Australian Journal of Cultural Studies
Vol. 1 No. 1, May 1983

Crimes of passion: TV, popular literature and the Graeme Thorne kidnapping, 1960

Noel Sanders


In July of 1960, eight-yearold Graham Thorne, whose parents had won the Opera House Lottery, was abducted (i.e. kidnapped) by Stephen Bradley for a portion of the lottery winnings. Graham Thorne lived in Edward Street, Bondi, a 'good part of Bondi' and was subsequently found dead by children of his own age in Seaforth, North Sydney. Between times, an intensive police investigation of the kidnapping and murder was set in train. The Sydney media were intensively in volved. One Stephen Leslie Bradley, a naturalised New Australian was convicted of kidnapping and murder after being arrested in flight in Colombo.


Wer reitet zo spat durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind
Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm
Er fasst ihn sicher, er halt ihn warm.

("Who is it riding so late through the windy night? A father with his child: he has his arm well round the boy, holding him safely and keeping him warm." Trans. D Luke (1972).

Goethe, Erlkonig.

It is midnight; there is no longer a single omnibus to be seen, from the Bastille to the Madeleine. I am wrong; here is one which has appeared suddenly, as if from under the earth. The omnibus, anxious to arrive at the last stop, tears through space, making the roads rattle... It is disappearing! But a shapeless form is madly pursuing it, in its wake, amid the dust. 'Stop, I beg you, legs are swollen from a day's walking... I have not eaten since yesterday...Myparents have abandoned me... I do not know what to do now... I have made up my mind to go back home and I would be there soon if you would let me have a seat... I am only a little boy, eight years old, I trust in you... ' It is disappearing!... It is disappearing!...

Lautreamont, Maldoror.

(Trans. P. Knight, 1978)

I have chosen to preface this latter-day account of the Graham Thorne kidnapping, and murder with two quotes having to do with 'mobility' and, by their collocation, want to propose a further extension of the 'mobile' metaphor, one that has to do with its perils—in Australia, the dangers of sudden success and enrich ment, and how this is seen by a largely (economically) struggling watching and reading audience. In July of 1960, Basil Thorne, father of eight-year-old Graham


Thorne, won $100,000 in one of the first Opera House Lotteries. According to the evidence that led to his conviction, Stephen Leslie Bradley saw his 'main chance' and kidnapped the boy on July 7,1960, for a ransom of $25,000 of the total sum. 'Mobility' figures here as both metaphor (condensation of a number of features of the case, from cars to social mobility) and as a conjunctural function of how things were seen in Australia at the beginning of the 60's. The juxtaposition of the two quotes above not only articulates a difference between two modes of transport—horseback and omnibus—pertinent to the 19th century, but also places in adjacence two infant utterances. In the first, the child is the seducer on horseback of its destroyer, in the second, it is outstripped by the vehicle, it is left panting in the wake of its outstripper, the omnibus. The Thorne affair of 1960 proposes a different scenario, one which generated a line given to me, amongst others, in the early 60's: 'Don't get into cars with strangers'. (I did, often, and survived; my parents, it must be said, had won no lottery.)

The mode of vehiculation used to kidnap Graham Thorne after his father had won the $100,000 in the Opera House Lottery was a 1955 'iridescent blue' Customline. (Clarke, 1962) The colour of the car in particular provided the occa sion for checking out your neighbour at the time, since T.V., the major medium used for the detection and capture of Graham Thorne's murderer, was, obvious ly, a black-and-white visual medium. Nonetheless, the watching public in Sydney, recruited, via T.V., as a vast force of, in their turn, observers (read informants), saw 'blue Fords, green Holdens, black Dodges' at the scene of the Thorne ab duction. (Archibald, 1961, p.91).

