Brenden James Abbott (born 8 May 1962) is an Australian bank robber who was branded the Postcard Bandit by the Western Australian Police to attract news media attention. The bank robberies he has been attributed as masterminding, yielded as much as A$6 million, though a significant proportion of that amount was unrecoverable.
Over the last 13 years he has been regularly transferred between Woodford Correctional Centre and Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, and held in both mainstream and Supermax conditions. He was moved to Brisbane Correctional Centre in August 2011, and is detained under severe, Supermax-style conditions.
Brenden James Abbott escaped from jail twice, and he also fled from police in 1986 during questioning at Nollamara Police Station. Atypical of crimes Abbott has been a party to, the escape from Sir David Longland Prison at Wacol in November 1997 utilized actual force rather than the implied threat of force. In that instance Brendon Berichon, a young former SDL inmate, fired warning shots overhead from the outside of the fence. The offenders alleged this occurred in panic, when the three escapees’ intended surreptitious escape plan went awry. Sir David Longlands Prison was also known as “the Killing Fields,” and was later decommissioned by the Queensland government.
On 24 November 1989, the Fremantle Prison escape occurred that earned Abbott his lifelong notoriety as a criminal genius, and ultimately led to his branding as “The Postcard Bandit.” Abbott and another inmate escaped by jumping from the roof, over the high limestone prison walls, in uniforms similar to guards’ that Abbott had sewn in the prison tailorshop. Fremantle Prison, built in the 1850s originally as an immigration holding centre, had a long history of escapes which feature in the heritage listed site’s tours. Fremantle Prison, like Sir David Longland Prison, was also decommissioned by the government due to substandard conditions in the years following Abbott’s escape. Both prisons were notorious for their severe and outdated conditions, and inmates’ bloody and brutal existence. Nollamara Police Station featured in the 2003 Western Australian Kennedy Royal Commission into Police Corruption, when former detainees detailed allegations of physical torture during questioning
A film about Abbott, The Postcard Bandit, was made for television by Nine Films/Pacific Coast Entertainment in 2003 and released on DVD on 22 March 2005.
Abbott was on the run for six months in 1986/1987; as Australia’s Most Wanted Man from 1989-1995 (five and a half years), and from 1997-1998 (six months). He was eventually caught in Darwin, Northern Territory in 1998 and is serving a 23 year sentence in Queensland for bank robberies and the 1997 prison escape. After serving two years of his current sentence in solitary confinement, he sued the Queensland Government for mistreatment. He was released from solitary confinement in May 2004 and returned there on a Maximum Security Order in April 2006, after he requested medical attention three times in 12 months, which the authorities deemed suspicious. After years in mainstream, Abbott was again returned to Supermax solitary confinement in August 2008 and then released back into mainstream detention in the days preceding a judicial review hearing into his back-to-back Maximum Security Orders, in October 2009.
Dubbed “The Postcard Bandit,” media reports in the 1990s said Abbott sent postcards of his travels to the Western Australian Police. However, the postcards in the “Postcard Bandit” story were a WA Police Media Unit invention; The “postcards” were photos Abbott lost while running from police after the Fremantle Prison escape with Aaron Reynolds, and were intended for his friends and family. They included a picture of Reynolds outside the Dwellingup Police Station, in Western Australia. While Reynolds was arrested within weeks, the fugitive, Abbott, went on to establish himself as a “professional” bank robber, using self-taught skills in make-up to create convincing disguises, computers to create false IDs, and electronics to dodge alarms.
His five and a half years on the run came to an end when police tracked down a post office box on the Gold Coast, Queensland used by Abbott, which was found to contain a pager bill registered to the address where he was living. Confronted by police at a Darwin Laundromat he surrendered without resistance and this is a typical facet of each of his arrests, historically.
A former ward of the state of Western Australia, Abbott is a member of the Forgotten Australians and still suffers a range of anxiety and health-related problems, noted in semi-biographical work by Derek Pedley, Australian Outlaw. The hearing impaired boy was subjected to corporal punishment in solitary detention in November 1974, at age 12, in the specially-modified child torture cell at the now notorious, Hillston Boys Home. Abbott’s last water colour, “Little Boy Blue,” was painted after the national apology. The biography also mentions his affliction with chronic superlative otitis media, a painful, recurrent middle-ear disease prevalent in Western Australia’s North-West, causing lifelong hearing loss and auditory processing delay, and an elevated risk of juvenile interaction with the criminal justice system. At earlier than one year of age Abbott had bilateral perforated ear drums and chronic recurrent bilateral effusion. Over the years that followed, he had repeated failed ear-drum grafts, with the last tympanoplasty taking place at age 13. As was the government practice at that time with little known about the condition and little concern for the wellbeing and future of state wards, no additional education, medical, and communication support, no court and interrogation support, nor any appropriate rehabilitation services, were made available to the youth.
The Australian mainstream media has widely featured speculation that at the conclusion of Abbott’s current Queensland sentence the West Australian police may apply to the Queensland courts to extradite Abbott to complete the remainder of a sentence for an armed robbery, and for trial over one count of escaping custody. Presently, no legal provisions exist for his past and present sentences to be served concurrently across the state boundaries of Queensland and Western Australia, and this is one factor contributing to the public perception that the prison time Abbott has served is disproportionate to sentences commonly handed down by the courts for similar offences.
