WRITTEN ON THE SKIN


WRITTEN ON THE SKIN

A crime scene investigator notes the tiny indentations on the fragments of a tin can identified at a bomb site. After months of testing he is able to match them to the can opener that made them – and lead police to the bomb-maker who used it.

A forensic dentist documents the marks in chewing gum dropped by a thief during a burglary and matches them to the teeth of the suspect. A forensic physician examines an abused child, “reading” the terrible alphabet that fists and weapons write on the skin and identifying a mother’s hairbrush as the source of the “tramline bruising” on her daughter’s leg.

Liz Porter’s riveting casebook shows how forensic investigators – including pathologists, chemists, entomologists, DNA specialists and document examiners – have used their specialist knowledge to identify victims, catch perpetrators, exonerate innocent suspects and solve dozens of crimes and mysteries.

Author Information

Liz Porter is a journalist who began her career in Hong Kong and then worked in Sydney, London and Stuttgart before returning to her home town of Melbourne, where she is a feature writer for the Sunday Age. She has won awards for her writing on legal issues and has published a novel. She lives with her partner, her daughter and the obligatory female-writer quota of two cats and is a hopelessly devoted fan of the St Kilda Football Club.

Reviewed by: Dr Robert N Moles

For those who like “real life” CSI – this is a terrific book. It brings together a wide range of forensic cases grouped according to whether they deal with “blood” “bones” “organs” “skin” “teeth” “fire” “insects” or “documents”.

If anything this book is a testament to human ingenuity. First of all is the ingenuity of the author in tackling such a wide range of scientific and technical issues, and being able to explain them in an interesting and instructive manner in the context of the cases she is dealing with.

Then, of course, there is the rather perverse ingenuity of the people who are the subject of these cases. It is quite shocking to realise just what human beings are capable of doing to each other; bashed, stabbed, shot, burned, poisoned, defrauded. This book has it all. Then having despatched one another, there is the ingenuity involved in attempting the cover-up, or the explanation as to why or how another has gone missing. Its all terribly sad.

Then comes the ingenuity of the investigators. I must say, that having studied myself so many examples of miscarriages of justice, I found it quite refreshing to read about investigators who are dedicated to their respective tasks. The number of examples which Porter had studied where police and forensic investigators had gone way beyond their duty in pursuing inquiries or piecing together tiny fragments of information or of bones or teeth in order to arrive at a conclusion one way or another was both remarkable, and sufficient to restore one’s faith in human nature.

another review

THERE are no holds barred in this behind-the-scenes look at the forensics of police detective work. It shows how a strong stomach is as much a necessity as a determination to see justice done. Liz Porter has picked cases from a roster that includes child molestation and rape, murder and deliberate disfigurement. She shows how scientific studies of abrasions, blood stains, bone damage, DNA and cooling and decomposition rates have developed since the 1970s and how such technologies have been used – and sometimes abused – in criminal prosecutions. A bedtime book only if your intellectual curiosity can override your dismay and discomfort.

Rough Justice : Unanswered Questions from the Australian Courts By: Robin Bowles


Rough Justice : Unanswered Questions from the Australian Courts

Rough Justice: Unanswered Questions from the Australian Courts examines the question at the heart of our criminal justice system – what happens when our courts get it wrong?

Why is former Victorian police sergeant Denis Tanner a free man if the Victorian state coroner named him as the killer of his sister-in-law Jennifer Tanner?

Did Greg Domaszewicz really kill Jaidyn Leskie and get away with it because he had a good lawyer?

What was the real cause of the sudden death of young nursing sister Birgit Munro when 24 hours before she died she’d been ‘as fit as a flea’?

Why did West Australian alleged hit-run killer John Button confess to killing his fiancee Rosemary Anderson if he didn’t do it?

Why won’t Bradley John Murdoch tell the police where he hid Peter Falconio‘s body?

Why did a juror in Graham Stafford’s trial call Stafford’s mother – after reading a book containing the full story of the murder Stafford had allegedly committed – to apologise for finding her son guilty?

Was Roseanne Catt, who served a ten-year jail term in New South Wales for the attempted murder of her husband Barry, ‘an evil and manipulative woman or the victim of a terrible conspiracy’ between her husband and the police?

Did Henry Keogh cold-bloodedly drown his fiancee in her bath, or has he served nearly half his life sentence as an innocent man, condemmed by an incompetent forensic report?

This latest book by Australia’s true crime queen, Robin Bowles, makes no claim to promote the guilt or innocence of any of the people discussed. Rather, it examines the due process of the law and how, at times, that process may not seem to deliver justice.

