Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jack Darmody would have approved

Australian police are reportedly furious at Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper The Australian for supposedly jeopardising this week’s anti-terrorism raids. Someone tipped the paper off about the raids in advance, forcing the police to bring the operation forward. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, police claimed that copies of the paper carrying details of the raids were circulating before the last arrests were made. Now the hunt is on for the leaker.

If it’s true – and The Australian denies that the story was out before the raids took place – then it’s simply carrying on a great Australian newspaper tradition.

In 1969 a legendary old-school Melbourne police reporter named Jack Darmody learned that police were closing in on Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs, who was living quietly with his wife Charmian and three children in an outer Melbourne suburb. Biggs had fled to Australia after escaping from prison in Britain in 1965 and was later joined by his family.

Darmody, whose contacts were impeccable, got the tipoff from sources at Russell St police headquarters. His story was splashed over the front page of Melbourne Truth hours before the raid was to take place – just enough time for friends to tip Biggs off and enable him to make his getaway. Several weeks later he turned up in Brazil.

According to Wikipedia, it was a Reuters correspondent who broke the story of the impending raid, which was then picked up by Channel Nine and headlined its six o’clock news. But that’s not my recollection, and it also conflicts with the obituaries written when Darmody died in 2006.

Darmody was a tough hack of the old school – a virtually extinct breed that I referred to in passing in my speech to Agcarm last month, reproduced below.

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