Television ownership in Australia between 1959 and 1960 went from 800,000 to 1,250,000, an increase in the ownership of sets outdone only by the 1958-9 period. But to take T.V. on its own as an index of how the 60's were shaping up would be ill-advised: foreign cars (V.W.'s and Fiats), household appliances and indeed T.V.'s had occasioned a rash of H.P. contracts. Increasingly, gambling ventures such as the Opera House Lottery, however, did not propose just a modest increment, but immediate propulsion into a life without care. Here, it might not be irrelevant to note that the Lottery not only increased the capital of the win ner, but also introduced into Australia the idea of cultural as well as monetary largesse—this was a way to immediate cultural capital as well as to capital capital. Cars came in the middle of this: Stephen Leslie Bradley owned both a Customline and a 'Goggomobile', and both of these were to prove both the signifiers of his aspirations and the 'clues' which identified these aspirations as indistinguishable from the forms of crime used to 'achieve' them. As with Bar thes' description of the 'New Citroen' as 'actualizing through this exorcism (touching, seeing) the very essence of petit-bourgeous advancement' (Barthes, 1973, p.88), the Bradley cars provided not only the orientation point for the predominantly T.V. audience (a 'two-car family') but also a point in 'Australian history' in which both the horse and the omnibus were well behind, and in which the child had a new function as the sacrifice on the altar (all-too-understandable) of the need for another sort of mobility, this time social and economic. The focus of this paper is on the idea that T.V. reached a plateau in 1960 that brought together in an enduring way the concatention of 'mobility' and class movement with the gaining of instant wealth through gambling (the example of Sale of the Century and The Price is Right are offered as contemporary, parallel scenarios).


The Media's Share.

Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!
Gar schone Spiele spiel ich mit dir;
Manch bunte Blumen sind an dem Strand
Mein Mutter hat manch gulden Gewand

Dear child, come, go with me! I shall play fine games with you; there are many beautiful flowers on the beach; my mother has many golden clothes.

Goethe, Erlkonig.

The Sydney media's interest in the Thorne affair was immediate and en thusiastic. Newspaper sales for all Sydney dailies had dipped below the 300,000 mark since 1956, but the 1 960-1 f igures showed a surge back to that mark. (Goot, 1979) The Thorne affair, with its dayday coverage by the media, from July 1960 to April 1961 must certainly have added to the revival, and not least in the sense that in 1960-61 the papers were structuring a buying situation in relation to evening T.V. viewing that they still enjoy: namely, the briefing of commuter readership for their re drafting as an evening T.V. viewing audience.

Early on in the unfolding of the Thorne case, the State Government offered a $5000 reward. This was topped by Fairfax's (Sydney Morning Herald and Sun) reward of $10,000. Australian Consolidated Press then put up a further $5,000. (Archibald, 1961) What the money was to be paid out for is still not clear, and no evidence appears to exist that any of this largesse was ever more than of fered. The sum involved prompted so many Sydneysiders to jog their memories and denounce their neighbours, friends and relatives that a 'running sheet' (a police record, a cross-index of all these helpful suggestions) had to be drawn up at Bondi Police Station and a separate squad of detectives assigned to mak ing sure it did not get out of hand. All manner of artifices were used, from a woman who held a seance at Bondi Police Station to a male diviner with 'vibrating bones' who would lead detectives to the offender. All acounts put emphasis on the sheer volume of information forthcoming, and a special telephone number, widely adver tised in the papers, was allocated to take care of the 'public response'. As B. Archibald, one of the first to rush to print on the affair put it, in a Horovitz publica tion of 1961:

Theories and speculation, argument and discussion raged with animation not known since the great political and industrial upheavals of the early post-war years. (Archibald, 1961, p.23)

There is probably a gradient of 'saleability' for papers set up in the war years that may well hold today. The big three are industrial unrest in industries to do with 'inconvenience' (oil and milk strikes, transport strikes), deaths (Elvis's in recent years caused a sales record), preferably criminal, and wars, from least to most profitable. However, it is not only the papers which cash in in this way: in any particular situation one medium may benefit more than another. In the end, because of the conditions of media ownership in Australia, this does not matter profit-wise: where a monopoly's media outlets might not do so well in one of its stationslpapers, it will pick up in others (as with 2GB's coverage of the Falklands War which brought the station to No. 3 in May 1982 while the T.V. subsidiaries languished because T.V. footage was often weeks old before it could


be screened). Better still, the various media owned by a monopoly, may 'feed' other media, to great profit advantage.

