One of the things I like to do in my free time is visit museums. I’ve always been interested in history, and when it goes along with other interests I have then it’s even better!
Earlier this week I went to the Victoria Police Museum in Melbourne. It’s only a small museum, but there is quite an interesting collection. There’s a collection of Ned Kelly’s armour, crime scene photos, the car used in the Russell Street bombing (or what’s left of it), Eric the bomb disposal robot, and numerous other items.
The Ned Kelly displays were interesting for a couple of reasons: I grew up in Ned Kelly country, and the displays told the story from the Police point of view. All too often the legend of Kelly is purely from the outlaw’s side, painting him as a modern day Robin Hood. He was, in fact, a repeat offender from a family of offenders. Not at all the hero some make him to be. The Police killed by the Kelly gang were family men, two of them having infant children at home. It was nice to see the other side of the story.
There were a couple of things I found particularly amusing, too.
The first was a round, tin medallion, presented to a Police Officer by a criminal. The story goes:
“When wealthy gentleman William Slack, was found in his bedroom with his throat cut and a razor in his hand during the 1870’s, suicide was suspected. That was until Detective Joe Brown realised that had the right handed Mr Slack taken his own life, his throat would have been cut from the left side to the right. And examination showed that it had been cut from right to left. A routine suicide became a murder investigation.
Detective Brown realised that he skylight in Mr Slack’s bedroom had recently been opened – even though Mr Slack’s friends said it was never opened. ‘Break and enters’ through skylights were commonly used by criminal Billy Barnes. Further evidence of the murder was found at Barnes’ house. Barnes was charged and found guilty of murder.
As the judge passed the death sentence he asked Barnes if he had anything to say. The condemned man replied, ‘I wish to give this to Detective Brown’. He produced from his pocket the end of a food holder. Inscribed faintly with a pin on the ‘medal’ were the words, ‘Presented to Detective Joseph Brown for over-exertion’.”
The other item that surprised as well as amused me was a vampire slaying kit, confiscated during a raid.
You never know what you’ll come across in museums!
I enjoyed my visit and recommend it to anyone else who has an interest in Australian history and/or policing.
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