The Curse. Chapter 6: Putting the oral into floral


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John Wilson

The hidden camera extortion racket uncovered at New Farm’s trendy Avalon Flats shocked pre-war Brisbane. The victim — John Wilson, by all accounts, a remarkably devout English lad. The villains — Fred and Dalham Affleck, the sons of Sir Frederick Danby James Affleck, 8th Baronet of Dalham Hall, a Buderim orchardist. Previous to this crime, Fred Affleck spent most of his adult life in Sydney’s Long Bay Gaol. His mother put it all down to a curse on the house of Affleck.

Read the previous chapters:

1: The Hidden Camera

2: Sir Frederick Affleck & Sons

3: Fred Affleck, a modern Raffles

4: Dalham Affleck

5: Long Bay Gaol

The Supreme Court heard allegations of all-male orgies. Lawyers waved photos of homosexual sex acts. But the Supreme Court jury never heard from John Wilson. Justice Macrossan ruled they could rely on John’s testimony during the committal hearing after he shot himself on the eve of the trial.

Despite convictions, the trial never came close to the truth. A web of lies surrounded the entire case. Everyone lied, including John Wilson. So, what was the truth and who was John Wilson really? In truth, everyone was cursed because, for most people in the 1930s, survival required endless deceit.

In 1937, Frederick James Siddartha Affleck, heir to the Baronetcy of Dalham Hall, completed his latest stretch as a guest in His Majesty’s NSW prison at Long Bay. On his release, the habitual criminal faced constant police monitoring. He retreated home to Queensland. With both brothers at a loose end, he and Dalham pulled out the pruning shears. Time to give the old flower scam another whirl!

Along with former grocer Ernest Barker, the Afflecks became gardeners for hire, purloining flowers from their client’s rose beds to sell on city streets. Soon after, they opened a florist shop on Brisbane’s George Street. However, their retail outlet proved a fizzer, so they bailed and peddled their bouquets door-to-door.

As they worked, they plotted and schemed. The brothers took stock of their assets and talents. Ready to make their fortune, they rented Apartment G at New Farm’s Avalon Flats and opened a gay brothel.

Clients visited one or two at a time. They then accompanied either Fred or Dalham into the single bedroom for intimate activities — ‘gross indecencies’ in the lawyer-speak of the day.

Because of prohibitions against prostitution and homosexuality, the operators could neither advertise nor otherwise publicise their new business. Yet, they attracted substantial patronage from an existing customer base within days. Their previous concern, the flower shop, was a front for male-on-male sexual services.

George Street Florists — putting the oral into floral.

Blackmail

But Fred and Dalham were not content with their earnings from sex work. Blackmail regularly made the news and, in recent times, gay blackmail in particular. Detective-Sergeant Nobby Clark headed the criminal investigation into the Afflecks. He had previously arrested an extortionist who specialised in gay blackmail.

Burly young William Davis, ‘known to Sydney police as an associate of criminals and sexual perverts’, scooted to Brisbane in late 1936 when Sydney became too hot. Davis devised a scam based on the practices of crooked cops who took bribes not to charge men with homosexual offences. He dressed like a detective and loitered about public toilets. When he spotted a potential quarry, he followed them to the urinal and started wanking. If his target responded, Davis then ‘arrested’ his victim, dragging him up the street towards the police station. When his victims pleaded not to be locked up, he offered to release them in return for bribes.

Nobby Clark found out about Davis when a victim who’d been arrested in a William Street convenience became suspicious and contacted the CIB. The next day, driving along North Quay, Nobby spotted the pretend copper dragging another victim out of that street’s notorious beat.

Then, in 1937, one of the most powerful public servants in NSW ended up in jail following a young male lover’s failed attempt to extort him. Sydney Maddox was caught naked in a car, his dick smeared with vaseline, erect and poised to plunge into the naked arse of 18-year-old Mikiel John Adams.

Described in court as ‘an effeminate degenerate’ and a ‘filthy pervert’, young Adams admitted to a long career as a teenage sex worker. Maddox recently refused to pay for the return of photos Adams stole from him. In retribution, the lad went to the cops and offered to entrap his older lover.

The pics Adams stole were reasonably innocuous — family photos and snaps of Maddox at the beach with young men including Adams — no sexual activity and no one wearing less than swimwear.

But what if the photos had been less innocent?

The hidden cam

Dalham Affleck owned a high-quality Kodak camera and Ernest Barker knew how to develop film from his previous work in grocery shops.

Dalham also considered himself something of an inventor. He had already devised an illuminated powder compact – a small case containing cosmetic powder and puff, equipped with a battery-powered light. No doubt quite handy for blackouts or touching up your makeup in the New Farm Park rose gardens late at night. 

So, the inveterate tinkerer set up his camera in the wardrobe of Apartment G and rigged a remote switch under the bed. Ernest took the first test photo, sitting on the bed fully clothed and snapping the pic by pressing the concealed button on the bedframe.

The brothers then took photos of themselves naked and in sexual positions with their guests. In some of the photos, the other men seemed to have consented. But as a judge later pointed out, some seemed surprised. Because while Dalham could conceal the camera, there was no hiding the blinding flash necessary for indoor photography at the time.

Their first few days at Apartment G showed great promise. Their new business prospered. Dalham moved on to the next phase of their business plan.

He visited a matrimonial agency to advertise his and Fred’s availability as husbands to wealthy young heiresses. Mrs Smith, the owner of Holt’s Matrimonial Agency was much more interested in Fred than Dalham. Excited at the opportunity to advertise a titled gentleman, she ignored the inconvenient fact that Sir Frederick Affleck was still alive. She placed an ad in the Brisbane Telegraph, Thursday, September 16.

