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.
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The Supreme Court heard allegations of all-male orgies. Lawyers waved photos of homosexual sex acts. But the jury never heard from John Wilson. Justice Macrossan ruled they could rely on John’s previous testimony after he shot himself on the eve of the trial. Another victim perhaps of what Lady Lily Affleck described as the curse of the house of Affleck. However, despite the conviction of her sons, 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 December 1927, Fred Affleck thought all his Christmases were coming at once. He, Reg Worters and Albert Gibbs made a fortune robbing the homes of the rich and famous.
But for Christmas that year, Santa brought Fred Affleck his first prison sentence. On 21 December, police ushered him and three other men through a tunnel from Darlinghurst Courthouse into the neighbouring police station and out to an adjacent platform. Signs on a waiting tram stipulated ‘No Passengers’. The custom-built mobile lock-up conveyed prisoners the seven miles to Long Bay Gaol.
Accompanying Fred, his partner in crime, Reg Worters. Albert Gibbs took the Number 948 a few days earlier, sentenced ahead of his accomplices. Also, on the tram — George Devine, a 20-year-old single-punch killer and 39-year-old ‘simpleton’ Henry Littlewood, convicted of molesting a thirteen-year-old girl.
At its destination, the 948 passed through prison gates and deposited the felons into The Birdcage, a barred loading bay and reception area resembling a giant aviary.
The prisoners formed a line. Devine, then Worters, Affleck and finally Littlewood were photographed, measured and weighed. Fred gazed warily into the camera lens, forewarned of the ordeal ahead. Reg had travelled aboard Number 948 previously.
A guard noted Fred’s brown hair and eyes, along with the absence of any distinguishing marks or tattoos. Then began a humiliating admission process designed to emphasise the authority of the prison regime. Prisoners in His Majesty’s NSW jails forfeited all rights to privacy, dignity and personal choice.
“Open your mouth.
“Lift your balls.
“Pull your foreskin back.
“Spin around. Bend over. Spread ’em.”
Fred obediently parted his buttocks, and a guard scrutinised his arsehole, checking for contraband.
Searches complete, the warders hosed the prisoners down like cattle off to slaughter. Fred and Devine probably feared they were precisely that — fresh meat.
Years later, a detective sergeant boasted he warned juvenile offenders that if they ended up in Long Bay, they would be “f_cked, bashed, murdered, or all three.”
Speaking anonymously, a former Long Bay warder said prisoners filled their long monotonous hours with “sex, sex and more sex.”
He claimed if he had money for every time, he caught prisoners having sex, he could have retired a wealthy man after five years on the job.
But in the 1920s, factual accounts of prison life rarely penetrated beyond the barbed wire to the public domain. Escapees usually made it further over the sandstone walls than talk of jailhouse sex. Both prison authorities and prisoners thought it better than what happened in prison, stayed in prison. However, in the 1930s, scandal rags began to expose the truth.
A former Queensland prisoner shared his impressions of jail in 1932.
“I served eight weeks and one day in Boggo Road Gaol. If I had the misfortune to have a son convicted— a boy in his teens — I would shoot him in the dock. Homosexuality is rampant.”
Another inmate said the same to a different paper.
“Men innocent of the slightest sign of homosexuality when they enter are lucky to get out unimpaired. No matter what strength of character or what their upbringing. In nine cases out of 10 — EVERY 10 — they succumb. And the great pity is that usually, the victims are mere boys and youths.”
Finally, the warders issued the sundried inmates with unforms. Fred pulled on grey pants and a shirt. On the back of the shirt, a circle of white canvas displaying the number he would now be known by.
He also received socks, boots and a singlet — though no underpants. The inmates of Long Bay went commando in summer, only allowed underwear in winter. While they shivered under threadbare blankets, their testicles remained warm and toasty.
The prisoners were marched to their eleven feet by seven concrete cells. There was a window, or at least a barred hole in the wall nine feet from the floor. No bunks or mattresses. Just hooks in the walls where the men would attach hammocks at nighttime. Hammocks allowed three men to share a cell intended for a single occupant.
