Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Dark Stuff*

I've been reading a few books in my spare time lately - amazing how much you can get read on the bus. To the left is one that I finished a few weeks ago, Young Blood by Bob O'Brien.

For those who might not be aware, Young Blood details the now infamous 'Family' killings of various young men in and around Adelaide during a time period that ran from the mid 1970s through to the early 1980s. Despite there being more than one person involved, only one man ever stood trial and was found guilty of one murder, that of Richard Kelvin (son of newsreader Rob Kelvin). That man, pictured on the books cover, is Bevan Spencer Von Einem. Nasty piece of work indeed with some disgusting personal habits, which include kidnapping, rape and murder. He deserves to be behind bars and hopefully he'll remain there for the rest of his life. But that's not who I'm writing about.

The book itself left me a tad cold. You see once upon a time, back in the early and mid 1980s I knew people who were intimately involved with the Family case, indeed those people were part of the Family itself**. During the time I knew them the kidnappings, rapes and murders were going on - I never saw any of it, never heard about it until well after the event (we're talking a few years later - in fact I learnt more about the murders during my time with the ABC than I did from the people I knew who were there) and at no time did I ever feel threatened or in danger hanging around these people (admittedly I never met Von Einem and for that I'm glad). I was aware that my friends had a friend named Bevan and that Bevan was wanted by the police in relation to Richard Kelvin but that was it. Never had any of the gory details at all. Shocked? Don't be. Adelaide is a relatively small town and if you walk in certain circles then eventually you'll encounter people within both that circle and others. Fact of life here. Thus I read the book with a certain degree of interest, with some inside knowledge. But first I gave the book to the another person and asked her to have a read of it. Sure enough she said that the book jumped, that there was a gap there. When I read it I knew exactly what the gap was.

I don't doubt O'Brien's zeal, nor do I doubt his veracity in recalling events as he remembers them. But I do doubt that he has told the full story. I'm damn sure he hasn't. I'm suspecting that he feels he can't tell the whole story, because one pertinent fact that I'm aware of isn't a nice one. It involves how the detectives investigating the case finally got the name they were after.

They always knew, after a certain degree of detective work, as to who the main man they wanted. That much was sure. However no-one in their right mind would finger the guy and without that link they couldn't act with certainty. They needed that name and they'd go to any lengths to get that name. Without going into the gory details, it surrounded a now forgotten case that got a mention in the now long defunct News tabloid of the day. That involved the arrest of one of the transexuals who had been used as bait to lure the young men into the cars, which led to their drugging, rape and in some cases, murder.

The transexual was arrested on another, unrelated, charge. It was known what they did (they're named in the book, initials only) for the Family, and as a result the detectives knew that they had someone, in custody, who might be able to fill in that gap. However, not being stupid, she wasn't speaking. Now here's where it got a bit messy. After processing her she was told she was off to Yatala. Yatala is an all male prison with some of the hardest nuts you'll care to find. No place for a young, and very attractive girl (if you didn't know that she was a transexual then you'd have been very happy, in fact she used to be a poster girl/stripper for a well known strip club here in Adelaide), to be put in gaol with rapists and the like. She protested, went before a judge and was told that her birth certificate clearly stated that she was born a male, and as such she'd have to go to a male gaol. Pure and simple. That was the report in the News at the time. People remember it if they search back through their memory banks. It was reported in the afternoon edition but pulled by the evening edition.


Because faced with a week or so of constant rape and other sexual abuse she cracked. She gave up the name. Von Einem was arrested a fortnight later, and pushed her story right out of the spotlight.

So is her situation valid? For the book, yes. It's a vital piece of the puzzle that people need to know. It fills in a huge gap in the narrative that needs to be there. What it also does, by showcasing the depth of coercion that the police were apt to use back then, is display the methods that were used in order to get information. And it shows the detectives in a slightly lesser light. It's a pity, but then in the neighborhood I grew up we learnt soon enough not to trust the police - funnily enough O'Brien's book shows just why no-one trusted them. The police attitude was one that we were all scum and we looked upon them in the same vein. Mind you it all could have been solved very rapidly with an attitude adjustment, but there you go.

So where does it leave the book? An incomplete read for me and for those who know the story of the transexual. I suspect that for others who know far, far more (and I know a few of those people as well, on both sides of the fence) that book will always be incomplete because a lot more was going on back in those days, and a lot of that won't ever come to light. At least not in our lifetimes. Still, if you see a copy of the book then by all means get it and read it. If nothing else you'll see the attitudes of the police for Adelaide (and in one telling section, Elizabeth) and how they dealt with the public back in the day. They weren't angels, they tended to protect their own (and still do, even in this day and age) and won't ever admit to doing anything outside the law.

And O'Brien wonders in his book why a lot of people didn't trust the police back then. Things are vastly different now, and that's because a lot of those officers have long retired.

I haven't seen those people for decades now. One I haven't seen since late 1984, and the other I've not seen since the mid 1990s. I have no problems with them, never did then, still don't now. They were fairly decent to me, they did do bad things though and hence there is a quandary going on there.

Still, that's the way it goes...
*Title courtesy of Clifford Meth.

**Named in the book as initials only. You try and guess who they are - if you get it right I'll buy you a cookie.

1 comment:

Clifford Meth said...

Not sure why I get a nod for the title, but credit is credit. Thanks.

Interesting take on this whole mess--being an "insider" give's you a birdseye view you'd sometimes rather not have. At leasy *I'd* rather not have. Murder and rape are one thing, but cops? Geez louise! I get donut-hives just thinking about the boys in blue. Or maybe they wear orange in Adelaide. Or mauve.