Public Record Office Victoria opens the files on some of our most infamous criminals

Sean Car

In a gripping revelation, the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) in North Melbourne has cracked open its vaults, exposing the hidden exploits of notorious criminals from the 1930s and ‘40s.

The latest Section 9 record openings, an annual event which will open on January 1, 2024, have unearthed a treasure trove of prison records and mugshots, featuring the likes of the infamous Kid Stranger and the Bonnie Doon Bandit.

Under Section 9 of the Public Records Act 1973, formerly private records are disclosed, shedding light on Victoria’s criminal underbelly.

One standout among the unveiled files is the 1948 criminal trial brief for Kenneth William Korrington-Willis, better known as Kid Stranger.

Kid Stranger, a cunning conman, posed as an American boxer and showman in the 1930s and ‘40s, duping unsuspecting victims with fake investments.

The 1948 brief discloses his conviction for defrauding Edwin George Douglas of a £300 car deposit while masquerading as an American Captain in the Department of Justice. Even after a stint in gaol, Kid Stranger's fraudulent escapades persisted.

In a cinematic twist, the Central Register of Female Prisoners revealed Julie Baldwin's involvement in the 1939 Bonnie Doon Post Office heist. Clad in a men’s suit during court proceedings, the 23-year-old, along with accomplices John Jackson and Leslie Malone, stole a car and committed armed robbery.

The 1934 to 1948 female register, the last of its kind, provides a riveting glimpse into Baldwin’s criminal record.

The opening of these records marks a significant historical moment. The final male register, spanning 1947 to 1948, has also been laid bare, concluding an era before the justice system transitioned to a card-based recordkeeping system in 1948.

Director and keeper of public records Justine Heazlewood underscored the importance of these documents, describing them as a snapshot of Victoria's social history.

“These fascinating files will be of particular interest to family researchers, as well as historians with mysteries from Victoria’s history to uncover,” she said.

Aside from the criminal narratives, today’s disclosure includes a diverse array of records, from Ballarat Asylum Clinical Notes to Tramway Employee Record Cards, providing an intricate mosaic of Victoria’s past from the 1880s to the early 1990s.

The PROV is located at 112 Macauley Rd, North Melbourne.

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John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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