In the corner, a steel can for a toilet – no indoor plumbing. Other Australians took the expression ‘shitcanned’ to mean suffering dismissal from a job or discarding something. But in Long Bay, shitcanned meant shitcanned. Being drenched in the contents of those buckets.
And who said the authorities had no sense of humour? The bureaucracy referred to the fetid receptacles as ‘sanitary trays’.
After his first night in prison, Fred awoke at 6 am to a clanging bell. He and his cellmates carried their stinking toilet bucket out into the prison yard and emptied it into an open sewer.
For breakfast, they ate wheatmeal porridge and drank tea. No milk or sugar with either. Any innocent who asked for sugar risked unwanted attention from insistent and dangerous admirers. Sugar was sweet. In prison jargon, sex.
Fred Affleck and his fellow passengers all received sentences of two years with hard labour. Judges regularly tagged hard labour onto sentences, but Long Bay had too little work for too many men. The NSW justice minister complained that he could provide meaningful employment for less than half of the three to four hundred detainees. Most spent their day yarning, smoking, gambling and fighting. As one newspaper said, “with nothing to do but pick up points in crime from your fellows. At Long Bay, there is often a dearth of work.”
At midday, the inmates consumed a meal of meat, vegetables and bread. The institution reputedly served the worst food of any Australian jail. Inmates grumbled about the jailhouse rumour that prisoners in South Australia received a piece of fruit once a week. Lifers went decades in Long Bay without ever tasting fruit.
At 3.40 pm, the prisoners ate their evening meal — more porridge. Then, the warders locked them up for the night.
Many prisoners experienced their first taste of male-on-male sex during the long hours from 4 pm to 6 am. Gay for the stay. But others were there purely because of gay sex. NSW and every other Australian jurisdiction criminalised private, consenting, adult sex acts between men.
Charles Richards was one. He entered Long Bay during one of Fred’s stays.
Charles left school three years before his spell in prison and worked as a motor mechanic for his brother in Adelaide. Following an argument, he quit the job and jumped a train to Sydney. Sydney was even then a mecca for gay men searching for others of their kind. Australia’s most populous city also offered a more anonymous, and hence safer, existence. The 20-year-old rented a room in budget accommodation five minutes along Bathurst Street from Hyde Park. He strolled down to the park one Saturday night.
Standing near the St James public toilets, he saw a man checking him out. When 31-year-old Harold Hayes approached, Charles asked for a smoke.
‘I am sorry old sport. I don’t smoke’.
Hayes then went into the toilets but returned soon after and took a bottle out of his pocket.
“You can have a drink of gin if you want it.”
Charles took a swig and said he was leaving, but Harold Hayes had an idea.
“Do you feel like a bit of nonsense?”
“I don’t care,” said Hayes.
“I’m not fussy,” replied Charles and then suggested the Domain, another expansive parkland, a short stroll away. They walked there and sat on a seat under a tree.
“Hayes then put his hand on me then undone several buttons of my fly and started feeling my privates. He then took his private out and showed it to me. He said, ‘Mine is only a little one; if you suck it for me, I will suck yours after.’
“When he undone my fly, I said, ‘It is too cold. I won’t be able to get the horn.’
“I then started to suck his cock, and after sucking it for a few seconds, I stopped and sat up and had a spit.
“Hayes said to me, ‘I won’t be long now if you do it again.’
“He pressed my head down into his lap, and I sucked his cock the second time. I then felt some warm stuff spurt into my mouth, and I spat it out.”
But at the exact moment Charles spat out the cum, a police constable grabbed him.
Sergeant Russell and Constable Walker had been watching Hayes at Hyde Park. Russell headed the ‘Immorality Gang’, a publicity-hungry inner-city vice squad. He had assigned Walker the task of apprehending perverts at Hyde Park and the Domain. Perverts and prostitutes were always good for a headline. Sex sold as well then as now.
Harold Hayes was a well-known beat user, once observed going in and out of the St James bog a dozen times in half an hour. But Harold was too cunning for the cops. He never solicited anyone, gestured suggestively, exposed his dick, or wanked. Harry merely stood outside the cubicle and waited for someone to catch his eye. He then talked to them outside and, if they agreed, sought out a more secluded spot.
