Graeme Thorne - The Crime That Changed Australian Law
Bazil Thorne's Name and Address Published in the Newspaper After His Win
On the June 1st 1960, Bazil Thorne won 100, 000 pounds in the tenth Opera House Lottery. Little did he or his wife Freda know, this substantial win would affect his family in a way no body would ever dream of and forever change Australia's way of life.
The Cheque was Delivered by Courier
A Strange Visitor
A few weeks before Graeme was murdered, Mrs Thorne answered a knock at her front door. A man of European appearance asked Mrs Thorne if she knew a man by the name of Mr Bognor. Mrs Thorne said that she didn't know of anybody by that name and closed the door.
The "Stocky" Man
In the days leading up to the kidnapping and murder of Graeme Thorne, several people noticed a "stocky" built man of olive complextion sitting in the park directly across the road from the Thorne house.
The description of the man was very similar to the description Mrs Thorne had given of the man who had knocked on her door a few weeks before.
Bazil Thorne Being Interviewed Shortly After Learning of His Sons Kidnapping
Police Search for a Car Similar to this One
Graeme Thorne's Kidnapped Poster
Police Pin Up Reward Poster
July 7th, 1960
Early on the morning of July 7th, a man by the name of Cecil Denmeade noticed an iridescent blue Ford model car parked on an intersection less than 100m from the Thornes' house.
Shortly after 8:30am, Graeme Thorne left for school. He was to walk to the nearby corner of O'Brien and Wellington Streets, where he was to be picked up by family friend Phyllis Smythe and her two sons and taken to school at Scots College in the nearby suburb of Bellevue Hill.
When Mrs Smythe arrived and noticed Graeme was not waiting for her, she sent one of her sons to go and look for him. When he couldn't be found, Mrs Smythe drove straight to the Thorne's house.
Upon learning that her son was not at his usual pick up spot, Mrs Thorne phone the Bondi police to report her son missing.
Shortly after Mrs Thorne contacted police, Sergeant Larry O'Shae arrived at the Thorne house to begin investigating. About 9:40am, Mrs Thorne received a phone call from a male with a foreign accent, she handed the phone to Sergeant O'Shae who told the caller he was the child's father. The caller demanded 25, 000 pounds before 5pm that day for the safe return of the boy. Sergeant O'Shae was told if the money was not delivered the boy would be "fed to the sharks".
Realizing the seriousness of the situation Sergeant O'Shae contacts Bondi police station and asks for reinforcements. Detective Sergeant Lloyd Noonan arrives a short time later.
While the police had been trying to keep the news of the kidnapping out of the newspapers, crime reporter Bill Jenkings found out and the story appeared on the front page of the Sydney Daily Mirror, with the headline "I'll feed him to the sharks".
Mr Thorne, who was away on a business trip arrived back at Sydney airport later that evening, he was met by police and informed that his son had been kidnapped. At around 8:30pm, Mr Thorne appeared on television, making a desperate plea for the safe return of his son. During the appeal he said "All I can say, the person that's got him - if he's a father and got children of his own - well, for God's sake, send him back in one piece." (CI-A Book 2 page 3)
The caller phoned again around 9:45pm and after checking that the money was available, gave instructions that the money be placed in two paper bags, but hung up without any further instructions and made no further contact or demands.
The New South Wales government offered a 5000 pound reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of Graeme Thorne's kidnapper and newspapers offered a further 15, 000 pounds.
The Army Help With The Search
Navy Helicopter Conducts Air Search
Letter Written By Bazil and Freda Thorne Asking For The Safe Return Of Graeme
The Search For Graeme Gets Underway
A massive police operation was set up, led by Detective Sergeant Ernie Freeman.
Police contacted Cecil Denmeade as they were doubtful of the detailed description of the car he had provided. Mr Denmeade recalls "They picked me up in the evening, in the dark, and took me round the backstreets of Bondi and showed me cars, to try to get me to recognize the same model Ford as I'd reported" (CI-A book 2 page 6)
Convinced of Mr Denmeade's description, Detective Sergeant Doyle sent 25 police officer to the Department of Transport to search and record all of the 1955 Ford Customlines. After almost a week, the police had recorded over four thousand cars matching the make and model. Each of these were located and if possible, the owner was interviewed.
Another large group of police officers were given the task of door-knocking the suburb of Bondi. All major roads, as well as, airports and seaports were put under surveillance.
On July 8th, Graeme's school case was discovered in bushland on the other side of Sydney Harbour, about 20km north of Bondi. Police moved to the scene and set up a makeshift headquarters at the location.
The following day, July 9th, hundreds of police begin to search the area were the school case was located. They are joined by Navy helicopters, Army commandos and police skindivers. Specially trained police sniffer dogs are brought in from South Australia to assist with the search.
