Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Streets Ran Red With Blood

It was the 1920s and Sydney was dominated by two rival crime queens who presided over vicious gangs and stand over men. Between them they controlled prostitution, the booming cocaine and heroin trade and dozens of inner city sly grog shops.

Matilda 'Tilly' Devine
It earned Sydney an international moniker as the "Chicago of the South Pacific"

Tilly Devine, a tough Cockney was known as the Queen of Woolloomooloo and her deadly rival Kate Leigh, a former country convent girl, was the Queen of Surry Hills. Both lived to a ripe old age with the law only ever catching up to them for minor crimes.

A state government law dictated severe penalties for carrying guns so the gangs decided razors were an alternative and they used them with deadly accuracy.

Kate Leigh's 1923 police mug shot.
One night in 1931 in Kellet Street in Kings Cross, up to thirty gangsters battled it out with razors, iron bars and knuckle dusters and blood literally flowed in the gutters. Local police sensibly never dared enter the fray while many detectives were on the payroll of the two crime queens.

 A small club Gastro Park, backing onto Kellet Street was the venue on Thursday night where the NINE network launched the fourth series in the hugely successful crime films based on real life

Chelsie Preston Crayford and Danielle Cormack
Underbelly: Razor, produced by Screentime, will screen on Sunday 21 August at 8.30pm and it's back to the future with the series set in the roaring twenties. In the lead roles Chelsie Preston Crayford as Tilly Devine and Danielle Cormack as Kate Leigh.

 Legend goes that Sydney had become so corrupted by the end of the era that it took until the late 1990s for police corruption to be finally winkled out when the NSW government hired Commander Peter Ryan, the former head of London's Police Training Centre in Hendon to clean out the infamous 'white shoe brigade ' as bent coppers had become known.

For his efforts Ryan was pilloried by politicians and shock jocks and eventually left to become the head of security for the Olympic Games.

Fast forward to 2011 and Mark Standen the chief investigator for the secretive and powerful NSW Crime Commission was found guilty last Friday on drug conspiracy charges with an enquiry announced to investigate the Commission itself and it's involvement with leading crime figures.

Not much changes in the Emerald City.
Kerri Anne Kennerley joins Underbelly actors Conrad Colbey & John Batchelor
stars of Underbelly :Anna McGahan & Richard Brancatisano

Kate (left) and Tilly tried reconciliation in 1948. It didn't last. Kate died in 1964 and Tilly in 1970.

Below is the promo film for the series.