Western Australian Labor politicians have twice refused Abbott’s transfer applications in 2005 and 2008 to return to the state to complete his sentence. In 2004 Queensland authorities approved an interstate transfer but Western Australian Attorney-General Jim McGinty refused to accept him. In early 2007, Abbott re-applied to be transferred to Western Australia and that was approved by the Queensland Attorney General in 2008. However, former WA Corrective Services Minister, Margaret Quirk, promptly released a media statement rejecting Abbott’s bid to return home. Abbott has applied for transfer back to Western Australia four times in response to the outstanding warrants, though all the applications have been refused by the Western Australian government. In May 2010 Glenn Cordingly of The Sunday Times in Perth, cited an unnamed WA Police source who alleged that Western Australian authorities “had a cell waiting” for Abbott, although there has been no official confirmation of such. The story sparked public debate for over a year, which is indicative of the public perceptions of Abbott’s treatment and sentencing.
A 1994 warrant for questioning remains in place with Adelaide Criminal Prosecutions Branch for one count of armed robbery in Glenelg, South Australia. In mid-2008, Brenden Abbott applied for an interstate transfer to South Australia to address the outstanding warrant. The application followed official statements by Adelaide detective Sid Thomas, in The Adelaide Advertiser in 2008, that detectives were travelling to Queensland to question Abbott at Woodford Correctional Centre, although no such interview has ever occurred. In December 2010, Abbott’s application for a South Australian transfer was approved by the Queensland Attorney General, and the South Australian Attorney General’s decision is pending. On 12 June 2011, Adelaide Advertiser reporter Nigel Hunt incorrectly reported that Abbott had filed for a Supreme Court Judicial Review regarding the application to transfer to face the charges. Hunt’s story concludes with an unnamed source’s suspicions that Abbott could have committed not just the one he is sought for questioning over, but multiple robberies in South Australia. The author of the book based on Abbott’s life, Australian Outlaw, is currently the night-editor at The Adelaide Advertiser, and speculated in the book that Abbott had done robberies in South Australia, though the SA Police have never questioned him.
WA police waiting for Brenden Abbott release
by: By GLENN CORDINGLEY
From: The Sunday Times
WA POLICE are poised to extradite notorious Postcard Bandit Brenden James Abbott who will be eligible for parole next year.
The serial bank robber and escapee is serving a 24-year jail term in Queensland for offences, including escaping custody and serious assault.
The 48-year-old could walk from the high-security Woodford Correctional Centre in Brisbane by September next year.
But WA Police say they will be ready and waiting to bring him back here the second he is released.
Abbott has escaped from custody three times in the past – for six months in 1985-86, five years from 1989-95 and six months in 1997-98.
He broke out of Fremantle Prison in 1989 while still having about 13 years to serve on a bank robbery conviction.
The criminal faces an escape custody charge in WA and is a prime suspect over a 1997 bank robbery in Mirrabooka.
He is wanted for questioning over other bank robberies, a gun-shop burglary and a car chase in which shots were fired at police by one of Abbott’s accomplices.
While on the run, he took pictures of himself and accomplices and it was incorrectly reported that he had sent them to police, leading to the Postcard Bandit nickname.
Abbott has applied to return to South Australia to face trial over an alleged bank raid in 1994.
He is suspected of robbing more than a dozen banks in Adelaide.
But WA Police said they expect to be first in line to extradite Abbott.
“We believe we would have first dibs at him because of the considerable prison time owed due to the escape and the fact he also faces serious other charges here, including a $500,000 bank robbery in Mirrabooka,” a police spokesman said.
“We don’t expect to have to get into a bidding war with other states.”
He said WA officers would travel to Queensland to make the extradition application.
Queensland Corrective Services spokesman Ross McSwain confirmed Abbott would be eligible to apply for parole in September 2011, although not due for release until October 29, 2020.
Former WA corrective services minister Margaret Quirk previously refused an interstate transfer application lodged on “welfare grounds” by Abbott so he could be closer to his mother.
The Usual Suspect
PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT: Monday, 27 October , 2003
CAROLINE JONES: Hello, I’m Caroline Jones. Tonight’s Australian Story is about a bank robber said to have captured the public imagination in the style of a Ned Kelly or Ronnie Biggs. He’s Brenden Abbott, infamous as the ‘Postcard Bandit’, now serving what may be the longest continuous term of solitary confinement ever endured in an Australian jail. He’s serving 23 years for armed hold-ups and jail escapes in Queensland, and still wanted for offences in two other States. Brenden Abbott’s supporters say his folk hero status has been his undoing. But the authorities say he’s getting what he deserved. Tonight, friends and foes reveal their competing versions of Brenden Abbott.
LETTER FROM BRENDEN ABBOTT: “Dear Jackie, I have given up asking why it is that I still feel the way I do about you after all these years and what I have been through. It has to be chemistry, simple as that.”
JACKIE DINES: We’re both go-getters. We both wanted the same sort of things, but not looking for a luxurious life or the high life – just wanting to be happy.
LETTER FROM BRENDEN ABBOTT: “The only time I know I will never hear from you again is when you pass away. We both know how we feel about each other. It’s a shame how it is.”
JACKIE DINES: Brenden’s idea was to get married and have the white picket fence. In general, I think, in the back of his mind that’s really what he wanted, but he never achieved it. So, sadly it’s still hanging out there.
LETTER FROM BRENDEN ABBOTT: “A lot of misguided people “seem to think that I was some sort of hero. I want to state clearly that I regret the way my life has gone, and I don’t want it to be glamorised in any shape, manner or form.”
NEWS REPORTER: Brenden James Abbott was Australia’s most wanted man. MAN: He’s no hero. He’s somebody to be feared.
NEWS GRAB: His intelligence was very good but he was very dangerous.
