The Strange, Strange Story of Phillip Wearne: Part Five

Continuing the story of obscure Australian comic book artist Phillip Wearne.

Part Five: Wearne's Final Years

Wearne’s divorce was taking its toll.  The courts had seized his taxation records and banking details and was busily trying to unravel it all.  Wearne had built such a complex web that it’s possible that even he didn’t know his true worth, not that his true worth was as impressive as he wanted to believe.  The court worked out that he owned two houses, one in Sydney, one in Melbourne, and both were heavily mortgaged.  He had recently sold a third property but had yet to disclose what he was set to earn from the sale. In addition to the house sale, Wearne was now stating that his Australian Trade Union Press was insolvent, possibly due to his ASIO surveillance, which had been reported to the relevant ministers of Parliament and then to members of the ALP who would then pass the information onto the unions.  Wearne’s accounts vanished and people couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.  As of May 1962 Wearne, by his own account, was unemployed and claiming no income which, he believed, excused him from paying any alimony to Joyce and Phillip.  In addition to that he was now toxic as far as the ALP were concerned.  A trial date for the divorce was set down for the end of July, 1962.  By now Wearne owed an incredible £325 in alimony and had been given until mid-August to pay.  Instead he left for Melbourne with Queitzsch.

The now defunct Nation exposed Wearne as early as 1961
Wearne’s financial dealings reached a new low when it was revealed that he had arranged for furniture to be purchased by Labour Newspapers and delivered to the family home.  Wearne wasn’t home the day it was delivered, so Joyce duly signed for it.  She also signed on the day the phone was connected, only to find that now she was liable for payment and now owed £1900, which she did not have.  Wearne, naturally, denied it.  The furniture was removed, leaving Joyce to fend for herself in an unfurnished house with a small child.

Wearne (1962)
The ASIO investigation into Probe signed it’s death warrant.  The newspaper was dead and buried by September, 1962.  Typical with Wearne’s publishing ventures, the end of Probe saw him slip further into debt as he refused to pay his office rent and printing costs. But Wearne wasn’t finished.  The court had ordered that he start paying alimony or face 90 days jail.  With everything taking its toll on him he got ready to play his trump card in the divorce and it would come at what was expected to be a simple two day trial for unpaid maintenance in February 1963.

The trial started simply enough until Wearne dropped a bombshell.  A witness, one John Campbell, was called to give evidence that Joyce Wearne had also committed adultery with him in 1960.  New laws regarding divorces had recently been introduced which meant that witnesses were bound to answer questions put to them if they were deemed relevant to the proceedings.  However any such answer might leave Campbell open to perjury, as this wasn’t raised in Campbell’s own divorce proceedings in 1960, so the magistrate denied the question and sought advice from the State Attorney General.  If Wearne was buying time he’d succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Wearne sues Scientology
The Scientologists finally threw Wearne out in March, 1963.  Wearne had paid dearly for his auditing sessions, which he stated he was coerced into undertaking – he claimed £2,700 – and he wanted justice so he turned on Scientology as savagely as he did anyone who he felt crossed him.  First he filed suit against the church in the Victorian courts, asking for his money back.  The Scientologists promptly paid him off, giving him £1,500, with the view of removing him as a thorn in their side.  He then made contact with John ‘Jack’ Galbally, a former Collingwood footballer, then a senior minister in the Victorian Government, who started a campaign against Scientology, mentioning the Church, and Wearne, in the House in November, 1963.  Then he reached out to ASIO and provided them with another report on the actions of the church.  The result of this was Wearne being invited to lunch, in Tasmania, by a man named Earl Wilkinson.

According to Wearne, Wilkinson informed him he was on the right track and offered to fund him to dig up more dirt on the Scientologists.  More importantly, for Wearne, was that Wilkinson told him that he, Wilkinson, was a CIA operative.  That was all Wearne needed.  With ASIO and now the CIA on his side, he felt invincible and unleashed on the Scientologists.

Wearne’s first step was to form a new company called The Committee for Mental Health and National Security.  He was the only real employee of the company and referred to himself as its Director, Publicity Officer or Investigating Officer, depending on who he was talking to. Others came and went into the Committee, including Douglas Moon, another ex-Scientologist who had a beef against the organisation.