So it appears to have been on the morning of July 8, the day after the abduc tion. Swarms of police cars suddenly appeared around Edward Street, Bondi, but the police would say little, on the reasonable understanding that wide media at tention in the event of a kidnapping would (a) alert the kidnappers to the fact that it was now a police matter and (b) drive the kidnappers to more desperate measures such as murder. Thus on July 8, the afternoon papers got wind of it, and published the story, and 'the details exploded beyond the confines of the seaside suburb to shock Australia'. (Archibald, 1961, p.7) This primed the audience for the evening's T.V. viewing, and provoked T.V.'s ability to write the viewing subject in as 'participatory' both to the crime and its solution. Via T.V. networking,

All overAustralia, if particularly Sydney people, all felt they were personally invo/ved, that they must help in having Graham found. (Archibald,1961, p.14).

That night Detective Inspector George Grey made a special T.V. appearance and 'an anguished Basil Thorne went to Bondi Police Station to face a battery of T.V. Iights and interviewers, press and radio men'. It just so happened that Graham Thorne was already dead. In particular, in a kidnapping, the conventional wisdom was that the kidnapper should not be discouraged from contacting parents. In the event, Fairfax and Conpress took over this role themselves: in their own 'investigative' capacity, they were not only an extension of and help to the police, they were the police. In turn, the readinglviewing public were themselves inducted as investigators, informers, denouncers:

Australians are not an easy people to drive to mass action or demonstration. Not since the end of World War ll had the whole country shown an excited sense of responsibility. In the streets, hotels, homes, buses, offices, factories, shops and clubs, the talk was of the kidnapping. (Archibald, 1961, p.22).

While newspapers may initiate, T.V. follow up and radio bridge both, it is the induction and recruitment of the audience as having an uncommitted speech that disposes media practices to regard themselves only as the initiators of a speech that will eventually return to media discourses, repetitiously, for places to begin and reactivate that speech.

Shark Attack

At the end of the long night I could not shake off my conviction that it was Graeme's sister Belinda, only three and a half years old, whom the kidnapper initially planned to ransom. But it would have been hazardous to take that chance because never, never did Belinda venture beyond the front gate of her home alone. But it was different with the boy. He walked alone. (Dower, 1979).

How delightful this child is, sitting on a bench in the Tuileries Gardens. His bold eyes dart, he looks at some invisible object, far off in the distance. He cannot be more than eight years old, yet he is not playing happily and in a manner which would befit one of his years. He should at least be laughing and walking with some friend, but to do so would not be in character.
(Lautreamont, Maldoror, Trans. Knight, 1978)


Action sequences of sharks on T.V. are staple of such programmes as John Laws' world: as the chief predators and scavengers in the televisual animal pan theon, they are the most successful actants in the Darwinian animal cop-show that nightly primes the viewers for the human aquariums like Prisoner or Dallas. The shark attack is also known from Jaws ('just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water'). What makes it work is the combination of undersea photography ('underworld') coupled with threat at the point of the realization of leisure/pleasure.

Shark attack stories were in the late 50's (until the identification of the funnel web spider and its threats to Sydney's northern suburbs) a staple of Sydney newspaper shocklhorror for years before T.V. and film took the theme up.(Sharpe, 1979) Although they still crop up, as significant actants in the newspapers' theatre of power and 'justice' (see K. Windschuttle's, 1979, views on their function vis-a vis the dole-bludger myth in the 70's), their main vogue was from the 30's to the end of the 50's. Systematic shark-netting at Bondi was undertaken from 1936, and as of 1964 no surfer had been attacked since 1929. Nevertheless, the shark continued to provide totemistic proof of violence at all sorts of levels—whether as 'danger to society' in the scavengerldole-bludger end of the spectrum or, fur ther along, as an instrument of retribution. In the image of the shark, then, are condensed both the image of criminal threat and vindictive justice. Thus Bea Miles' cry from the gallery ~Feed him to the sharks' (Sharpe, 1979) (she herself being known as an avid swimmer across Bondi Bay accompanied by a shark knife) echoed Bradley's own threat on the telephone to the Thornes: 'If I do not get the money I will feed him to the sharks' (Sydney Morning Herald, 9 July, 1960)

