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Melbourne's Master Criminal
Friday 28th October 1927:
Squizzy Taylor; Melbourne's Master Criminal
    Joseph Leslie Theodore (Squizzy) Taylor was born on 29th June 1888, the second youngest of five children. In a short space of time he would rise from his humble but respectable beginnings to become the overlord of the Melbourne underworld.
    In his late youth 'Squizzy' rattled up a string of minor convictions -- assault, larceny, picking pockets and even blackmail. One of the rackets he organised involved luring punters into compromising positions: a moll would entice a successful punter into a private room, then one of Taylor's stooges would burst in claiming to be the moll's irate husband. Only an offer of money would appease the 'husband's' rage, and the married punter - willing to do anything to avoid trouble - was always willing to be generous. Standover tactics and blackmail were to become Taylor's hallmarks during his career.
    In 1913 Taylor was suspected of assisting in a murder with one of his close acquaintances, Harold 'Bush' Thompson. The murder resulted from a well planned robbery that went wrong when the victim, Arthur Trotter, tried to resist the intrusion into his house. It was thought that Thompson shot Trotter, he and his diminutive accomplice later escaping with a bag of money. In all probability the jockey-sized offsider was Squizzy, but the police were unable to provide sufficient evidence to convict him or Thompson.
    By 1915 it became apparent just how much 'muscle' Squizzy Taylor was developing. It is thought that he was the man behind the robbery at the Melbourne Trades Hall building in 1915 which resulted in the murder of a police officer - and later a startling court case.The three robbers, Richard Buckley, Alexander Ward and John Jackson, were captured and faced charges relating to the death of Constable David McGrath. In the first trial Jackson was found guilty of murder, and sentenced to be hanged. The jury could not agree on the guilt of the two others, but on the third trial they were found guilty of lesser offences and received light
sentences.
   Many were surprised at the leniency of the sentences passed on Ward and Buckley. The case smacked of corruption, and those who knew of Squizzy Taylor's skill in rigging juries were certain that he was the man behind it. Frank Hardy stirs the imagination along these lines in his famous book Power Without Glory.
   Squizzy went much closer to conviction the following year when he was charged with murder. It was an elaborate plan, typical of the ingenuity Taylor constantly displayed. It was alleged in court that he and John Williamson had hired a cab to take them from Melbourne to Clayton. Apparently the cabbie, William Patrick Haines, was to be the driver for a robbery they had planned. But he declined their generous offer, and received a bullet in the back of his head.
   Police investigating the case found a suitcase near Haines' body containing disguises. They also discovered that a Templestowe bank manager carrying more than 400 was to ride past at about the time Taylor and Williamson were in the area.
   Close by was a partly dug grave that was to receive the bank manager's body. Thanks to the non-cooperation of the cabbie, however, the manager survived.
   Many people had seen the cab on its journey through Melbourne's suburbs, and from their description police were able to identify the occupants as Taylor and Williamson. But as the case progressed the witnesses' memories seemed to fade, and by the time the case reached court they were unable to say just who was in the cab. Taylor and Williamson were acquitted due to lack of positive identification.
   That was one of the last times Squizzy Taylor actively participated in a crime. From then on he began to confine himself to masterminding robberies for his cronies, always taking a sizeable cut, but steering clear of the limelight.
   Squizzy's operations revolved around robbery, sly grog and illegal gambling. His partnership with the head of Melbourne's two-up empire. Henry Stokes, gave him control of major blackmarket dealings in Melbourne. Squizzy Taylor was the king of Melbourne's underworld.
   His skill and artistry in plotting schemes, as well as his elusiveness and ability to keep out of jail for extended periods, were unmatched in the tough world of crime.
   In 1918 Taylor's rule began to come under challenge for the first time. The Fitzroy Vendetta was about to make headlines as rival gangs fought for supremacy.
   The vendetta had its origins in a jewellery store robbery in 1918. It resulted in a haul of several thousand pounds worth of diamond rings, one third of which went to Squizzy Taylor for masterminding the job. A faction of the Taylor gang based in Fitzroy, dissatisfied with the division of loot from a series of robberies including this latest haul, reacted violently. Soon open warfare developed.
   The following year Squizzy's mistress, Dolly Grey, had her diamond rings lifted from her fingers as she lay in a drunken stupor. Not surprisingly Squizzy was furious. One Ted Whiting was marked down for death, as the culprit behind the act, but attempts on his life all failed.
   Taylor's rather extreme methods of vengeance for the humiliation of Dolly Grey strengthened the opposition between the two criminal forces. Both sides were aware that the gang battles were really a test of supremacy. Over many months the streets of Fitzroy echoed to the sounds of gunfire as the two factions battled for the two-up and sly grog empires.
   Miraculously no one was killed, but many were wounded, and the casualty wards had a constant stream of gunshot victims to treat.
   In June 1921 Taylor was charged with breaking and entering. He subsequently broke bail and for twelve months eluded police efforts to track him down. He occasionally wrote letters to the newspapers, which his admiring public loved to read. For Squizzy had become a hero - a modern-day Ned Kelly.
   Finally, after tiring of the hide-and-seek
game, he announced he would give himself up. True to his word, one morning in September 1922, he fronted up at the Russell Street Police Station.
   It was well staged - members of the press were on hand to capture the moment, and a large crowd of well-wishers cheered him on. The dapper little crook had captured the public imagination with his audacity. At his trial for the charge of breaking and entering, Taylor spoke eloquently of 'falling into the factory in a drunken state to avoid the attentions of a rival gang'. Though the jury was unable to reach a verdict at the first trial, he was acquitted at the second.
   To celebrate, Taylor decided to spend a day at the races, but was ordered off the course as an undesirable. Infuriated, he returned later that night and set fire to the main building, thereby wrecking the running of the Caulfield Cup that was scheduled for the next day.
   It seemed that no one could argue with Squizzy without some form of reprisal being taken. However the well known gunman 'Snowy' Cutmore was obviously not intimidated by this, for he and Squizzy had a falling out in 1927. It was to prove fatal for both.
   In October 1927 Squizzy and some of his men visited the home of Cutmore. The latter had just returned from Sydney and Squizzy lost no time in paying him a call.
   The cause of the enmity between the two was never accurately established, but it was assumed to concern a woman. When Squizzy and his men walked down to Cutmore's room and confronted him they were greeted by a revolver.
Friday 28th October 1927:
Suspicious Death Of Squizzy Taylor
    Joseph 'Squizzy' Taylor, aged 43, one of Australia's most notorious criminals, was gunned down in a house in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton yesterday evening. A gun battle occurred between Taylor and another known criminal, 'Snowy' Cutmore, who was also killed. Police alledging each shot the other over a long standing fued.
Taylor Found Cutmore In Bed
    It is believed that Taylor found Cutmore in bed and when Cutmore sat up, both men allegedly produced revolvers--Cutmore's from under his pillow--and shots were fired. The exchange continued for about five minutes, during which time Cutmore's mother rushed into the room and was struck by a bullet in the shoulder.
    The police were notified of the shooting at 6.45pm and two constables and a doctor went to the scene immediately. They found Cutmore lying dead on his back in a bedroom at the rear of the house, while the wounded Mrs Cutmore was staggering around the house.
    Taylor, who was wounded in the right side, was taken in a taxi to St Vincents hospital where he died shortly afterwards.
Implicated In Several Murders
   Squizzy Taylor was implicated in several murders, suspected of bank robbery and blackmail, and alleged to have been behind numerous other crimes. He had earned himself an equivocal reputation by informing the police of other criminals' activities in order to protect himself.
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