Wednesday 20 January 2021

The night they blew the safe!

I recently opened a pamphlet file which contained a very old cheque book. My curiosity was piqued by the little note on the front of it – see photo below. 

The note on the front of the cheque book

Inside the cheque book - Police v Douglas

This led to an interesting tale of theft and forgery!
During the night of the 19th and 20th April 1933, Ingleburn Council premises were broken into. The safe was blown, and a number of items stolen. These included a pistol and cartridges, postage stamps, cash, some loose cheques, and a cheque book. Constable Best of Campbelltown attended the Ingleburn Council Chambers at 10.30 am on the 20th April, where he saw that the safe had been blown open, with the safe door off its hinges. There were books and papers strewn about, plus a quantity of putty (explosive) in a paper towel. Most importantly was a paper match case on the floor near the safe. The side window had been forced open.
Shockingly, another go was had at the Council Chambers on the 28th April, just 9 days after the first robbery. Not as competent as the first attempt, the robbers left a large amount of putty all over the Town Clerk’s office, to his considerable annoyance, and only escaped with a few pounds.

Ingleburn Council Chambers as they were in 1933

In the Campbelltown Police Court on the 19th May Mr John Charles Douglas was charged with breaking and entering the Ingleburn Council Chambers. Douglas had been questioned by Detective Surridge of the Parramatta Police. Douglas tried to explain away the cheque book he had in his possession by stating it had been given to him by another man, who, not surprisingly, was unable to be located. Douglas had passed two cheques on Gowing Bros and Hordern Bros, after forging the name of H.J. Daley on them.

Cheques in the stolen cheque book

Detective Surridge showed Douglas a cardboard match case bearing the words “Boomerang” 53 Market Street, Sydney – the same match case that had been left behind at the robbery. Douglas admitted to having one ‘similar’.
Douglas was remanded to stand trial at the Parramatta Quarter Sessions on the 6th June, which he did. He was charged with breaking and entering, and was convicted on an alternative charge of receiving. He was sentenced to 12 months hard labour.
The Council Chambers must have been seen as an easy target, as they were broken into yet again on the 21st June. The safe door withstood the charges, and nothing of value was taken. Bryan Chrystal recalls this incident as follows - "I think he (Harley Daley) got the job of Town Clerk in the 30s. This was right in the middle of the depression. Part of his job was handing out the dole and also if they did any relief work. They had a big strong room in the middle of the Council offices. This particular night, apparently they all knew that the money had come in and he had put it away to pay out the next day. These two characters must have come in and put gelignite on the door of the safe and they detonated it. They didn’t get the money because the building fell down all around the strong room. It made a real mess of the Council Chambers. He always told that story."

Written by Claire Lynch
"Campbelltown Recollections"

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