If, at this point, the quote from Maldoror above, is starting to look fetishistic and, hence, bizarre, it is perhaps best to point out that at the time of the media coverage of the Thorne affair, the shark 'menace' provided an enthusiastic obligato to the proceedings. To use a different tack, perhaps Bea Miles' much quoted protest in court serves as a recapitulation of the ~first subject' which Bradley introduced in his initial contact with the Thornes. The idea of the 'rogue shark' (one which gets the taste of blood and goes on, as ex-Police Commissioner Dan cilis (Victoria) on the Channel 10 programme Greed, (1982) on Terry Clark put it, 'higher and better things') was being widely propagated in the late 50's. In par ticular the 'rogue shark' theory was set (enigmatically) against the theory of the'bumping shark' theory by Dr Victor Coppleson, an expert on shark attack over some 30 years. Coppleson's book Shark Attack (Coppleson 1958) was first publish ed by Angus and Robertson in 1958, and was later reprinted. While a 'bumping shark' might be a bit silly and might be guilty inasmuch as it had simply mutilated a victim with its fins, or toyed with a surfer 'as a dog might chase a car', the 'rogue shark' was a different kettle of fish. The rogue shark' theory proposed a solu tion to the blanket vilification of sharks, in that they provided an ethological ex planation for the psychology of the killer:

It will be seen that not all sharks are dangerous to man (sic) and that even those which kill in one set of circumstances might be harmless as a mullet at other times. (Coppleson, 1958, p.X)


Coppleson's fascinations are mostly 'scientific' (especially since he does not bring to bear on the question 'why do sharks attack 20 men for every woman' the fact that surfing has, since its observable genesis as a leisure vogue, predominantly been a male sport). But they are curious in the late 50's in view of his observation that 'the fact is that really bad days of shark attack in Australia are behind us'. (Coppleson 1958 p.Xi)

There is however, another set of 'live' texts that provide evidence that, when Bradley mentioned sharks and when Bea Miles also mentioned them, they were both plugging into concrete sub-texts which were current at the time. I refer to the revival of interest in the late 50's and early 60's of the famous ~Shark Arm Case' 'of' 1935. To cut a long story short, fishermen in 1935 had dragged a 'monster' tiger shark to the Coogee Aquarium in that year for display. One after noon, however, the animal got very agitated and disgorged, to the horror of the holiday crowd, remains of birds, rats, other sharks and (gasp) a human arm, sawn off from the elbow and prominently featuring a tattoo of two boxers (one in red shorts confronting another in blue shorts), 'shaping up' to one another. Around the wrist was attached a four foot length of rope, and treachery was suspected. Vince Kelly's The Shark Arm Case was published by Horovitz in 1963, having already been serialized in the papers. Kelly's writings note that it was the first Australian crime to be 'internationally known', and certainly, in 1935, the 'Shark Arm Case' put Australia on the map as a 'mystery' place, where strange coin cidental events occur. The amm had once belonged to James Smith who had been caught up, and sawn up, in an insurance fraud. One Patrick Brady was brought to trial on the matter; as Smith had had a chequered career of 'amateur boxer, illegal SP bookmaker, billiard room owner and bankrupted builder', so Brady had been a small-time crim and consummate forger. But in the early 1 960's, as a result of print-media revivals of the case, Brady, who had eventually been acquitted of his involvement and now was close on 70, found it necessary to protest in public in a series of articles, which Kelly authored. Brady noted:

Newspapers drag it up every year or so and serve up a few bits and pieces, mostly disjointed and distorted. (Kelly 1963)

Apart from the unfortunate metaphor of mutilation and dismemberment that here structure Brady's protest, it is perhaps more important to note that Brady's indignation had been set off by the appearance on Australian TV of an American TV film on the Shark Arm Case (the film was shown twice in 1960):

I don't like it. My relatives don't like it. I tried to stop it being put out to the world on millions of TVsets... It was because distortions were so humourous in the TV film...that the court held (Brady had applied foran injunction) I wasn't sufficiently identified with to be granted (the injunction) prohibiting the TV show in Australia. Can you beat that? (Kelly 1963)