SNR SGT JEFF BEAMAN: Brenden Abbot was probably the most professional person doing armed robberies I ever dealt with.
NEWS REPORTER: The robberies netted nearly $1 million, but it still wasn’t fully understood how he pulled the robberies off.
NEWS GRAB: My warning to the bank is, batten the hatches ’cause here he comes.
CHRIS NYST: Abbott, unfortunately, sets a few records. His successes have been more successful and his failures have been more spectacular.
NEWS GRAB: He will be treated as a dangerous criminal, which is what he is.
NEWS GRAB: I think what corrective services have got in store for him will certainly ensure that we’ll never need to chase him around the countryside again.
JACKIE DINES: Solitary confinement can eventually crush a man’s spirit and I think that that’s a very cruel way to bring someone down is to try and crush their spirit like that, because they’ll lose it. And then… Oh, sorry. It’s not nice, anyway. ‘Cause I know him the way he was. To see him now, it’s, like, “God, what have you done?”
THELMA SALMON: Brenden never had any problems with his schooling or anything. And he was always a smart one. He’d take things to pieces to see how they worked and put ’em back together. I don’t know how old he was when I said to him one day, I said, “When you start going out with a female,” I said, “are you gonna take her to pieces and try to put her back together?” And he said, “Mum!” And I said, “No?” I said, “Well?” But there was nothing that he couldn’t take apart.
LETTER FROM BRENDEN ABBOTT: “In 1974 I was involved in an incident “that was a major turning point in my life. “It resulted in me being charged with assault for hitting a girl at school with a bike pump. It was by no means a savage attack. I was sentenced to be a ward of the state.”
DIANE ABBOTT: I think going to the boys home was the start of it. That’s my personal opinion. When Brenden went to a boys home, crime was not something that he did. When he came back when he was 15, it was almost like stealing was…the thing… .because he was always stealing.
THELMA SALMON: I couldn’t give him the things that he wanted, I suppose, and…as he got older he just said that he did not want to be a pauper like his mother.
SNR SGT JEFF BEAMAN: Nobody had an influence over him. That’s what it all come down to. He didn’t have a father figure that could show him the right way. And I think that’s the problem. The system’s created him and the system had hold of him as a juvenile, and they couldn’t fix him.
JACKIE DINES: I was 15 when I first met Brenden and I remember meeting him at a swimming pool. And, didn’t know him from a bar of soap but he just pushed me in the water.
LETTER FROM BRENDEN ABBOTT: “Of all the women in my life, I’ve never been able to love another woman as much as I did Jackie. On the other hand, she has caused me the most grief. I can’t explain it.”
JACKI DINES: He seemed almost shy but he was also…mysterious, if you like. He had that kind of an aura. He was just wanting to be loved and not wanting to be idolised or made out to be anything special. He just knew that what he wanted in life. He was going to go after it. And that was his vision and he just stuck to it. No matter what it took to get there, he wanted to do it.
THELMA SALMON: Jackie, I wouldn’t trust with a 10-foot pole. So, my son is going to say, “Mum, you shouldn’t be like that, you know. She didn’t do nothing to you.” But she did something to my son, and that’s something I will never forgive her for.
JACKIE DINES: Brenden and I were always close. We were soul mates. We just knew each other very well and we just got on very well together. He had a slapstick-type humour. He was just easy to get along with, you know. He never judged anyone, just kept to himself, had a laugh.
DIANE ABBOTT: Jackie had a racy side, but you would never pick it to look at her. She looked angelic, almost.
JACKIE DINES: I thought that I was quite normal when I met Brenden. It wasn’t like I was anything bad. I was working. I had, in fact, two jobs. I wasn’t a thief as such, but I started to shoplift. I suppose it might have even been in competition with what Brenden was doing. Brenden got into guns towards the end of our relationship together, because he knew that with the guns he was able to get actual cash but he didn’t have to worry about it being traced, if you know what I mean. So, he knew it was a quick thing. He could get it over and done with. There was no fuss. I had to make some choices, otherwise I would have gone the wrong way as well. So, I decided that I’d have to cut it from there.
PERTH 1987 – BELMONT COMMONWEALTH BANK – ABBOTT’S FIRST ROBBERY
CARMEL KRANZ: I can remember the day so clearly because I’d got to work like I normally did. As I turned I could see this guy coming from the ceiling. Anyhow, he quickly sort of jumped up and showed his gun and, you know, another guy came through the ceiling. And it was like everything sort of stopped and you could almost feel your heart beat. And I can still sort of feel it now – your heartbeat pounding, pounding.
NIGEL MINCHIN: Brenden Abbott was saying, you know, “Fuckin’ down here, you mob of ‘C’s,” you know. And…he says, “Otherwise someone’s gonna die today. Who would like to die today? And then everyone ran down the other end. He said, “I fuckin’ said down here, you mob of ‘C’s,” you know, and then the gun went off.
CARMEL KRANZ: When the gun went off, knowing, you know, just if it had have hit Nigel I could never have lived with myself for putting him in that situation. I just think it’s a guilt feeling there for not handling that part a bit better. That… When I close my eyes that’s what comes more to my mind.
NIGEL MINCHIN: I think the robbery lasted for seven minutes and it was like seven hours at the time, you know. And…and it’s lasted right up till this day.
CARMEL KRANZ: I think the name Brenden Abbott will be like nightmare material for me for the rest of my life. It’s terror and it’s fear and it’s insecurity and it’s life and death. For them it was, “Let’s get money and go.” But, you know, they…they went on and they did the next thing but they left us all there with this feeling of angst and anxiety that can come and go. Just like, you know, rain comes from the sky, it can come and go at any time.
