebody else has.
I'm not sure what is true and what is not by multiple sources claim the Kane's weren't in on it. This is the first time I've heard someone claim they were.
 

MC Extra Dollop

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I was under the impression that the Kane's were not in Bennett's crew and were not part of TGBR. I thought they were just pissed because they felt they controlled crime in Melbourne and deserved a cut of every job so tried to standover Bennett's crew.
That was my understanding. The Kanes were standover men who found out who committed the robbery and demanded a cut of the take. Like Chopper Read standing over drug dealers and massage parlours, really.
 

bunsen burner

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That was my understanding. The Kanes were standover men who found out who committed the robbery and demanded a cut of the take. Like Chopper Read standing over drug dealers and massage parlours, really.
I just read two different articles saying they were in on it. Wiki isn't really reliable, can't remember what the other one was but they said there was no doubt the Kane's were in.

Andrew Rule is another who claims they were out.

Chuck and the Kanes were generally enemies. Not sure if the Kanes would have copped playing second fiddle on a job.
 

skilts

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I once met Laurie Prendergast, a few years before these events. We went out on a blind date together. No, not like that. There were three of us blokes and three women. My 'date' was one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. She being a tragic prude from Tasmania, we didn't get on. A few months later I attended a farewell party to celebrate her return to Tasmania. I went to the party to make sure she left Victoria. At this party, I met my future wife.

Laurie Prendergast was probably the most thoroughly evil man I've ever met. Even in a social setting (we went to listen to a band at The Station Hotel, in Greville St, Prahran that night), his eyes would roll back in his head, presenting a truly manic visage, for no predictable or apparent reason.

A few years later, I heard from somebody who knew, that when Laurie and those two other blokes machine-gunned one of the Kanes (can't be bothered to find out which one), Kane's missus had the nous not to report the crime for 24 hours, allowing the perpetrators an alibi. They had shut her and her kids in a bedroom while they removed her husband's remains, which were never found.
 

Bunk Moreland

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I just read two different articles saying they were in on it. Wiki isn't really reliable, can't remember what the other one was but they said there was no doubt the Kane's were in.

Andrew Rule is another who claims they were out.

Chuck and the Kanes were generally enemies. Not sure if the Kanes would have copped playing second fiddle on a job.
I believe Lee's lawyer named the Kanes as being in on the job. Having said that, even if thats the case its still second hand info. So yeah hard to know.
 

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CAS79

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That was my understanding. The Kanes were standover men who found out who committed the robbery and demanded a cut of the take. Like Chopper Read standing over drug dealers and massage parlours, really.
it's almost certain the Kanes stood over Bookies too or debt collected from bookies who owed there paylords, or the Kanes masters old P@D crew bosses. A theft of their take was going to put a dint in other crims expected take for the week. Les job was to retrieve the money or a proportion of it, as well as being an A grade violent tosser in their face the reason for killing Les on his retrieval duty could also have sent the very strong message to the old crew that they were not going to be pushed around.
 

rayven

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This was quite obviously carried out by a well trained and disciplined group. probably military men or coppers. As someone who knows stuff all about this legend, it seems blatantly obvious it wasn't them with the descriptions of the crooks in the OP and the fact there all dead from continuing a life of crime they had no need to. If they had all that cash. Remember, back in the day you could move to another state, pay cash for everything and easily start up new a alias.

however bookies are crooks(ask pharlap), be pissed off heavily losing so much coin, kinda not out of character to pick off anyone associated (rightly or wrongly)
 

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