Nature shows' of the present show that sharks are still good for a whirl. John Laws' World (July 19, 1982) as described by the Sydney Morning Herald, (19 July 1982) 'enters the shark's watery realm and comes up with new data on how they feed, rest...and why they attack' In the early 60's likewise, 'sharks' were also metaphors, or rather the 'vehicles' of metaphors, for a wide range of practices that were predominantly human (real estate ~sharks', used-car ~sharks'). As an


antecedent text tor understandlng the Thorne kidnapping at the time, the Shark Arm Case not only provided an analogy (Coogee 1935/Bondi 1960), but also, again problematicised the notion that life at the beach (an aspiration of many Australians, then and now) was easy. The spectacle of the sea, the beach and the denizens of the ocean in captivity provided the backdrop for the first real televisual rendition of Bondi in 1960. as both a place of leisure, aspiration and attainment. and as the place of threat. transgression, crime and death.

Bondi in the late 50's was knowable from the Ampol rallies that left from and returned to it in their 'Round Australia' runs. However, the image of the 'Playground of the Pacific' of the 30's by the late 50's gave way to images of and discourses on Bondi that represented Bondi not so much as a 'fun' place, but as, contradictorily, the place of arrival for mobile families and also the arena of crises for such aspirations—not least in the sense that the aspirants should have. then, to gamble to stay. Bill Archibald s 1961 book The Bradley Case transposes the idyll into the 60's thus:

They call Bondi 'The Playground of the Pacific'—a name that suggests lux ury hotels, night-clubs villas, expensive motor cars, and the bored, pleasure seeking people one watches with curious detachment when they appear in the short films about European resorts...But Bondi's nothing like that. (Ar chibald 1961 p.7)

Archibald then goes on to record the coincidence of the Thorne's arrival at Bondi (79 Edward Street) with their success in enrolling Graham Thorne at upper crust Scots College in Bellevue Hill. To 'arrive', however, one must gamble, but Archibald attributes this practice not to class mobility, but to the 'easy-going' nature of Bondi inhabitants:

...people are easy-going in Bondi. They like a gamble—but so do most peo ple in Sydney—and (this is 1960) nearly everyone has a lottery ticket habit... Lotteries are a way of life (sic) in New South Wa/es. (p. 8)

Brecht's advice was, it will be recalled, 'if you sup with the Devil, use a long spoon', and indeed Basil Thorne's sorrow was sealed on June 1960 when

in a small auditorium in Barrack Street, Sydney, a handful of people watched as the lottery barrel ... whirled around. Those few revolutions which, five weeks later, were to culminate in a tragedy which shocked Australia... The long handled spoon went into the barrel after it stopped and out came the marble—Number 3932. (p.9)

The Opera House Lotteries were ostensibly inaugurated with a dual purpose: one was, obviously, to raise cash from gamblers for the 'building'; the other,however, was to present an image of mega-quids as the way to get over the hiatus between middle-class aspiration and the likelihood of attaining it. In this latter sense, the purposes of the Opera House administrators and the lot tery fiends had a lot in common: big money for gamblers meant big money for


the builders/architects (in both senses). Plus which, 'culture' in the high sense was also a goal of both: the Thornes, with their aspirations to beach suburb liv ing and to sending their son to a select education spa, seemed to realise both the purposes of the beneficiaries and the benefactors.

The first Opera House Lottery was launched in January 1958 and didn't do too well. Nevertheless, although Basil Thorne paid $3 for his punt, during August 1960, the price was placed at $5. It has been observed elsewhere (Crowley) that HP in the late 50's and early 60's (notably based on appliances, and the owner ship of TV sets in particular) was taking off—it was noted that in 1959, up to 65% of households, for instance, had 'succumbed' to TV (Rigby 1977). With TV sets priced at around $600, the cost (double what a set cost in the US at the time) placed most buyers in financial servitude, it was reckoned, for the next five years. (Davies 1981)

Lotteries offered one putative exit from this bind, but by the early 60's, this form of gambling (in fact entrepreneuring the family in the context of the pleas of teenage and child TV watchers) had become subject to scrutiny, mostly by the churches but not necessarily so. The Catholics were in favour of gambling if it was church gambling. So, E. R. Hull, in an Australian Catholic Truth Society pamphlet of 1960, on 'Betting and Gambling' notes that

Lotteries are dangerous transactions for they induce people to spend beyond their means ... they foster cupidity and avarice and even encourage supersti tion and magic.