Wearne attacked Scientology in 1964
Wearne promptly placed advertisements in Melbourne newspapers calling for anyone who had, “lost anyone as a result of the processes or teachings of mental health practitioners’ to contact him and speak to a Methodist priest, the Rev John Westerman.  At times it appeared that he was the only member of the committee but Wearne claimed, more than once, that there were several hundred members, all of whom had been brainwashed.  He wrote to ASIO again, a long, rambling letter in which he spoke almost in the third person, explaining how the Scientologists were brainwashing people for their own purposes.  Wearne claimed that the Scientologists wanted to rule the world in a subtle form of religious terrorism.  At the same time the Victorian Parliament was also investigating Scientology and announced both a ban and called for an official Board of Enquiry to look into the workings of the church.  Wearne was delighted; he would be a star witness.

As early as 1964 ASIO knew Wearne
was unstable
Called before the Board of Enquiry into Scientology, Wearne, representing the Committee for Mental Health and National Security, made a series of amazing claims.  He stated that ASIO had given him a codename along with a PO Box number where he could send his reports.  He also stated that Wilkinson had paid him for the duration of the Enquiry, had set up a phoney finance company (from which Wearne drained funds) along with coaching him on what to say.  Wearne drew more people into his web; one lunchtime meeting brought him face to face with the editor of the Melbourne Truth, Sol Chandler.  At this meeting, according to Wearne, Chandler revealed that he was working for M.I.6, the English Intelligence Agency.

Wearne stated that he often blacked out when being audited as his sessions would last for five hours a day, five days in a row.  The sessions, according to Wearne, consisted of him looking endlessly at books, bottles and walls and then being bombarded with questions until he became physically ill with stomach and back pains to the point of lapsing into unconsciousness. He also claimed that the Scientologists wanted to ‘clear’ Australia. The plan was to infiltrate the Australian Government, take it over and then use the country as a launch pad for world domination. Wearne himself had played a part in this with his publishing venture providing the means to spread propaganda, via Reality, Probe and the numerous union newspapers, as well as trying to get himself, and others, employment at the highest levels within the ALP. Thus, while denying any link between his publishing ventures to ASIO, Wearne was admitting to it under oath to the Board of Inquiry.

Eventually the Board figured out what the Scientologists had and what ASIO were rapidly working out – Wearne was unstable.  Both he and Moon all but kidnapped one witness and coached her overnight on what to say before the Board, resulting in Anderson officially warning Wearne about his constant approaches to potential witnesses and his attempts to force them into giving testimony against Scientology.

The Anderson Board wrapped up after hearing 160 days of evidence from 151 separate witnesses, both for and against, on the 14th of December.  Wearne had attended every day of the hearing, firing questions at witnesses. He was confident that the report, when issued, would feature him prominently and result in the downfall of Scientology. He filed suit against L Ron Hubbard personally claiming £105,000 for lost wages and mental damage for the five year time period that he was involved with them.

Throughout all of this drama, Wearne was still negotiating his divorce.  He ceased making repayments on the Sydney property, resulting in the bank threatening foreclosure, which would see Joyce and Phillip homeless.  The court demanded that he restart payments, Wearne refused and once again faced being thrown into jail.

The divorce entered a new stage, its fourth year, with Wearne asking for a reversal of the decree which had been granted the year previously; on the grounds that Joyce had committed adultery, presumably before Wearne had. This resulted in yet another two day trial, after which the court decided enough was enough and made the decree absolute in early October, 1964.  Wearne wasn’t free of Joyce though, he would still have to pay alimony but he rarely would.  With the divorce and the Scientology battle weighing him down, Wearne skipped on yet another debt, this time rent payments for his old office in Carlton.  Ironically, for a man who owed thousands, this simple debt of £165 would lead him into bankruptcy with the commencement of formal hearings in the South Yarra courthouse.  From owning three houses, luxury cars, business and offices, Wearne was moving between small flats in South Yarra and Toorak, leaving once the landlords’ realised he couldn’t pay rent.  Adding insult to injury, once the divorce was settled, the Tax Office had jumped in and hit Wearne with a bill of £27,418. It was more money that just didn’t have.  Despite selling the Randwick property that he had bought for himself and Jill to live in, his debts far outstripped his assets; most of the latter were on hire purchase anyway.  Appearing before Justice Clyne on the 10th of November, 1964, Wearne was formally declared bankrupt. He now had no house, no money, no car and no reputation.