NEWS REPORTER: Breaking through the ceiling, two men in balaclavas.
NEWS REPORTER: Australia’s first ‘drop in’-style bank robbery.
JACKIE DINES: Brenden has become a bit of phenomenon to a lot of people. He’s this amazing man that gets away with all these bank robberies. Anyone that’s shown on TV a lot would end up becoming someone’s hero, somewhere. To me, he’s not a hero.
DIANE ABBOTT: Brenden and Jackie were still seeing each other. Jackie found out that Brenden had been seeing somebody else. She then contacted the police and said where they would be able to find Brenden.
SNR SGT JEFF BEAMAN: Even when he was arrested and he went to court, you could see him in the court, looking at areas he could escape. And you always thought that Brenden was never gonna be contained. Like a caged animal. He was always gonna keep going.
JACKIE DINES: It was an absolute shock to him when he got done for 12 years. He just couldn’t believe it. And I think that…that he lost some spark when that happened.
DIANE ABBOTT: I was furious with Jackie when I found out. I was furious. How dare you do that to my brother! You know, women scorned – I’m telling you they’re deadly, dangerous things, aren’t they?
JACKIE DINES: No matter what I’ve done, whether it be partly responsible for Brenden’s capture for the Belmont bank robbery, he has the grace… He is gracious enough to say, “Well, I believe you. “And even though – I’m gonna tell you now – “I’ll never tell you anything else, I still love you.” The Commonwealth Bank gave me a $7,000 reward, which I then helped Brenden out by putting money in his account in Fremantle to actually help him to get a TV and some bits and pieces to set himself up in his cell.
DEREK PEDLEY: Thelma, to me, early on in the piece, I thought she may have been some kind of a matriarch of a criminal family. As the years have gone by and I’ve actually got to know the woman, I’ve realised she was very much just a woman who was trying to protect her sons.
LETTER FROM BRENDEN ABBOTT: “Fremantle was a right shithole. I remember one night waking up because of a cockroach having a feed from my mouth.”
DEREK PEDLEY: Abbott was working in a tailor shop and he’d taken the opportunity to start manufacturing some uniforms similar to what the prison officers were wearing. When those uniforms were complete, and when the opportunity arose and there wasn’t a prison guard around, a bar in that workshop was sawed through and pulled back and Abbott and the two accomplices were able to slip out onto the roof and across a section of the prison complex. One of the others didn’t make it. He fell…fell off the roof and broke his leg. But Abbott basically made the leap to freedom and got away as easily as that.
NIGEL MINCHIN: The phone call’s come over, you know, saying, “Oh, your mate’s escaped, you know. And I thought, ‘Oh, God almighty, I hope he doesn’t come and try and track me down.”
LETTER FROM BRENDEN ABBOTT: “After my escape I was solely committed to avoiding capture, and eventually flee the country. I gave no thought to the fact it would require me totalling cutting off ties with my family and friends – an impossible feat.”
NEWSREPORTER: Australia’s most notorious bank robber. He’s the man police both admire and detest.
SNR SGT JEFF BEAMAN: Brenden was on the run for about five years. He committed crimes in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. And he’s probably predominantly been in NSW and Victoria, and a trip over to Tasmania and up in the Northern Territory.
DEREK PEDLEY: What drew me to Abbott’s story is the mystery – this arch villain who had Houdini-like talents, who could escape from prison, and claimed that he had this huge IQ. This myth really became set in stone when he’s been the Australia’s most wanted and this criminal celebrity.
NEWS REPORTER: He’s cool, cunning and worst of all, a likeable bloke.
CHRIS NYST: Police media liaison decided it would be a good idea to put out the story that Abbott had been sending postcards to the police while he was on the run. In fact, that arose from the police having found some photographs during the search of one of the houses that he’d been in. Brenden Abbott never sent any postcards. It was just a story that somebody picked up on and they run with it, but it worked in our favour, so we never tried to contradict it.
CHRIS NYST: Kind of backfired a little bit on the police, in a sense. It captured the imagination of a lot of people in Australia and it turned Abbott into, I suspect, a little bit of a folk hero.
SNR SGT JEFF BEAMAN: It’s upped the ante for him. It’s made him much more of a political football than he otherwise would have been.
DIANE ABBOTT: I think the bank hold-ups after he broke out of Fremantle Prison was more to do with a matter of survival. Crazy as it sounds, he led a very legitimate, legal life aside from robbing the banks.
SNR SGT JEFF BEAMAN: He didn’t have the vices most people doing armed robberies did. Most people are either drug addicts or they’re gamblers.
JACKIE DINES: I think with Brenden that what drives him is just the adrenaline of doing it and being able to achieve it. He’s just a doer. He just wants to do stuff. And unfortunately, he picked the wrong thing to do.
DIANE ABBOTT: Oh, it’s a rollercoaster ride having a criminal for a brother. The surveillance was intense. There was friends of mine who had been visited by the police. I had a vehicle sitting outside my house for a long period of time. I firmly believe that the police put pressure on the family in the hope that one of us would get so angry at Brenden for the inconvenience on our lives that we would dob him in.
THELMA SALMON: If I didn’t hear from him, I’d worry. If he rang…I was frightened that they’d, you know, get him. I was always frightened that they’d shoot him if they did catch him. But one time there when he did come, he rang me and he said, “Mum, can you watch the dog for me for six weeks?” He was just around the corner and I went and I picked the dog up. That’s about 12 years now, and I’ve still got the dog.