The two cops followed Harold and Charles to the Domain. They watched as Charles went down on Harold. When Walker heard Harold say he would cum soon, the constable snuck up on the seat from behind, wanting to verify that Charles had Harold’s cock in his mouth. He got within inches of the men.
“I saw Richards with Hayes’ person in his mouth, and he was moving his head up and down. A few seconds after, Richards sat up and spat on the ground. I then caught hold of the two defendants and said to them, ‘I have been watching you two dirty brutes, and I saw you (meaning Hayes) with your person in this other man’s mouth.’
Sergeant Russell then raced over and pulled open the overcoat covering Harold’s lap.
“I could see this man sucking your person, and it is still in a state of erection and all wet.”
Just to be sure, the Sergeant grabbed hold of Harold’s cock.
He later assured the judge, “His person was in a state of erection and wet and sticking out through the fly of his trousers.”
Harold’s brother bailed him out, and he later copped a £50 good behaviour bond. But Charles had no job, no money and no one to turn to. Young Charles Richards went out on a Saturday night looking for companionship and a private ‘bit of nonsense’ with another consenting adult. He had no criminal record. He never hurt anyone, but he was imprisoned in Australia’s hardest jail for at least seventeen days while the state of NSW decided on his punishment.
Judge Curlewis eventually settled on a £50 good behaviour bond conditional on Charles leaving the state.
“I will give him a chance because it is possible, he was drunk, but that is only one reason. The other is that Richards is not wanted in New South Wales, and the state is well rid of a man of his type.”
Youthful playwright Phillip O’Loughlin also ended up in Long Bay for consensual adult sex.
“On Tuesday night, I walked into the lavatory at St Leonards Park, North Sydney. I went there for a legitimate purpose. On entering, I saw a man, though not immediately as it was very dark.
“After about half a minute, he pressed against me with his elbow and then reached across and touched my person. I then touched his person. We moved across into the corner. I then placed his person in my mouth and sucked it. His person was erect at that time.”
The other man, 40-year-old Donald Ellis, insisted that the 21-year-old made the first move.
“I made water, and whilst I was doing so, a young man put his hand across and caught hold of my person and started to play with it. He then got down on his haunches and placed my person in his mouth. At the time, my person was erect. He then worked my person in and out of his mouth.”
Once again, coitus interruptus occurred just as one of the men came. Perhaps the police listened for signs of heavy breathing because glimpsing cum provided stronger proof of sex in court. Indeed, some old judges grasped for smelling salts at the mere mention of cum-drenched male chins.
Constable Saville had been standing in the dark watching the blowjob.
“I was in the public lavatory when I saw Ellis walk in, followed shortly afterwards by O’Loughlin. One of them whispered something, and they both walked to a corner. I was not visible to them. I saw O’Loughlin get down on his haunches and place his face near the fly of Ellis’s trousers. A couple of seconds later, I heard Ellis say, ‘Keep on doing it.’
“I could see O’Loughlin’s head moving backwards and forwards.
“I flashed an electric torch on them and saw Ellis with his person erect in O’Loughlin’s mouth. O’Loughlin’s head was moving backwards and forwards.
“I said to them, ‘I belong to the police. What do you mean by doing this?’
“Ellis replied, ‘I was feeling fresh, and I wanted to relieve myself.’
“O’Loughlin said, ‘He told me he was feeling naughty, and I wanted to do it.’
“When I flashed the torch, I saw fluid on O’Loughlin’s moustache which looked like semen.”
The same Judge Curlewis who gave Charles Richards a £50 bond sentenced Phillip O’Loughlin and Donald Ellis to a year in Long Bay for precisely the same ‘crime’. Neither had criminal records. The old bastard must have just been in a bad mood that day. Curlewis was once maligned in the Legislative Assembly for a generally ‘offensive, overbearing, bullying and generally discourteous attitude’. They probably used even less parliamentary language about him in Long Bay.
Fred Affleck completed his last NSW jail term in early 1937. Declared a habitual criminal by a Sydney court, he would be subject to constant police surveillance. So, he returned home, undeterred by his time in prison and still determined to seek his fortune through criminal endeavours.
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