Throughout it all Wearne kept up his one-sided correspondence with ASIO.  Over the next few years Wearne would claim to have found the true source behind Scientology (Chinese Communists), long rambling reports and a host of outlandish claims.  ASIO had heard enough.  Wearne had given them nothing of value and they were keen to wash their hands of him.  A directive was sent out to all offices informing staff not to encourage Wearne, let alone invite him to any offices.  Wearne knew nothing of this and firmly believed that he was working undercover for the organisation and continued to bombard them with reports.  Always on the make for money, Wearne eventually suggested that ASIO place him on the payroll, a request that was ignored.  A similar request to the Australian Commonwealth Police was also ignored to the point of not even being acknowledged.  Wearne had no idea if his letters and reports were getting through, but he kept up with them regardless.

This massive, 14 page manifesto written by
 Wearne was dismissed by ASIO as
 being plagiarised.
Wearne was finally caught out by ASIO for his old trick – he had plagiarised several communist and anti-communist writers in his latest report, as well as trying to pass off L Ron Hubbard’s own writings as his own.  His latest report was given back to Wearne, by hand, without comment.  ASIO now wanted to keep him under surveillance from afar and from September, 1965 onwards, ASIO would not make any direct contact with Wearne.  As far as they were concerned, he was dead.  Wearne kept supplying them with reports though, attacking not only Scientology and communists, but also the Securities and Exchange Council, the Christian Ant-Communist Crusade and the newly minted Psychological Services Bill.

In late September, 1965 The Anderson Report was tabled in Victorian Parliament.  The report called for more public awareness, the registration of psychologists and generally denounced Scientology as a religion, instead calling it ‘pseudo-science’.  For all his efforts, Wearne was mentioned twice in the report, once referred as being vehemently anti-Scientology and the other when he attempted to explain the difference between Scientology and Christian beliefs.  It wasn’t the personal vindication that he had expected but it made him happy that Scientology was now officially banned in Victoria.  Similar bans followed in South Australia and Western Australia.

The Church of Scientology would now attack Wearne as ferociously as he had attacked them. They issued several documents and pamphlets attacking the Anderson Inquiry as being illegitimate, and Wearne as a person, taking care to note that he had no academic qualifications, was not an expert in Scientology or psychiatry, even though the Board has given him similar access to evidence as they did lawyers. These attacks would continue long after Wearne was dead.

ASIO blackballed Wearne in 1970
By 1966 Wearne’s mental health had deteriorated considerably.  He was 41 years old, bankrupt, and had a failed marriage behind him along with a string of failed businesses and publishing ventures.  He was being shunned by ASIO – labelled as being not a responsible informant.  The CIA, if Wilkinson was ever connected with them, denied knowledge of him and he was reduced to supplying endless, rambling, reports to investigative agencies that would never read, let alone act upon, them.  His magus-opus came with a fifteen page, single spaced, tightly typed, virtually unreadable document in which Wearne outlined the woes of the world, tracing them all back to communism and mental health.  The document was incredible; again ASIO duly filed it and refused to acknowledge that they’d even received it, keeping up their silence.

Wearne moved back to Sydney after marrying JillaineQueitzsch in 1966 and tried to settle down.  He bought yet another house, this time in Randwick.  He made his will in 1967 while aged 41.  In it he left everything to Jillaine, other than a single painting (Bacchus by Myer Issacman) to a close friend. He appeared to settle into a quiet life, but reared his head once more in 1970 when he attempted to establish contact with ASIO.  He first asked for permission to deal with an ‘overseas crowd’ – with the implication being the CIA.  This time the plan was to establish a Securities and Exchange Council which would be in competition with the stock exchange and funded, presumably, by the CIA.  This time he’d reached a new branch of ASIO, with new people who weren’t aware of him.  A quick check of the files brought him undone. “He was in 1966 and may still be an Undischarged bankrupt and is something of a con-man in business,” the internal memo read.  “Wearne appears to suffer from psychoneurotic condition and consideration will be given to blacklisting. At next contact Wearne may be informed that his activities are of no concern but at same time he should be firmly discouraged from meddling on (sic) fringe of security.”