Holt’s invites young ladies of distinction and means, most essential, to meet a tall, dark, good-looking Baronet view early marriage. 

Mrs Smith prepared for a rush of wealthy squatters eager to pay a fortune in return for a title for their daughters.

“Lots of squatters, with daughters, would be glad to have a titled man as a son-in-law. We have several requests of that kind.”

However, the brothers’ plans to make their fortune through marriage would evaporate within days.

Anzac Square

It seems that when business was quiet, Dalham loitered in the city in search of new customers. His favoured hangout — the recently constructed Anzac Square. The government sacrificed some old office buildings to construct a public space in the CBD as a memorial to the Great War. However, the park proved a convenient after-dark meeting place for men in search of anonymous sexual encounters with other men.

It was there that Dalham Affleck met John Wilson.

Dalham Robert Affleck, labourer, Frederick James Affleck, labourer, and Ernest Barker, grocer; were each charged, in the Police Court today that between September 13 and 20, at Brisbane, they demanded money from John Frank Edwin Wilson with intent to steal, and then and there threatened Wilson that they would accuse him of immorality and would seriously assault him if he did not comply with their demand. 

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Ernest Barker, Dalham Affleck & Fred Affleck outside court.

From October 12 until October 19, 1937, Dalham, Fred and Ernest faced the equivalent of a committal hearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court. John Wilson testified on the final day.

The slender blonde youth dressed well, probably better than Dalham Affleck, despite the latter’s recent renown as a clothes horse. John Wilson arrived at court in a tailored suit, complete with waistcoat and pocket-handkerchief. Outdoors, he tilted his hat at a jaunty angle.

“I am a shop assistant employed by Pennys and reside at Norman Street, East Brisbane. I am employed in the hardware department at Pennys, am 21 years of age, and single.”

Among Penny’s various stores, they owned a grand City Emporium. John Wilson previously told the police he was only 17. He looked young. In fact, the prosecution and media continually referred to him as a youth, lad or boy. And when he corrected his age at the beginning of the trial, the admission provoked no reaction from the defence, the magistrate, or even the court reporters.

curse gay blackmail
John Wilson

A native of England

“I am a native of England and came from Hong Kong about 10 years ago and have lived at East Brisbane for three years.

“I have been employed at Pennys for nearly 12 months and was working there on Saturday, September 11. After knocking off at half-past twelve, I went home.

“I came back to the city by tram at about half-past six and alighted at George Street. Then, I walked down Queen Street to Edward Street and then Adelaide Street and across Anzac Park to Ann Street.”

“I was going to All Saints Church on Wickham Terrace.

“When I arrived at the top of the Anzac Memorial stairs that night, I met the defendant, Dalham Affleck. I met him casually.

“He said, ‘Can you give me a match?’

“I said, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t smoke.’

“He said, ‘Do you work at Pennys?’

“I said ‘Yes.’

“He then said, ‘Would you join me and have a drink?’

“I said, ‘I’m sorry but I don’t drink’.”

All Saints Church

“I left him there and went to All Saints Church. There was a service on and I left home with the intention of attending that service and did in fact attend it.

“The service was over about half-past seven. When it was over, I walked around town for about half an hour or so and then went home.

“On Monday, September 13, I worked, went home after and left home at about 6.30 pm to come back to town. I was again going to All Saints Church.

“I got out of the tram at Creek Street and walked up towards All Saints Church. When I reached the intersection of Creek and Ann Streets, I saw Dalham Affleck. He crossed the street toward me. When I met him on the previous Saturday night, I did not tell him I would be in town again on Monday night.

“He said to me, ‘We meet again. This is a coincidence.’

“I said, ‘Yes. It is a coincidence.’

“We talked for about a quarter of an hour. During the conversation, he said, ‘Do you come from Australia?’

“I said, ‘No, From the East.’

“He said, ‘I also have interests in the East. In fact, I have some Eastern articles in my flat. Perhaps you would be interested? You don’t drink but come to my flat and have a cup of coffee?’

“I said, ‘Yes, I will.’

“I did not go to church that night. The two of us got on a tram and alighted just before the Avalon Flats.”

Apartment G

John Wilson accompanied Dalham Affleck into Apartment G and complimented him on the niceness of the flat. After chatting for a while in the lounge area, Dalham mentioned his Eastern curios and asked John to follow him through a curtain and into the bedroom to check out his ornaments.

“He struck me a severe blow. I staggered back and received another blow. As I fell, I received a kick in the shin. I then hit the floor and lost consciousness.”

John came to sometime later, still on the floor but naked, except for a singlet.

“I sat up feeling dazed, with a terrific pain in my head.”

He saw Dalham Affleck and another man — Fred Affleck — rummaging through his clothes. John demanded that the pair hand over his trousers, shirt, tie and coat. Although the Afflecks permitted him to dress, they refused to allow him to leave.

“What do you want?”

“We want money.”

“I have none.”

“You work at a place where there’s plenty.”

Dalham Affleck waved some papers from John’s pockets. “We are keeping your papers.”

“I have no money. As soon as I leave, I will go to the police.”

“If you do, we’ll fix you. We have a photo.”

“I have no money. I don’t earn much.”

“You handle a lot of money; you can easily get some.”

John was stunned. Sometimes, life turns to shit in an instant. He wanted out. He acquiesced to his captor’s demands, agreeing to pilfer money from his employer and hand it over to Dalham outside the nearby McWhirters’ Emporium on the following Wednesday night.

The victim apparently did not yet know that while he was passed out, Dalham Affleck took a photo of himself sucking John’s dick.

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5 <— The Curse —> Read Chapter 5: from Sunday, April 17.

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