In New Zealand, likewise, in the early 60's, the introduction of the ~Golden Kiwi' lottery, along the lines of the Opera House lottery, gave cause for alarm. Presbyterian sources there produced evidence that 'gambling is becoming more open so as to become more amenable to control.' The Golden Kiwi could turn into a 'golden tiger': for the first time in history, Satan is being tamed, and used to cast out Satan'(Salmond 1962). Catholic writers in Sydney connected lotteries more directly with HP and its threats to the integrity of family life:

It is because many people are so troubled with the sense of insufficiency to make ends meet, or to keep up with the Jones'es so far as motor-cars and television are concemed, that they need the hope of winning a considerable sum of money to keep going. ('Betting and Gambling').

An article entitled 'Sydney's Sin Finances an Opera House' (Pacific Island Mon thly, July 1961) also drew attention to the perils of risking everything on the luck of the draw, and further pondered on the threat to the family, and the churches in fact, as lotteries might seem to lead to magic and superstition. From the point of view of the Thorne affair, however, it was Stephen Bradley rather than Basil Thorne who gambled. Thorne's flutter was appropriate to his middle class status and, as pointed out in an article in Nation (15 July 1961) called 'Luck for Sale', the Opera House Lottery, which grossed $16.6m in 1960-61, was a middle class lottery. The jackpot lotteries begun in 1956 were aimed at the same middle-class people, while 'numbers' lotteries were quick to close and were 'for the proletariat'. The class lotteries like the jackpots and the Opera House were more complex


and hierarchized in the sense that they focussed on a single prize (an image of capital in accumulation), rather than a number of wage-like, smaller payouts. On the other hand, most accounts of Bradley's class aspirations (the house at Clon tarf, the two cars) concentrate on him as a usurper of a middle-class position that didn't belong to him. He had married money and, indeed, and in fact, earned his crust as an electroplater in a factory that made 'pokies'. The distinction bet ween 'respectable' gambling such as the middle class lottery and crimes was furthered by the large numbers of amateur extortionists who tried in their turn to pick up the Thornes' money and who pretended that they, rather than Bradley, had Graham Thorne. A class-related gradient, from the flutter gambling to 'the gamble' (crime) thus became visible. Broadly cast in terms of winners (the middle class) or losers (workers), the emphasis was put, as the church tracts in particular had it, on how losers are likely to become desperate and criminal! But lottery habits were part of the 'easy-going' life of the middle-class of 'the good part of Bondi' (Archibald 1961, p.8), habitual and easily worked into the middle-class budget. Bradley, on the other hand, was an 'over-reacher', with eyes on a kind of life to which, not least as a migrant, he was not yet entitled: his sort of gam ble, then, was criminal:

As so often before, he had overreached himself, but this time in a big way.

(SMH, April 28, 1961).

In Bill Archibald's narrative:

...Bradley was careless and a poorplanner. He was not usually a gambler, but he took a gamble, perhaps not only tor money, which lost Graham Thome's life, and his own freedom. (Archibald 1961, p.123)

New Australia

In recent years, it could not but be apparent to the 'average' readerlviewer that the 'official' account of what goes on draws on, and itself does not contradict, reference to organized, small-time, and individual, crime. For instance, the 'razor gangs' of the 1920's provided unchallenged pretexts for the depradations of the LynchlGuilfoyle cuts in, amongst other things, social services in the early 80's. The term 'corporate raider' likewise operates and re-activates a 'raiding' tradi tion that intertextualizes both with Ned Kelly and the pre-dawn strategies of police raids. On TV, the dramatization of Richard Hall's Greed (TN 10, Sydney, July 1982) introduces New Zealanders to the TV viewing public (as invaders, usurpers and crims) in the same way that 'the Lebanese community should discard the "cultural habit" of carrying knives' (SMH, June 16, 1981). In 1960, the Thorne murder was early in the piece taken to be the work of New Australians, or a New Australian. Kidnapping was different from abduction, which was already recognised. V. H. Treatt, the member for Woolahra in 1960, commented:

There is, of course, the case of abduction; a common offence is the abduc tion of a female for the purposes of marrying her or carnally knowing her, but having regard to the penalty involved, it is not considered to be a very serious crime. (NSW Parliamentary Debates No 28 in Crowley, 1977)


Treatt sought to recognise that until the unhappy kidnapping case not long ago, N.S.W. had mercifully been free of this hideous form of crime known as kid napping'. The image was of a disease or plague, whose arrival was grasped in biological terms as a struggle of species against species: vigilance had to be enacted against 'this menace (that) has reached this country'.