JACKIE DINES: I don’t really think about what would it have been like had I have carried on my relationship with Brenden. I don’t give it much thought, because I knew when I made my decision that there wasn’t any future to be planned. And I think it was devastating for both of us at that time. So me and Brenden went our separate ways and I became a Christian and had two children. My husband, Tony, who I’m with now, he’s a very stable and strong sort of person, so I suppose I chose the white picket fence.
ABBOTT WAS CAPTURED IN 1995 AFTER ALMOST SIX YEARS ON THE RUN. TWO YEARS LATER HE ESCAPED FROM A QUEENSLAND PRISON.
NEWS REPORTER: Abbott used razor wire to cut his cell bars and escape last week.
DIANE ABBOTT: The media was making a mockery, I think, of the police department and the corrective services, and I think that Brenden was fully aware that he was gonna have to pay for that.
NEWS REPORTER: Abbott remained at large for six months before his dramatic arrest by police in Darwin.
NEWS REPORTER: Brenden Abbott was found guilty on the weekend of robbing a Gold Coast bank while on the run.
NEWS REPORTER: He could stay behind bars until he’s almost 70 years old.
DEREK PEDLEY: The Queensland prison authorities were very keen to promote Abbott as a criminal mastermind, because I think that covered for the deficiencies at Sir David Longland. There was a lot of procedures that weren’t correctly followed, which aided in their escape.
CHRIS NYST: The 1998 Queensland elections were a very close-run affair. Law and order means votes and Abbott’s name was centred very much in that debate. I think, in a very real sense, Brenden Abbott’s a political prisoner. Abbott had become such an embarrassment and ultimately such a political football that when he was recaptured, he was put into a prison that was effectively designed for him, a solitary confinement prison, and he’s been kept there ever since under the kind of pretext that there would be six-monthly reviews. But the reality is that every six months it looks as though what happens is the matter gets rubber-stamped again, and he’s now into his fifth year.
DIANE ABBOTT: I’ve come to Brisbane to visit Brenden. I don’t get down to see him very often – once every six months. Sometimes it might be a bit longer.
LETTER FROM BRENDEN ABBOTT: “The way I’ve been treated, you’d be forgiven to think I was a person who has committed the most horrendous crimes against society. I did not rape or murder women and children. The truth to it all is I robbed the big guys.”
DIANE ABBOTT: Well, I have to head back to Cairns tomorrow, so when I go I don’t know when I’m going to see him again, and sometimes that’s the worry of, “AM I going to see him again?” With the conditions that he is under, you know, I mean, humans just don’t endure that sort of treatment without experiencing some sort of pain, some…something. So, yeah, my fear is not seeing him again. Yeah, that’s the… But that does… .that is really hard to handle.
JACKIE DINES: I hadn’t seen Brenden for about 13 years, and so we had already decided at this time, my husband and I, that we were gonna move to Brisbane – actually, to the Gold Coast. And upon that drive over, we also discussed whether or not it’d be a good idea to go and visit Brenden in jail. I went there mainly because I thought…well, curiosity. What’s he like now? And is he this hardened criminal that they keep showing me on the TV, you know? ‘Cause they always had pictures of him that made him look like a real devil, if you like. Wonder if there’s any, you know, spark there, or…?”
LETTER FROM BRENDEN ABBOTT: “Dear Jackie, I look forward to seeing you again. I haven’t changed much, other than some grey hair and wrinkles around the eyes, as you would expect from a 40-year-old.”
THELMA SALMON: If Jackie’s going in and seeing Brenden now, to me, I would say she’s got a guilt complex for what she did when he was first caught. I think Brenden will forgive and forget, I suppose, so he’s, um…he’s not like his mum.
JACKIE DINES: It’s kind of a bit hard to see him because he’s kind of shrivelling up, really. He hasn’t got the spirit he had, and maybe that’s what they’re trying to do, is crush that in him so that he becomes subdued. But I think that they’re missing the point. If they would just allow him to be rehabilitated and do the right thing by society and live a normal life, because he desperately wants to be able to live a normal life.
CHRIS NYST: There are some surprises about Brenden Abbott. Some years ago he said to me that he was going to take up painting, and I expected to see kind of a stick-man, amateurish thing. But he sent me a painting of Rene Rivkin, and it was just extraordinary. If his life had been different, then I think he might have achieved a lot.
DIANE ABBOTT: He’s not a murderer, he’s not a rapist, he’s not evil. And as for the victims that he’s been with, you know, I really think that the best thing they could do for themselves is to go and see him. Arrange to meet him. Arrange to talk with him. Let him know how you feel. Let him know what he has done so that they can see that they’re not meeting some crazed maniac who just doesn’t care about anybody else. You know, he’s a person who has real feelings and he cares about other people too.
NIGEL MINCHIN: Well, you know, it’s probably a bloody good idea, when you look at it. You know, he’s another human being. He’s not, you know… He’s one of us. He just got on the wrong side of the track. And I’m open to anything.
CARMEL KRANZ: Well, I suppose I would like to say to him, you know, “How do you feel?” You know, Would you do things differently now? You know, “Do you think, you know, the path of destruction that you had across Australia has really done any good, at the end of the day? You know, “What was it all about? You know, “How would you like if that was your sister? How would you like “if that was your mother being threatened, you know?
LETTER FROM BRENDEN ABBOTT: “If I could turn back the clock, “I’d love to have been a doctor or a lawyer, or anything other than a criminal who now spends his days in a prison cell.”
SNR SGT JEFF BEAMAN: There’s evidence there’s several million dollars that is unaccounted for, and it’s still probably stashed somewhere, and I don’t think Brenden will ever expose that, because he always said, “I can always get out. I’ve got access then. I’ve got money to start again.”
