A century ago, a world already at war faced its worst-ever natural disaster: Spanish Flu. But in late 1918, this plague, which would claim as many as 100 million lives, was yet to infect Australia, with Sydney’s North Head Quarantine Station becoming the frontline in the battle against the deadly invader. Young nurse Annie Egan was among those brave souls who risked their lives to help the infected. Her fate sparked a furore — and foreshadowed what awaited many Australians in 1919.
Most cops are on strike. The few loyalist police left on duty risk life and limb because tens of thousands of citizens are crowding the streets and the mood is turning darker as fists and bottles fly. When the last cops defect or retreat just after dark, rioters become looters and the city becomes a war zone. With blood flowing in the streets, politicians summon a militia and order the military to protect the city. But this isn’t Berlin or Moscow. It’s Melbourne, November 1923, and Australia’s sophisticated southern metropolis is descending into anarchy
While the random mass shooting that inspires a further murder spree seems a very modern and very American phenomenon, the first such outrage happened nearly a century ago in Australia. Melbourne’s 1924 Botanic Gardens Massacre saw the public turn paranoid and police and alienists mystified as the man the newspapers called a maniac evaded a huge manhunt. Then came the copycat killer.
It was the Teacher’s Pet-style mystery that gripped Australia 80 years ago. Brisbane socialite Marjorie Norval disappeared in November 1938 under bizarre circumstances, sparking the biggest search in Queensland’s history. In the days and months to come, four heroic rescuers would die, one of her rumoured lovers would commit suicide, and a light would be shone on the city’s shady characters, from illegal abortionists to peeping Toms.
From 1946 Sydney’s Leonard Lawson was a hero to kids for creating the comic book The Lone Avenger. But in reality the young artist was a psychopathic villain responsible for crimes far more terrible than anything in his stories. For five decades Lawson would outrage Australia by destroying innocent lives and make a mockery of the law’s ability to control violent offenders