Great Bookie RobberyThere would not be many locals over the age of 21 who have not heard of the Great Bookie Robbery which took place in Melbourne's CBD in April 1976.
Amazingly, no-one has ever been convicted, and no money has ever been recovered.
A gang of six men with machine guns took 11 minutes to rob the Victorian Club in Queen St, Melbourne of $1.5* million on April 21, 1976. The hold-up was carefully planned to coincide with a time when bookies would be settling for races held over Easter.
Date: 21 April 1976
*Amount stolen: Estimates range from $1.5 million to $15 million.
Where: Victoria Club | 2nd floor, Queen Street, Melbourne
Details and Execution
Three months prior to the robbery, Bennett and his men rented an office on the fourth floor of the building that housed the Victoria Club, so they were intimately familiar with the scene of the crime. They used the office for planning purposes and are said to have gone to the effort of conducting a dress rehearsal of the event while the club rooms were unoccupied during the Easter holiday. Whether the members were at church atoning for their transgressions from the previous day's meeting or were engaged in further acts of sin is not germane, but the empty club was certainly available for the criminals' use.
On the day of the robbery, the money was delivered to the Victoria Club by Mayne Nickess Armoured Car.
Bennett and his compatriots arrived in two vehicles, a sedan and a white van that had deliberately been chosen to be loud and conspicuous.
Five of the gang, armed with handguns and automatic assault weapons, made preparations, which included masks and coveralls to conceal their identities, while the sixth boldly entered the ground floor lobby of the club posing as repair man called to attend to a faulty refrigerator in the club.
This sixth man, at 12:07 PM, let his accomplices into the club once it had been determined that the money was on the premises.
The gang made short work of the job. They captured and terrified 31 hostages in the process. Two men kept the hostages occupied while the remaining four used bolt cutters to disable the padlocks on the cash boxes. They then transferred the money to bags to lighten the load before making an apparent clean getaway with the money.
To the thieves' credit, no one was shot. The only injury was a security guard who made an ill-advised attempt to recover his revolver and thwart the robbery.
Credit is also due to the hostages for managing to avoid any ill-advised heroics.
From beginning to end, the entire caper took around 11 minutes to complete.
According to Wikipedia..
The men, who included Raymond Chuck-Bennett (Ray Chuck), Brian and Leslie Kane, Ian Carroll, Laurence Prendergast and Norman Lee, rented an office several floors above and hid the money in that rooms safe before making a getaway in a van loaded with decoy bags.
The identity of the robbers was widely known in the underworld and Bennett became the target of standover men (who included the Kane brothers) and corrupt police demanding part of the proceeds. The Kane brothers were particularly violent and after being told that the Kanes intended to kill him, Bennett, Prendergast and Vincent Mikkleson murdered Leslie Kane on 19 October, 1978 and went into hiding. The three were later arrested for Leslie Kane's murder but as the body was never found the charges were dismissed. With Brian Kane threatening to kill him, Bennett was arrested on an minor charge in 1979. While being escorted by police from the courthouse holding cells to the courtroom, a man stepped out from a group of media and shot Bennett several times in the chest, he tried to flee but collapsed on the courthouse steps and died a short time later. Although Brian Kane was suspected, circumstantial evidence suggested a conspiracy to kill Bennett which included senior members of the Victorian Police. No one has ever been arrested for Bennett's murder.
The money was never recovered and although Lee was charged he was later acquitted. None of the other members of the gang were ever convicted. Prendergast had disappeared in 1985 and apart from Lee, the rest of the gang had all been murdered by the end of 1987. In 1992 Lee was killed by police during a heist at Melbourne Airport. Lee's lawyer Phillip Dunn, QC, later revealed the details of the crime, including the identities of all those involved.
As no-one was ever jailed or convicted, the Great Bookie Robbery remains technically an unsolved crime.
Whatever the reality, The Great Bookie Robbery lives on. Melbourne Crime Tours takes tourists through a re-creation of the event more than 30 years after the fact.
❊ Address & Contact ❊
⊜ Queen Street, Melbourne | Map
❊ Web Links ❊
→ Great Bookie Robbery
→ * Details and Execution
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