"Never To Be Released" 4 By Paul B Kidd


Never To Be Released 4

Never To Be Released 4

To be sent to jail with papers marked ‘never to be released’ is the ultimate punishment in the Australian judicial system. There is no death penalty. ‘Never to be released’ is reserved for the worst of the worst.

And, except for two cases – which are included in this book – these days ‘never-to-be-released’ means exactly that. The only way out is in a black rubber bag with a zipper up the middle, having died either by misfortune, suicide or old age.
In this, his fourth book in the series, Paul B. Kidd, Australia’s serial killer and ‘never to be released’ authority, includes more cases that are the most evil of the evil, where the perpetrators have been sent to prison without the possibility of parole – ‘never to be released’.

Paul B. Kidd Paul B. Kidd is a broadcaster on 2UE, Sydney, where he co-hosts one of the most popular segments on Australian radio, ‘Crime File’, with George Moore.

Paul is the author of ten books on Australian true crime and is a recognised authority on Australia’s serial killers, major criminal cases and never to be released lifers.

Click on the cover images below for more information or to purchase Paul B. Kidd titles.

Celluloid Serial KillersThe Australian Crime FileThe Australian Crime File 2Till Death Do Us Part

“Never To Be Released” 4 By Paul B Kidd


Never To Be Released 4

Never To Be Released 4

To be sent to jail with papers marked ‘never to be released’ is the ultimate punishment in the Australian judicial system. There is no death penalty. ‘Never to be released’ is reserved for the worst of the worst.

And, except for two cases – which are included in this book – these days ‘never-to-be-released’ means exactly that. The only way out is in a black rubber bag with a zipper up the middle, having died either by misfortune, suicide or old age.
In this, his fourth book in the series, Paul B. Kidd, Australia’s serial killer and ‘never to be released’ authority, includes more cases that are the most evil of the evil, where the perpetrators have been sent to prison without the possibility of parole – ‘never to be released’.

Paul B. Kidd Paul B. Kidd is a broadcaster on 2UE, Sydney, where he co-hosts one of the most popular segments on Australian radio, ‘Crime File’, with George Moore.

Paul is the author of ten books on Australian true crime and is a recognised authority on Australia’s serial killers, major criminal cases and never to be released lifers.

Click on the cover images below for more information or to purchase Paul B. Kidd titles.

Celluloid Serial KillersThe Australian Crime FileThe Australian Crime File 2Till Death Do Us Part

Australian Tragic : Gripping Tales from the Dark Side of Our History By: Jack Marx


Australian Tragic : Gripping Tales from the Dark Side of Our History

Australian Tragic : Gripping Tales from the Dark Side of Our History

Australian Tragic is about a nation that began its life as a stage for misfortune and ever since has struggled to outgrow its birthright.

These are gripping tales that take us into the heart of this country: tales of genuine catastrophe, of grand chances gone astray, of fools and their plans pathetically undone, of heartbreaking sadness and violent loss, and of both goodness and human evil.

From Aboriginals being curios in an American circus to the story of Martin Bryant at Port Arthur, and from Bob Bungey, who survived The Battle of Britain, but couldn’t face life when his young wife suddenly died soon after he came home, to the doctor who died minutes before he was to deliver a paper revealing the secret of using monkey glands to improve human health and stamina, and sexual virility – all these stories are told in a gripping narrative style, driven by eyewitness testimony, a solid sense of place, and a mood of impending doom.

And we thought we knew our history

Reviews

THE AUSTRALIAN – Roy Williams | September 12, 2009

Penny dreadful approach gives crime back to the people

I HAD low expectations of this book. Recent Australian specimens of the true-crime genre – at least, those I have sampled – have not had much to recommend them. Most combined cliche-ridden writing and sloppy research with salacious attention to the nastiest sorts of detail.

Jack Marx’s Australian Tragic is in a class apart. There are 20 tales in all and the subjects range widely, from famous national tragedies (the Black Friday bushfires of 1939, for instance, and the Port Arthur massacre of 1996) to some scandalous cases that reached the criminal courts.

There are also heart-rending private dramas largely unknown to, or long forgotten by, the public.

To be sure, many of the episodes recounted in the book are deeply disturbing, some bordering on the grisly and grotesque.

The common thread is intense human suffering, but this is not an exercise in exploitative populism. Marx is writing serious history, though it’s far removed from the traditional textbook style. He contends that “history (is) not just about education. It’s about storytelling, wonder, and pointless, amoral voyeurism.” That’s right, but to an extent Marx is underselling himself: I found nothing pointless or amoral in this book.