The search lasted several day, but failed to turn up anything.
Police Speak with a Young Girl Who Saw Graeme On the Morning He Disappeared
There were several sighting of Graeme reported to police from all over Australia. The police pain-stakingly recorded and investigated each one, no matter how far-fetched the lead seemed. Each lead was discounted.
Of course, there were people that were contacting the police clamming they either had Graeme, or had "psychic" visions and knew were Graeme was in order to receive not only the reward, but also the ransom.
The Graeme Thorne case resulted in the largest police file ever produced in Australia.
The Location Where Graeme's Body Was Found
The Discovery Made Newspaper Headlines
August 16th 1960
On August 16th, 1960 everybody's worst fears were realised. Several children playing in a vacant lot located in the northern Sydney suburb of Seaforth discovered a small bundle wrapped in a blanket underneath a rock ledge.
They informed one of the children's mothers and were told not to touch it and to wait until their fathers arrived home from work, so the men could go over and investigate further. When the fathers arrived home, the group of men walked across the lot to the rock ledge and discovered the body of Graeme Thorne.
Bazil and Freda Thorne learned of their son's death while watching television, moments before Detective Sergeant Ken Baret and the church minister arrived to inform them.
Detective Sergeant John Snowden of the police scientific bureau was called to help investigate the scene.
The following morning, August 17th, an autopsy was conducted. The conclusion was Graeme was either killed by blows inflicted to the head or strangulation.
The Rug Graeme Was Wrapped In - At The Crime Scene
Forensic Examination of the Rug
The rug Graeme's body was covered with was identified as an Onkaparinga brand rug. It was taken to the police scientific division. Detective Sergeant Snowden and other member of the unit used tweezers to collect hairs, fibres, seeds and other debris from the rug.
Government microbiologist, Dr Cameron Cramp received and analized the hair and fibre samples collected from the rug. He concluded that hairs on the rug were a 100% match to those belonging to a Pekingese dog.
Meanwhile, soil samples taken from Graeme's clothing were sent to Horace Whitworth, the curator of the Geological and Mining Museum in Sydney.
Soil and vegetable matter were also sent to Professor of Plant Pathology Neville White.
Other foliage removed from the rug were sent to botanist Dr Joyce Vickey at Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens.
Dr Vickey's examination of the foliage was able to give the police their second break in the case.
Dwarf Blue Sawara Cypress
Blue Ice Cypress
Crucial Evidence Revealed
The forensic analysis reviled the following
The two shrubs were identified as
1. Dwarf Blue Sawara Cypress
2. Blue Ice Cypress
Combined with the information police already had
1. A male with a foreign accent
2. A iridescent blue 1955 Ford Customline sedan
Keeping this information in mind, police painstakingly conducted a house to house door-knock of all of the houses in and around the area where the body had been discovered.
While the two shrubs were common by themselves in the area, the combination of both was not.
That is until the police discovered one house in the suburb of Clontaft, located about 3km away from where the body had been found. Police immediately became interested in the residence living in this house.
Forensic Analysis - Australian Police Journal July 1963
Hair and Fibre Samples
A building, probably a dwelling or high foundation about which was soil bearing a quantity of pink limestock mortar
a women with blonde hair, or grey hair which had been colour rinsed;
two shrubs, Charnaecypris pisfera var. squarrosa and Cupressus Glabra in proximity.
Soil of an analysis known to the investigating police, but different from that of the spot where the body was found.
a Pekinese dog
Stephen Leslie Bradley
The Investigation Into Stephen Bradley Begins
Police conducted a search of the property in Clontaft, which revealed the soil under the house contained fragments of pink mortar and directly in front of the garage were the two plants identified during the analysis.
Police also discovered that the house, which was recently sold, was previously owned by a Hungarian by the name of Stephen Leslie Bradley and his wife Magda. The also discovered that Stephen Bradley had arranged for furniture removalists to be at the house at 11am the day Graeme disappeared. They also discovered that Magda and two of their three children left for the city shipping terminal in a taxi at 10am on that day. They also found that Stephen Bradley was the owner of a blue 1955 Ford Customline, which was recently sold to a caryard in the suburb of Granville.
Analysis of the Car
With the car located, police began to examine it. In the boot they found a hairbrush which contained a number of dog hairs, which matched the hairs found on the rug and parts of Graeme's clothing. There was also human hairs found on the floor of the car.
Police also received information that Stephen Bradley had owned a second car, a Googomobile. This car was also found and examined. This examination also revealed human and dog hairs, which matched those found during the analysis.
