Jockey Smith, – Public Enemy Number One
Jockey Smith was a dangerous, gun toting criminal with a short stature and an even shorter fuse. He had a promising future in horse racing but this was short-lived when his career veered towards crime. After his first stint in prison Smith got caught up with the criminal circle and attracted trouble wherever he went.
Evolution of a Tough Nut
Born James Edward Smith on 3 October 1942 in Colac, Victoria, Smith was the second of eight children. He had a passion for horses and became an apprentice jockey in Caulfield where he earned the nickname ‘Jockey’. However his career in horse racing was cut short at age 19 when he was caught breaking into garages and shops for which he was sentenced to 18 months in 1961.
Upon his release Smith did his criminal mentorship with Ronald Ryan, who was the last person to be legally executed in Australia for killing a prison officer in 1967. From 1962 – 1967 Smith was in and out of jail for various offences such as stealing, break and entering, drug use, attempted escape and possession of a firearm and explosives.
In 1974 Smith headed north to Sydney and was quickly arrested for conspiring to commit armed robbery. He skipped bail and returned to Melbourne only to be arrested again after a tip-off. He was sent to Pentridge Prison but escaped two days later scaling a fence and walking out of the prison using a visitor’s pass.
Smith then went into hiding in Nowra NSW and lived under a pseudonym Tommy Cummings working as a horse trainer. He lived under the radar for few years but resurfaced in 1976 when he was charged for shooting and wounding Constable Jerry Ambrose after a car chase in Kensington NSW. In 1977 Smith was involved in the robbery of Sydney bookmaker Lloyd Tidmarsh with two others which resulted in the death of Tidmarsh. The convictions for the shooting of Ambrose and the murder of Tidmarsh were later rejected on appeal and Smith accused the police of verballing him.
Smith Vs The Force
Smith made many enemies in the police force largely due to his involvement to help expose police scandals in NSW and VIC. One notable incident which Smith appealed and argued was a complete fabrication by the police was when he was confronted by Detective Bob Godden at a phone booth in Nowra in 1977. The officer claimed Smith attempted to shoot him when he tried to arrest him and managed to deflect the gun from firing by jamming his thumb behind the trigger. There were arguments this was physically impossible but Smith was sentenced to life for the attempted murder of Godden. His sentence was later reduced to 14 years but it raised the question whether Smith was a victim of a police set-up.
In February 1992 Smith was release from Long Bay on parole. He had spent almost 25 years in prison and a day after his release he was shot five times by a gunman outside his Bondi flat. He was lucky to survive the attack but refused to cooperate with police to find his would-be assassin. Many wondered whether his enemies in the force had put a hit on him. Smith left Bondi and kept a low profile in Terrigal.
The End is Nigh
On 29 November 1992 Smith was apprehended by store security for shop lifting at Erina Shopping Centre. What was seemingly a small crime led to a series of events that resulted in Smith’s untimely death. As Smith was escorted by security back to their office, he threatened them with a gun and ran off to the car park. He hopped into the back seat of a car and threatened the couple in it with his gun. When the couple escaped from the car, Smith hijacked another car and escaped with the stolen vehicle. When he returned home, Smith found a listening device hidden in his house and used that as a sign to flee.
On December 5 1992 Jockey was shot by policeman Ian Harris outside Farmers Arms Hotel in Creswick, VIC. Harris was on patrol when he noticed a white panel van travelling 20km under the speed limit. He did a routine check on the registration number and found out it was a stolen vehicle. When Harris confronted Smith, Smith aimed a five shot revolver at Harris’ stomach and demanded his gun. It was the reaction of a passerby, Darren Neil that saved Harris’ life. Neil drove his car towards Smith which gave Harris time to grab his revolver and fire three shots at Smith.
The irony of this was that at the time Smith was one of Australia’s most wanted criminals and the policeman who killed him was unaware of his identity
http://www.peterhaddow.com/Jockey%20Smith.pdf – “On Murder 2” by Peter Haddow
Who shot the lifer without a victim?
Wednesday, February 19, 1992 – 11:00
By John Tognolini
SYDNEY — On February 12, within 24 hours of being paroled from prison after serving almost 15 years, 49 year-old Jimmy Smith was shot five times outside his wife’s Bondi flat. He is presently fighting for his life in St Vincent Hospital, with most of his liver destroyed.
Who shot Jimmy Smith? Obviously, someone with a grudge against him. But he’d been in jail for nearly 15 years, and in maximum security for much of that time. Who held grudges against Smith? Many present and former police officers did because he had helped to expose several police scandals in NSW and Victoria.