LETTER FROM BRENDEN ABBOOT: “As for stealing money from the banks, I’ve no regrets whatsoever, other than wishing I could have done so without leaving traumatised individuals in my wake. Personally, I feel the banks are the biggest thieves in society.”
SNR SGT JEFF BEAMAN: Someone else would think, Well, if I give the money up I’d get a lighter sentence, but Brenden doesn’t care about that because I think his theory is, Well, they’re not gonna keep me here forever.
DEREK PEDLEY: Brenden Abbott is effectively the longest-serving prisoner who’s been held in solitary confinement in Australia, in the modern era.
CHRIS NYST: He really suffers complete sensory and social deprivation, and he’s now into his fifth year.
NEWS REPORTER: Abbott and his fellow inmates are kept segregated for more than 20 hours a day, regularly strip-searched and moved from cell to cell.
DEREK PEDLEY: If Abbott got an opportunity to escape, he would take it without a second’s hesitation. I don’t doubt that at all. But that’s entirely down to this catch-22 situation that he’s in. He knows that his treatment simply is not going to change as long as he is an escape risk. He’s an escape risk because he’s serving a virtual life sentence and has nothing to look forward to.
CHRIS NYST: This is not about Brenden Abbott. Brenden Abbott’s a convicted criminal. It’s not about giving him a break or doing him a favour or anything else. It’s all about us as a community. What standards are we going to set for ourselves?
NEWS REPORTER: Queensland’s Premier has no sympathy for the prisoner’s solitary existence.
NEWS GRAB – PETER BEATTIE: This prison within a prison was created to keep the toughest prisoners in there, and it will remain. And I make no apology for it.
CHRIS NYST: We’ll be arguing before the UN that the maximum security regime, and in particular the indefinite solitary confinement regime here in Queensland, constitutes cruel and inhumane treatment.
JACKIE DINES: I still love Brenden in that he’s got qualities there that are still worthy of encouraging. It’s kind of hard sometimes to deal with that when you’re sitting in there talking to him face to face and he’s talking about, “Oh, you know, you’re the only one I ever really wanted to marry.” And you’re like, “Yeah, but I’m, like, married now.” He’s been such a focus of my life all these years that it’s kind of hard just to flick him off and say, “Oh, yeah, you’re just a nobody,” especially when he’s where he is. So hopefully I can help him a bit.
DIANE ABBOTT: I hope that my children….work within the system rather than working against the system. Because if they work against the system they’re gonna end up where he is, and that’s a horrible existence for anybody.
CAPTION: Brenden Abbott has served more than five years in the maximum security unit. The terms of his confinement will be reviewed once again nest week.
He is not due for release until 2020. He then faces further charges in two other states.
Queensland Corrective Services forbids media interviews with prisoners.
Postcard Bandit hopes for transfer to WA
Reporter: Mick O’Donnell
MAXINE McKEW: We turn now to a notorious name in Australian criminal history. Brenden Abbott, dubbed the ‘Postcard Bandit’, is a convicted bank robber and serial prison escapee. Now under lock and key in a Queensland jail, he’s considered a man who is not safe to move. That helps explain why Brenden Abbott’s application to be transferred to his home state of Western Australia has been blocked. He’s also deemed to be a risk to the WA community. But Abbott’s current girlfriend, a Darwin beautician, is determined her man will return to Perth to face the music for the crimes he committed there. And the former fugitive is also arguing that his request to return to his home state is all about concern for his one-time victims. Mick O’Donnell reports.
TILLY NEEDHAM, GIRLFRIEND: Probably closest to the most perfect relationship I’ve ever had.
MICK O’DONNELL: That’s not the commonly held view of Brenden Abbott who spent years on the run as one of Australia’s most wanted criminals.
TILLY NEEDHAM: Perfect in a sense he’s given me more than what any man has ever given me before.
MICK O’DONNELL: Tilly Needham, who runs this beauty salon in Darwin, is in love with a man who many despise as a criminal who terrorise bank tellers and customers.
TILLY NEEDHAM: He’s got a beautiful warm personality. He’s very caring. Very accepting.
MICK O’DONNELL: But this is how the Attorney-General of Western Australia Jim McGinty describes the same man.
JIM McGINTY, WA ATTORNEY-GENERAL (ON ABC RADIO): He’s one of the worst offenders that we’ve seen in this state for a very long period of time. He has engaged in breakouts, violence. He is not somebody that we want posing a threat to our community here in Western Australia.
MICK O’DONNELL: Brenden Abbott has been in Queensland jails for the past seven years and now WA Attorney-General Jim McGinty has rejected Abbott’s application for transfer to prison in his home state, even though it has been okayed by Queensland. This week, Abbott is fighting back through this letter to his girlfriend claiming it’s all in the interests of his victims.
BRENDEN ABBOTT: Jim McGinty’s refusal to transfer me to Western Australia is a decision he’s made without considering not just my rights but the rights of the victims.
MICK O’DONNELL: Dubbed the The Postcard Bandit because of snapshots he took while on the run. Abbott has been robbing banks or in jail or escaping and running from the police since 1986. His biographer, Adelaide Journalist Derek Pedley, says that after six years in solitary confinement Abbott has begun to reflect on his crimes.
JIM McGINTY, BIOGRAPHER: It’s only in the past 18 months or so, two years that he’s started talking about words like “mistakes” and “remorse”. He got particularly angry when a movie was done on his life a couple of years ago. He felt that painted him as some kind of anti-hero which he doesn’t believe he is.