Wearne was also described as being, “…obsessed with National Security.”  It was all too much for ASIO who formally blacklisted him in early February, 1970.  The processes were put into place, the electoral office contacted for details of Wearne’s address and the application for blacklisting was approved.  It made no difference; this attempt would be Wearne’s last contact with any intelligence agency and he would be dead before the blacklisting process could be completed.

Wearne's death certificate showing he
 died of a drug overdose.
It is not known if the overdose was
 accidental or deliberate.
Wearne was increasingly depressed by the lack of action and responses from ASIO and had turned to medication for help.  Typical for Wearne, it was all or nothing.  At some point on Friday, the 6th of March, Wearne took an overdose of Mandrax, which was commonly available in Australia in the early 1970s.  It is unknown if the overdose was taken on purpose or accidently, but it no longer mattered, it would prove fatal.  Jillaine found him unresponsive in their bed at Wood Street and called for an ambulance.  He was taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital where he was pronounced dead.  How he died isn’t important anymore.  Wearne passed away on the 7th of March and was laid to rest at the Roman Catholic Cemetery at Botany in Sydney’s outer suburbs on the 11th of March.  He was 44 years old. The death certificate listed his occupation as ‘pensioner’.

An autopsy was carried out and, as the death was drug related, an inquest was held on the 17th of August, but the findings were inconclusive.  The coroner found that Wearne had, “Died from the effects of poisoning due to Methaqualome following his admission to that hospital on 3rd March, 1970, from 21 Wood Street Randwick, but wether (sic) accidentally ingested or otherwise the evidence adduced does not enable me to say.” Nowhere in the coroners findings is a beating mentioned, only a drug overdose. The first theory also does not give an explanation as to why Wearne would be transported across Sydney, from Kings Cross to Randwick when the St Vincent Hospital is closer.

Wearne was worth a considerable sum.  His estate was probated as being worth in excess of $12,300 after death duties, taxes and other expenses, the bulk of which came from the Wood Street property that Wearne owned in Randwick.

Even in death Wearne figured in dealings with ASIO and the Scientologists.  For decades since his passing the Church of Scientology has sought to discredit Wearne by painting him as vexatious, a drug addict, a liar and worse.  For years a violent scenario was told by Scientologists who supposedly witnessed how Wearne met his demise.  Wearne, it was said, had taken to hard drugs and, in doing so, had fallen into his usual habit of grabbing what he could and not paying.  He owed money, lots of it, and he had finally ripped off the wrong person. Legend has it that Wearne was taken to the back of a Kings cross nightclub and beaten to death.  His body was dumped onto the gutter where it was discovered and duly taken by ambulance to hospital only to be pronounced dead.  This untruth was probably told by Scientologists in an attempt to further disgrace Wearne’s name.

ASIO claimed that he was an unreliable witness and one that they never encouraged.  The truth is that Wearne, for all his flaws, and there was certainly many of them, got caught up in a whirlpool which he couldn’t get out of.  But, from the young man who, aged 17, managed to produce a comic book, through to the man he became, Wearne’s worst enemy was himself.  He managed to do more in his 44 years than most people would ever manage to do; more is the pity that he didn’t stick to the comic books.  It would have been safer.

Wearne’s first publisher, Henry ‘Harry’ Hoffmann left the publishing field completely in 1949 and moved back into his role as a customs agent.  He passed away in 1972.

Jillaine Wearne was a widow at the age of 42.  She remained in the Randwick property for much of the 1970s, eventually moving to Double Bay. She never remarried and passed away in 1985.

Doug Maxted, Wearne’s friend from art school and his replacement in Hoffmann’s comic books, moved back to England and forged a long career drawing for IPC titles such as Valiant, Roy of the Rovers and Tiger.  He moved back to Adelaide in 1983 and passed away in 1999 at the age of 85. His passing saw the last link with Hoffmann’s Adelaide publishing venture go.

Max Judd, Wearne’s other art school colleague, created several stories for Hoffmann’s many comic books, such as The Strata Rocketeers, Racey Rhodes and the Sky Police. He would eventually leave the comic book industry and fade into obscurity.

The Scientologists would move on from Wearne, as would ASIO, the CIA, MI6, the ALP and every other organisation that he’d touched. In their combined history Wearne barely rates a footnote mention.