“When Jimmy Smith was shot last night it just continued the long line of abuse and attacks on this gentle person”, said well-known prisons activist Brett Collins in a press release on behalf of the Campaign Exposing Frame Ups and Targeting Abuses of Authority (CEFTAA).
Smith’s case is well known in NSW legal circles. After his acquittal on frame-up charges last year, Tim Anderson mentioned it in an interview with Green Left Weekly. He said Smith was a good example of the many hundreds of people unjustly imprisoned due to police frame-ups, verbal “confessions” etc.
“Edward James (Jockey) Smith has a criminal record and is currently doing a life sentence for supposedly attempting to fire a gun at a police officer who was also involved in the attempt to frame me.
“I’m convinced the story is complete and utter fabrication. The charge was attempting to discharge a firearm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm back in 1977 at a phone booth at Nowra. This police officer says Jockey attempted to shoot him when he attempted to arrest him, and the officer instead of deflecting the gun or anything put his finger behind the trigger” to stop the gun being fired. “Which is just about a physical impossibility. It’s about the stupidest thing anyone could do.
Smith was sentenced to life for an offence for which the maximum sentence was later reduced to 14 years. “He’s been made to serve more time than people get for murder.” He became known as the lifer without a victim.
Jimmy Smith was first imprisoned at the age of 18. He did nine months for his first offence, stealing. So harsh was the decision that it prompted Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron of Geelong to say, “I’ve no time for Smith, but there’s no doubt he did it tough for a first offence. He was never convicted of any violent crime.”
But there’s another side to Jimmy Smith. The CEFTAA magazine, Framed, explains: “Jimmy is a man of principle who has been involved in major police scandals in NSW and Victoria over the past two decades. He has spoken out strongly against police corruption and is still paying for it.
“Young barrister Peter Livesey was disbarred and Wendy Bacon g him. In 1974 he worked with Dr Bertram Wainer and others for the Beach Inquiry into Victorian Police malpractice, which resulted in multiple charges against police.
“They charged him with murder and robberies and failed every time. They were more effective with their charges of ‘attempt’ — no victims and no actions, just bare accusations and verbals by police. Charges dependent on ‘police credit’ …
“Police accusations kept him in maximum security where he continued to do legal cases, representing himself, winning court cases against police in New South Wales and Victoria continuously.”
In the Nowra case, independent witnesses disagreed on many points as to what happened outside the phone box, and there was a question as to whether two other police witnesses were even present. “The jury was out for 33 hours until the judge said he’d lock them up for another night until they made a decision. They found him guilty. Jimmy Smith didn’t plead on the sentence, he just said he’d been framed and verballed by the police.”
‘Public Enemy Number One’
When James Edward “Jockey” Smith became Australia’s “public enemy number one”, he was a serial armed robber who was also charged with several attempted murders, caught with explosives, escaped from Pentridge Prison, faced kidnap and drug trafficking charges, and was linked to the brutal murder of a man in his own family home – an astounding record for a little man who loved horses and only ever wanted to be a jockey.
In making the Jockey Smith episode of Tough Nuts, we discovered Jockey was a criminal enigma. He was a charming, clever man who could plan armed robberies meticulously, yet he could also be a reckless, impulsive criminal who pulled his gun at the slightest provocation, turning the simplest confrontations into potentially deadly standoffs.
Jockey was also a master of disguise, who despite being public enemy number one, spent time on the run living as local horse trainer in NSW’s Southern Highlands. He named himself Tommy Cummings after two of his favourite horse trainers.
Jockey pulled guns on police numerous times and in a harrowing interview we talked to former policeman Ian Harris who in a tragic twist of fate became the man to end Jockey’s life. Ian was just a young constable doing his duty when he pulled over a car outside a pub in country Victoria. Ian had no idea the man behind the wheel was armed and on the run for an incident at a Sydney shopping centre. As journalist Stephen Gibbs described; “he has turned a simple shoplifting offence into kidnapping, threatening to kill, steal motor vehicle, I mean the man’s a lunatic”.
Harris described in detail what it was like to have Jockey pull a pistol and threaten to kill him and how the courageous interference by a local man gave Harris a split second to draw his gun and shoot.
The Jockey Smith episode is a fascinating tale of a man revered by other crims as a master planner and escape artist, but also a man who could not control his impulses.
A man who went for the gun whenever confronted.
As former policeman and author Peter Haddow told us of the death of Jockey Smith, “In the pocket of his jeans was a canister of mace. He could’ve used that mace rather than fire shots at Ian Harris and Darren Neil. But he chose what he knew best”.