MICK O’DONNELL: The Channel 9 tele-movie and DVD ‘The Postcard Bandit’ paints a glorified and patly fictional portrait of Abbott, perpetuating the myth of the larrikan thief who taunted police. Brenden Abbott’s escape from here, the old Fremantle prison in 1989 was typical of his colourful exploits – daring and well prepared. He was wearing a fake blue guards overall which he stitched himself in the prison workshops, as he dashed across the roofs to freedom. But for all of Abbott’s so-called adventures, there are real victims, though, many of whom have never had their day in court.
CARMEL KRANZ, ROBBERY VICTIM: I think the name Brenden Abbott will be like nightmare material for me for the rest of my life.
MICK O’DONNELL: Police believe Abbott was responsible for gun shop and bank robberies in Perth in the days after his escape, alleged crimes he’s never been charged over. After his escape from a Queensland jail in ’97 Abbott returned to WA. Police named him, he was behind the state’s biggest bank robbery. $400,000 from the Mirrabooka Commonwealth branch. Again, because he was recaptured in Darwin in’98 and sent to Queensland for robberies there, no charges were ever laid nor the outstanding crimes in WA.
BRENDEN ABBOTT: There’s currently an outstanding warrant for my escape from Fremantle prison in 1989 and also numerous alleged armed robberies for banks for which the WA police feel I was the perpetrator.
MICK O’DONNELL: Carmel Kranz was a teller in a Perth bank the morning Abbott and his accomplice dropped out of the ceiling.
CARMEL KRANZ: They left us with a feeling of angst and anxiety that can come and go just like rain comes from the sky. It can come and go at any time.
MICK O’DONNELL: Former West Coast Eagles football player Karl Langdon was a young teller in the Belmont queue on that day too.
KARL LANGDON, ROBBERY VICTIM: There were some work colleagues who could never return to work.
MICK O’DONNELL: The manager in the bank, Nigel Minchin, had a pistol fired inches from his head.
NIGEL MINCHIN, ROBBERY VICTIM: I think the robbery lasted for seven minutes and it was like seven hours at the time, you know. It’s lasted right up to this day.
MICK O’DONNELL: While these three had their day in court, their evidence put Abbott in Fremantle jail and Abbott now says he wants to offer the same for victims of his other alleged crimes.
BRENDEN ABBOTT: Any decent right-thinking person would understand that these matters need to be brought to a head and allow these people closure once and for all so they can move on with their lives. Closure would entitle them in taking a necessary course in seeking compensation.
MICK O’DONNELL: But is he using pop psychology words to get out of Queensland whatever it takes.
DEREK PEDLEY, BIOGRAPHER: He’s very much focused on getting back to Perth where he believed he will get different treatment to what he gets in Queensland. I think he feels Queensland demonise (sic) him over the 1987 escape.
MICK O’DONNELL: Abbott’s girlfriend Tilly Needham who’s meeting the costs of his legal fight says Abbott may face seven or eight years’ jail if he returned to WA rather than 13 in Queensland.
KARL LANGDON: I don’t really care where he serves his time, but I’ve been taught if you do the crime you do the time.
MICK O’DONNELL: Victims fear a return to Perth would mean Abbott escapes the jail time he’s due for the other alleged crimes.
KARL LANGDON: He could serve his time that he had left to serve in Queensland alongside the time that he got here in Western Australia and that was something that people didn’t want to see happen.
MICK O’DONNELL: Abbott’s mother who lives quietly in Perth believes confining her son for six of the past seven years in solitary is extraordinary treatment for a criminal never convicted of actually harming anyone.
THELMA SALMON, MOTHER: I know he frightened the hell out of them but I don’t think he was ever violent.
MICK O’DONNELL: Thelma Salmon is too ill to travel to Queensland to see her son.
THELMA SALMON: I cannot see why he can’t be brought back here to serve his time so that I can go and see him.
KARL LANGDON: Just because you’ve behaved well, you should have thought of that before you went and dropped through ceilings and held guns at the side of people’s leads.
MICK O’DONNELL: It is true that Abbott’s notoriety have brought him tougher treatment than other criminals who might have done worse. Earlier this year, after strong pleas from his family, Douglas Crabbe was quietly moved from a Darwin jail to Perth.
WOMAN: He’s done his time and learnt his lesson.
MICK O’DONNELL: His crime, the murder of five people when he rammed a truck into a road house in Uluru in 1983.
BRENDAN ABBOTT: My sentence exceeds that of convicted murderers and paedophiles. Prisoners guilty of committing these types of offences have been and continue to be granted transfers to Western Australia on welfare grounds.
MICK O’DONNELL: Abbott’s lawyers are preparing a court challenge to WA Attorney-General Jim McGinty, who remains adamant.
JIM McGINTY, WA ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I’ll be fighting this matter every inch of the way through the courts to make sure we are not forced here to take Queensland’s criminal whom we don’t want.
MICK O’DONNELL: Much of the money from Abbott’s crimes has not been recovered. Tilly Needham, who has struggled with breast cancer during her boyfriend’s incarceration, denies Abbott is manipulating her or the system.
TILLY NEEDHAM: For being a very good judge of character and knowing him the way I know him he’s not – at all.
Abbott faces parole limbo
by: Peter Hansen
From: The Sunday Mail (Qld)
March 10, 2007
RENEWED Queensland Supreme Court action by Postcard Bandit Brenden Abbott reveals how he is now stuck in a legal maze that will probably see him die in jail.