Wearne’s first wife, Joyce, was still alive at the time of the writing this article, having celebrated her 90th birthday in 2015. After her divorce was finalised she became a highly successful company director, in conjunction with her son, Phillip, who is still living, and her third husband.  She still lives in Sydney.

She refuses to speak about her second husband.


Burrows, Toby and Grant Stone (eds.), Comics in Australia and New Zealand: The Collections, the Collectors, the Creators, The Haworth Press Inc, New York, 1994
Ryan, John, Panel by Panel: A History of Australian Comics, Cassell Australia Limited, NSW, 1979
Shiell, Annette (ed.). Bonzer: Australian Comics 1900-1990s. Redhill South, Vic.: Elgua Media, 1998

NAA: A9301, 442738
NAA: A1336, 39178
NAA: A6122, 2608
NAA: M132, 297
NAA: A6122, 2609
NAA: A6122, 2610
NAA: A6122, 2612
NAA: M1353, 26
NAA: B2455, HOFFMAN H E 1744

NEWSPAPERS (1889 – 1970)
Australian Capital Territory
The Canberra Times
New South Wales
Barrier Miner
Goulburn Evening Post
The Sydney Morning Herald
Courier Mail
Queensland Times 
Sunday Mail
The Telegraph
South Australia
The Daily News
The Mail
The News
The Register
The Weekly Times
The Age
The Nation

Australian Trade Union Press.Reality : a publication of Australian Trade Union Press Pty. Ltd 1960
Doherty, Bernard, Colonial Justice or a Kangaroo Court?Public Controversy and the Church of Scientology in 1960s Australia, Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2015, pgs. 9-49
Hubbard College of Scientology.Kangaroo Court : an investigation into the conduct of the Board of Inquiry into Scientology, Melbourne, Australia Hubbard College of Scientology, Church of Scientology of California East Grinstead, Sussex 1967
Maxted, Douglas F. and Connell, Daniel.  Doug Maxted interviewed by Daniel Connell [sound recording] 1995
Tampion, Ian Kenneth.A Petition, not an indictment, to the Victorian Parliament, [by Ian Kenneth Tampion and others] Church of Scientology of California East Grinstead (Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead, Sussex) 1972
Victoria. Board of Inquiry into Scientology.and Anderson, Kevin. Report of the Board of Inquiry into Scientology Govt. Printer Melbourne 1965
Victoria. Hansard 42 CA V273 Nov-Mar 1963-64
Wearne, Phillip B. The Legion of space : an inter-planetary adventure strip / by Phillip Wearne Messrs. H.E. Hoffmann and P.B. Wearne Largs Bay, S.A 1943
Wearne, Phillip B. The space legionnaires : an interplanetary adventure strip / by Phillip Wearne Messrs. H.E. Hoffmann and P.B. Wearne Largs Bay, S.A 1944
Wearne, Phillip B.  The Legion of Space / Phillip Wearne  Invincible Press Sydney  [1949 - 1950]
Wearne, Phillip B. ProbeCarlton, VIC, 1961

Correspondence between Doug Maxted and John Ryan, 1978
Divorce papers Joyce Patterson Wearne - Phillip Bennett Wearne, Jill Quietzsch
Probate packetsPhillip Bennett Wearne
Ryan, John. and Nicholls, Syd. and Cross, Stan. and Mercier, Emile. and Dixon, John. and Donald, Will. John Ryan collection of Australian comic books, ca. 1940-1960 [manuscript] 1940
Wearne, Phillip B. What is Mental Health to do with Nation Security? 1966

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance and support of Prof Bernard Doherty, Kevin Patrick and Jeremy MacPherson.


Arion said…
Hey there, lovely post and very informative too! Now I feel like I should check out Wearne's works. By the way, I just read your post about Michael Zulli and it was great. It's always a pleasure to find another Zulli fan so I thought it'd be a good to share with you a post I wrote about Zulli's Puma Blues:

I hope you enjoy my review, and please feel free to leave me a comment over there or add yourself as a follower (or both), and I promise I'll reciprocate.


Grumpy Old Fart said…
Interesting set of posts you've written about Wearne. He gets a mention in a newly published book about Scientology in Australia. The book (by Steve Cannane) is title Fair Game. Wearne appears in chapter 7 which is titled The Scammer Scammed.

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