One of Marx’s aims is to discredit what he describes as “the ‘lucky country’ myth, (the) pantomime in which Australia is forever cast as a kingdom of eternal heroism and good”. He is not offering Australian readers yet another opportunity to feel good about ourselves. Nor are we meant to revel, cosily, in the evil and misfortune of others.

The tone of many true-crime books is self-righteous and complacent, if not ghoulish, but Marx does not judge. He narrates.

It helps enormously that he is a skilled literary craftsman. A prolific and accomplished freelance journalist, he won a thoroughly deserved Walkley award in 2006 for his feature, “I was Russell Crowe’s stooge”. My hopes for Australian Tragic skyrocketed the moment I learned its author was the same bloke who’d written that piece about Crowe, which was a savagely clever indictment of the cult of celebrity.

Australian Tragic is clever on another level. Marx declares an intention “to present real stories in the sensational ‘dime novel’ style of old”.

Although he came to include accounts of some well-known events, his original purpose was “to unearth stories that had not been widely distributed and present them in the somewhat sensational style of the old ‘penny dreadfuls’ “. By disciplining himself to write in a distinctive old-fashioned form, infused with 21st-century knowledge and sensibility, Marx transcends the genre.

American film director Todd Haynes did much the same thing in his 2002 masterpiece, Far from Heaven. Superficially, it was a homage to Douglas Sirk’s Hollywood melodramas of the 1950s. But Haynes was not indulging in parody or nostalgia for its own sake. As British critic Ed Halliwell has astutely remarked of the film, “the style serves the content” and “when you get into it, the emotional experiences of the film’s distant lives are timeless and powerfully affecting”. Marx achieves precisely this effect in Australian Tragic. I would be a spoilsport if I said too much about the tales themselves. However, a few examples should give the flavour.

One of the most harrowing concerns Sydney’s Luna Park ghost-train fire of 1979, which claimed the lives of (among others) a father and his two boys.

Marx recounts events from the point of view of the wife and mother of the family, Jenny Poidevin, who decided at the last moment to sit out the ride. It’s a tale genuinely biblical in its sad, eerie power and it inspired the book’s striking front cover.

Two other pieces made an especially strong impression. One describes the sinking of the SIEV-X refugee boat on October 19, 2001. Three hundred and fifty-three people drowned, and Marx justly calls it “a truly heartbreaking story from modern times”. It occurred during the shameful federal election campaign of that year but, sagely, Marx eschews politics to recount the horror from the perspective of a survivor, Amal Hassan Basry. She spent a long night floating in the dark expanse of the Indian Ocean, grieving for her teenage son. Before being rescued, she witnessed some horrific yet awe-inspiring things.

Another captivating piece relates to the investigation into the murder of 16-year-old Stacey Lee Kirk at a Maitland fairground on February 17, 1984. As Marx observes in his acknowledgments section, Stacey Lee’s father, Trevor Kirk – like Jenny Poidevin – “knows of a life that, thankfully, few of us will experience”.

Some stories are more quirky than horrific. One concerns a reported alien abduction that took place near Grafton in 1996, another the “rise and fall of Marcus Montana, a true rock legend” in the Sydney music scene of 1989. There’s also an entertaining account of the history of the so-called Mertz Collection of Australian paintings, compiled by an eccentric American millionaire in the 1960s. This piece, and three or four others, afford Marx scope to indulge in some darkly hilarious celebrity bashing and to point to the tabloid media leeches who idolise and destroy the famous. Crowe is not the only big name to have come off second-best from an encounter with Marx.

But Marx is at his most impressive telling the stories sad and straight. He displays unusual empathy for the hopeless, the exploited and the downtrodden. Often his empathy extends not only to the victims of evil, but to the perpetrators as well. Despite their destructive, sometimes hideous behaviour, we grieve for and with drunkards, fraudsters, egotists, home-wreckers, bank robbers, even gay-bashers and mass murderers. Everyone has a story to tell.

Australian True Crime Stories : Prison Riots and Prison Writes


Australian True Crime Stories

Australian True Crime Stories

Thirty stories revealing the sordid and previously untold escapades of the one man’s criminal past. Tog’s thoughts are informative, intriguing and give a rare insight into the criminal mind – not usually revealed with such clarity. Including three escapes from custody, shoot-outs with police, mateship whilst being pursued, breaking and entering and blowing up safes, this is your chance to relive stories of an ex-criminal’s life.

Author Information

As a mature man currently working in a government job, Joe Tog has lived a long and varied life. Three times on the Most Wanted list (Top 10) in Australia; he participated in three prison riots; has been shot in the head twice, and stabbed in a prison-yard dispute. Joe served time in H-division Pentridge, S-division Yatala, and the cages in Boggo Road. While an escapee from a Victorian prison he built wheat silos in South Australia and over the years has held a variety of jobs.