For once he and Queensland authorities agree on something: he wants to be transferred back to his home state of Western Australia, and Queensland authorities want to be rid of him.
But WA doesn’t want a bar of him, despite his being wanted there for jail-escape and multiple bank-robbery charges.
In his latest foray to Queensland’s Supreme Court, Abbott complains his full-time release date from his sentence for a violent 1997 Brisbane jailbreak and Queensland bank robberies is 2020. Technically, he argues, parole is possible after 2010.
But because he is wanted in WA, he will have to serve the full sentence before release and then face immediate extradition to WA on charges of a 1989 jailbreak in Fremantle, a raid on a Perth gunshop and two armed bank robberies.
Abbott is trying to serve part of his Queensland and any WA sentences concurrently. He has taken the Queensland Attorney-General to court again, under the Prisoners Interstate Transfer Act, “aggrieved by the failure of the A-G to make a decision” about a WA transfer. Abbott claimed he was being “denied his natural right to face justice on the outstanding WA charges”.
Court documents point out that current Attorney-General Kerry Shine and past Queensland attorneys-general have already consented to Abbott’s transfer to WA, provided WA authorities agree. But WA Attorney-General Jim McGinty is on record as saying: “I remain of the opinion that the return of Mr Abbott to Western Australia at the present time is not in the best interests of the state.”
In Queensland court documents, Abbott says: “If my application is not granted, I would need to serve an insurmountable amount of time before I’ll be given any certainty as to the length of my ultimate sentence . . . Such a delay must certainly impact upon by progress towards rehabilitation.”
He quotes High Court judges and interstate appeals judges in his eloquent argument that execution of warrants should not be at the whim of police prosecutors, and justice so long delayed gravely disadvantages the community, victim and prisoner.
Abbott, now 44, remains in maximum security at Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre at Wacol in Brisbane.
“Postcard bandit” sues Qld Govt over mistreatment in jail
20 October , 2000
Reporter: ian townsend
COMPERE: The notorious criminal, Brendan Abbott, the so-called postcard bandit, is suing the Queensland Government for mistreatment in prison. Abbott is serving 23 years at the Woodford Maximum Security Prison in Queensland for armed robbery and escaping from Brisbane’s Sir David Longland jail in 1997, an escape, of course, which led police on an Australia-wide investigation as Abbott taunted those hunting him in a series of daring robberies.
His solicitor, Chris Nyst [phonetic], claims in singling his client out for special treatment, Queensland may be breaching its human rights obligations. He’s filed a writ in the Brisbane Supreme Court to determine if the treatment is unlawful.
Mr Nyst is speaking to Ian Townsend in Brisbane.
CHRIS NYST: Abbott has been effectively in solitary confinement for about the past two years. He’s held in a cell about 3 metres square for about 22 hours a day. He gets out into a small exercise yard for about two hours a day, at which time he’s able to mix with one other person, but essentially he’s been in solitary confinement for the past two years.
IAN TOWNSEND: And I understand there’s also other security measures he’s been subjected to.
CHRIS NYST: Well, he’s subjected to regular searches, and these are quite intrusive searches, I might add, without going into the gory detail, but they are very intrusive searches. And he’s also moved on average about twice a week, and that can happen at any time – day or night. So what happens is that prison officers simply come at some stage, open the cell door, pull everything he owns, throw it out into the corridor, take him out, strip search him, then move him to another location.
And that, you might appreciate, for a person who is faced with 23 years in jail, is extremely distressing in the sense that even in the most meagre of circumstances you try to make a home, it’s very difficult to do that when you’re being moved incessantly at any hour of day or night.
IAN TOWNSEND: Is this treatment affecting his state of mind, do you believe?
CHRIS NYST: I believe this treatment could not possibly do otherwise than affect his state of mind, affect the state of mind of any person. I believe Abbott himself is a strong person mentally, but I – the conditions of being held in solitary confinement for these periods must certainly affect any person.
IAN TOWNSEND: Is the treatment he’s been receiving unusual for a prisoner in an Australian prison?
CHRIS NYST: Unfortunately in Queensland it is becoming more usual. We are seeing large numbers of people that are being processed through these maximum security solitary confinement conditions. The unusual thing about Abbott is that he has been held for two years in those conditions. Now, in my view, that’s quite inappropriate. That’s a matter that the courts will decide in due course when they look at the Act and the legislation generally and Australia’s obligations on an international sphere.
IAN TOWNSEND: Obviously you want the treatment to stop?
CHRIS NYST: Obviously we want the treatment to stop. I mean, what we’re trying to achieve is that people start to understand that we have an obligation to, yes, hold prisoners and sometimes dangerous prisoners and sometimes prisoners who carry with them great risk of escape. We have an obligation to hold them, but hold them in what can at least be said to be humane circumstances.
I’m not just talking about circumstances of a holiday camp. I mean, these are tough, hard prisons, and in the open prison section. But to put a person in solitary confinement over this lengthy period of time in my view is dangerous in the extreme. And I can say this, that – you know, I went through the days of the old Black Hole at Bogo Road and there was much to do about that and much blow palaver, but I never knew anybody to be in the Black Hole more than several days, and these people are being in solitary confinement, in Abbott’s case, for two years.
In quite regular circumstances, people for weeks and weeks on end in solitary confinement, that was unheard of in the old Black Hole days, and yet there was great ringing of hands, and so forth, about the Black Hole, and there should have been, but for some reason now in today’s climate, people are willing to turn their back on it.
COMPERE: Chris Nyst is the Queensland lawyer acting for Brendan Abbott, and he was speaking to Ian Townsend in Brisbane.