The Bradley's House in Clontaft
The Bradley's Pekingese
Both human and animal hair was also discovered in an apartment in the suburb of Manley, where Stephen Bradley had lived shortly before leaving Australia in late September 1960. Hair was also discovered in a vacuum cleaner and carpet sweeper owned by Stephen Bradley and sold in September 1960.
Police also recovered a crumpled length of thirty-five mm black and white film which was sent for analysis, they discovered photos of the Bradley family sitting on a rug that was identical in pattern to the one Graeme's body was wrapped in.
The Bradley's dog was found at a Sydney veterinary hospital, samples of hair were taken and it was confirmed that these hairs were a match with the hairs found on the rug.
Police found two pieces of twine in the yard of the house in Clontaft, as well as from the apartment in Manley and two items of furniture, which had also been sold. This twine was examined and matched to the twine that had been tied around Graeme's ankles.
Further Examination of the Rug
A pale-blue rug tassel, found under the house in Clontaft was confirmed as matching the tassels on the rug Graeme had been wrapped in. To further confirm the Bradley's owned a rug like the one found came from a person in Melbourne, he stated he had given a rug similar in type and colour to Mrs Bardley sometime during 1955.
Stephen Bradley Being Escorted By police In Colombo
Finding Stephen Bradley
With the confirmation that Stephen Bradley was indeed the person the police were looking for, police set about locating him. The learned that he and his family were onboard a ship named "Himalaya" which was headed for London, England.
Detectives alerted the ships captain and Stephen Bradley was put under surveillance while police submitted extradition papers.
Stephen Bradley was arrested shortly after the ship docked in Colombo, Sri Lanka. At first he proclaimed his innocence, but during return flight to Sydney he told the police which were escorting him back to Australia he had indeed committed the crime.
Stephen Leslie Bradley
Do you let your child/children either walk to school alone/together?
Stephen Bradley's written confession
I red in the newspaper that Mr. Thorne won the first prise in The Operahouse Lottery. So I desided that I would kidnap his son. I knew ther address from the newspaper, and I have got their phone number from the telephone exchange. I went to the house to see them. I have asked for someone but cannot remember what name. Mrs. Thorne said she did not know that name and she told me to enquire in the flat upstairs.
I went upstairs and I seen the woman there. I have done this because I though that the Thornes will check up. I went out and watched the Thorne boy leaving the house and seen him for about three mornings and I have seen where he went. And one morning I have followed him to the school at Bellevue Hill. One or two mornings I have seen a womman pick him up, and take him to the school. On the day we moved from Clontarf I went out to Edward Street. I parked the car in a street I don’t know the name of the street it is off Wellington Street. I have got out from the car, and I waited on the cornor, until the boy walked down to the car.
I have told the boy that I am to take him to the shool. He sed why, where is the lady. I sed she is sick and can not come today. Then the boy got in the car, and I drove him around for a while, and over the harbour bridge. I went to a public phone box near the spit bridge and I rang the Thornes. I talked to Mrs. Thorne and then to a man who sed he was the boys father. I have asked for £25,000 from the boys mother and father. I told them that if I don’t get the moneys I feed him to the sharks, and I have told them I ring later.
I took the boy in the car home to Clontarf and I put the car in my garage. I told the boy to get out of the car to come and see another boy. When he got out of the car I have put a scarf over his mowth, and put him in the boot of the car, and slamed the boot. I went into my house and the Furniture Removalist came, a few minutes after. When it was nearly dark, I went to the car and found the boy was dead.
That night I tied the boy up with string and put him in my rug. I put the boy in the boot of the ford car again, and them I throw his case and toys out near Bantry Bay, and I put the boy on a vacant lotmount near the house I went to see with an Estate Agent, to buy it some time before.
Signed : S. L. Bradley
Witness: J. H. Bateman - Detective
Sergeant 2nd Class,
C.I. Branch, 19-11-1960, 10am
(Extract from the Australian Police Journal written by Detective Sergeant A F Clarke (NSW Police), July 1963, reprinted September 1996)
The Crowd Outside The Court
Stephen Bradley's Conviction Made The Front Page
Stephen Bradley Stands Trial
Between March 20th and 29th 1961, Stephen Bradley stood trial for murder at the Central Criminal Court in Sydney.
During the trial Stephen Bradley pleaded not guilty and stated that the confession he had given had been dictated to him by the police, he also stated that he wrote the confession as he feared for the safety of his wife and children.
Stephen Leslie Bradley was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, which was the maximum penalty for murder in New South Wales.
Stephen Bradley died of a heart attack in 1968.
Changing The Law
As a direct result of the Graeme Thorne case, Australian Law was changed to allow lottery winners to protect themselves, allowing them to decline having their names and addresses published.
This case also led the way in the pioneering of forensic investigation.