These are wife killers, petty thieves, dealers of fake opium, hustlers — plucked from the street by the police of 1920s Sydney, Australia and photographed, fresh from the scene of the crime. These photographs reveal a lot more than the usual mugshot. The suspects strike poses. A few look disheveled and deranged, but some look decidedly guilty. They lean casually into their own pockets, hats tipped, eyes scowling. They look in character, the alleged crime still fresh on their mind. There are thousands of vintage glass plates photographs taken by the New South Wales Police Department between 1910 and 1930, now hosted by the The Sydney Justice & Police Museum. These are just some of them. Meet the suspects in our gallery.
Sidney Kelly – June 25, 1924. New South Wales Police Department.
Emily Gertrude Hemsworth, 14 May 1925. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, New South Wales Police Department. “Emily Hemsworth killed her three-week-old son but could not remember any details of the murder. She was found not guilty due to insanity. Hemsworth was to be detained in custody until judged fit to return to society — it is unknown if she was ever released. Aged 24.”
George Whitehall – February 24, 1922. “George Whitehall, carpenter, handed himself into Newtown police after hacking to death his common-law wife, Ida Parker on Thursday afternoon 21 February 1922, at their home in Pleasant Avenue, Erskineville. This photo was apparently taken the following morning at Newtown Police Station.”
Frederick Edward Davies, July 14, 1921. “The handwritten inscription on this unnumbered Special Photograph reads ‘Frederick Edward Davies stealing in picture shows and theatres Dets Surridge Clark and Breen Central 14-7-21.’ Police held sneak thieves in particularly low regard, which may account for the decision to photograph Davies in front of the police station’s toilet stalls.”
Frank Murray alias Harry Williams – February 4, 1929. “Harry Williams was sentenced to 12 months hard labour on March 1929 for breaking, entering and stealing. Although he ‘consorts with prostitutes’ and ‘frequents hotels and wine bars in the vicinity of the Haymarket,’ he is described as being of ‘quiet disposition.'”
Hampton Hirscham, Cornellius Joseph Keevil, William Thomas O’Brien and James O’Brien – July 20, 1921
Eugenia Falleni, alias Harry Crawford, 1920. “When ‘Harry Leon Crawford,’ hotel cleaner of Stanmore was arrested and charged with wife murder he was revealed to be in fact Eugeni Falleni, a woman and mother, who had been passing as a man since 1899. In 1914, as ‘Harry Crawford,’ Falleni had married the widow Annie Birkett. Three years later, shortly after she announced to a relative that she had found out ‘something amazing about Harry,’ Birkett disappeared.”
Mary Harris, 15 August 1923. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, New South Wales Police Department
Mr. William Stanley Moore, 1925, New South Wales Police Department
Valerie Lowe, 15 February 1922, Central Police Station, Sydney
Sydney Skukerman, or Skukarman – September 25, 1924, New South Wales Police Department
Walter Smith – December 24, 1924, New South Wales Police Department