Jo also has another book called Prison break

Isolated in a small cell at Brisbane’s maximum-security prison awaiting trial, Joe Tog composed a series of short narratives for his defence-barrister. The purpose was to overcome confusion with the chronology of events leading up to his arrest in far North Queensland. The barrister, however, commented to his client during the trial, that the notes gave him a clarity that he did not normally get from cold, hard facts and dates. Out of that comment grew this story.

Prison Break follows Tog’s escape from two Australian prisons as well as his life and travels on the run. Interrogation, incarceration, violence and mateship are chronicled in depth to give you an insight into the criminal mind. A true story, with some fiction to protect the guilty, it is sad at times, funny in others but all in all a lesson in life.

Prison break

King Of Thieves : The Adventures Of Arthur Delaney And The Kangaroo Gang


King Of Thieves : The Adventures Of Arthur Delaney And The Kangaroo Gang

King Of Thieves : The Adventures Of Arthur Delaney And The Kangaroo Gang

The story of the most spectacularly successful shoplifting gang in history, who plundered stores in England and Europe in the 1960s and 1970s – the Kangaroo Gang, led by a master thief ‘King’ Arthur Delaney.

From the mid 1960s, a brazen band of Australian thieves ran riot in London for more than a decade, pulling off the most daring heists Scotland Yard had ever seen. They were tagged by the Press as the Kangaroo Gang.

The gang, led by the charismatic ‘King’ Arthur Delaney, targeted the plush emporia of Knightsbridge and the fine jewellers of Mayfair. But the King didn’t stop there, criss-crossing Europe to lay siege to the luxury retailers of Paris, Brussels, Rome and beyond.

The Kangaroo Gang operated at a time before closed-circuit television cameras. They elevated shoplifting to an art form practised without guns or violence. The King always found a way to simply ‘disappear’ with the loot.

This is also a love story between the King and his ‘Queen’ Alexis, who tried to tame the greatest of travelling thieves. The King’s 30-year criminal odyssey culminated in the biggest job of his career – six million pounds worth of precious gems from Asprey of London, jeweller to the Queen – in broad daylight. King of Thieves is a true story, soon to be made into a major feature film.

About The Author

Adam Shand is the best-selling author of Big Shots, the inside story of Melbourne’s gangland wars published by Penguin. It has so far sold 28,000 copies according to Bookscan and continues to sell 200 copies per week. Adam needs no introduction to booksellers; he has previously been a journalist on ‘The Bulletin’ and on the Nine Network’s ‘Sunday’ program. He now works for News Ltd and the Triple M radio network as an investigative reporter. He is well connected media – wise.

Journalist Adam Shand is the author of two previous true-crime titles, Big Shots and The Skull: both trolling turf made pop-culture by the ‘Underbelly’ series of books and TV. With King of Thieves, Shand takes a busman’s holiday from the psychosis and claustrophobia of Melbourne and Sydney’s gangland wars to follow one Arthur ‘the Duke’ Delaney down the rabbit hole into the fabulous lost world of organised Aussie-shoplifting in Swinging London. Throughout the 1960s, the Kangaroo Gangs fleeced all the major department stores of millions of pounds of jewellery, fine clothes, linen, white goods and even a chimp from Harrod’s zoo—and they did it with ‘dash’. This ain’t literary journalism but it’s a hell of a read, with hints that if it wasn’t so populist one might have considered these Aussies as yet another incarnation in London’s fascination with, and long history of, organised criminal underworlds, from Falstaff and Prince Hal, to Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Hogarth’s prints and Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. Because the irony isn’t lost on Shand: those who didn’t jig their last on the tree at Tyburn were transported, only now their great grandchildren are back from the antipodes. King of Thieves deserves to join Stephanie Alexander, I, Mick Gatto, Burroughs and Bukowski on the ‘most stolen’ list of many Australian bookstores.

Review By Michael Kitson

Women Who Kill (Book Review)


Women Who Kill

Women Who Kill

In Women Who Kill, true crime writers Cameron and Wykes investigate over a dozen cases of murder in Australia and New Zealand where women have taken the lives of loved ones and total strangers for the thrill of it. Women Who Kill explores these high profile cases that dominated the media as people struggled to understand the motives behind brutal murders committed by Catherine Birnie, Valerie Parashumti and Tania Herman, to name a few. The authors examine the evidence and look into the hearts and minds of women who willingly end the lives of others. Lindy Cameron is a prolific author and a convenor of Sisters in Crime, who lives in Victoria. Ruth Wykes, a writer and human rights activist, lives in WA.