Basically, the 'carriers' were New Australians. A day after the abduction, the Sydney Morning Herald (8 July, 1960) registered the 'greatest manhunt in Australian history' propelled by the observation that:

Police said that kidnapping, uncommon in Australia, but not overseas, sug gests that it might have been masterminded by a New Australian.

In particular, kidnapping was an affront to the hitherto taken-for-granted in tegrity of the white Australian family, a 'cruel, cold-blooded crime that strikes at the heart of the family' and 'cuts across the very roots of human love and af fection, the sacred relationship of human love and affection, the sacred relation ship of mother and child' (Treatt in Crowley, 1977). At the same time, the whole affair exposed the internal fractionalization of the family and the growing in dependence of its parts.

Television was to an extent seen as a contributing force. W.J. Campbell's study TV and the Australian Adolescent of 1962 decided that TV caused 'family members to go along parallel, rather than truly "interactive" lines' (Campbell 1962). Two major crime shows on Sydney TV at the time, Perry Mason and 77 Sunset Strip, were of interest to Campbell in replacing parents and 'self' as ~ego-ideals' (his words) with isolated singular 'glamour adults' such as detectives or lawyers, as roles for youth identification. Emery and Martin's 1957 study by the Melbourne University Department of Visual Aids on westerns on TV and film found that iden tification was 'ambivalent'; however still relying on the subjects themselves to work out the relationship to the cowboy or detective in their own terms. This 'joint method (practice?) of agreement and difference' in identification was also found as the fulcrum in crime dramas in a further study by the Melbourne Univer sity group. Here a distinction was made between 'crime drama' and 'tragic film': while the 'formularization' typical of crime drama left the subject with disbelief at the end of a show, there was also an excess (part of the 'ambivalent identifica tion') that was remaindered for real life, for the subject's own projection. 'Tragic film' was not like this, being more exhaustive than excessive. It is germane to note at this point that the Thorne affair on TV was not 'tragic film' so much as crime drama. Detectives like Doyle and Bateman were made familiar night by night as 'glamour adults', like the sheriffs and detectives in the westerns and crime series, and Archibald's book gives similar coverage of the personalized, in dividualized forces of the law (people you could 'talk to'). They had the quality which Campbell's study attributed to Perry Mason: "incorruptability...the world of Perry Mason is hostile, but unlike 77 Sunset Strip, not chaotic." The 'effect' on child TV viewers of these shows was important in understanding how the Thorne affair was read, particularly in the sense that police investigations via TV appealed directly to children's 'investigative' possibilities, being themselves 'out and about' in bush, parkland and cliff areas where adults usually don't go. It turned out that one of the kids who found Thorne's body had, at the sugges


tion of the media, carried around a picture of the victim in his back pocket for weeks, and even after having found the corpse, said nothing of it to his parents. Campbell's study usefully carried a section on the 'effects' of TV on 'confiding in parents' in pre-TV days compared with post. He found little had changed.

When Graham Thorne's body was 'discovered' on August 16 in a shallow cave under a rock-ledge at Seaforth, it transpired that two other eight-year olds for whom the overhang was a 'fort' had known about the body for weeks. The TV 'fort' and the nightly television spectacle of corpses surrounding it mapped in with the kids' fantasy space, said to be one of TV's main problems, and they had failed to mention the real corpse they had seen. TV had become part of play, as far as kids were concerned, the world had become drama: after actually look ing under the blanket in which the body was wrapped,

the McCue boys went home, had a game of cowboys, then watched televi sion. At the dinner table, Peter mentioned casually, "Oh Phillip says there's a body in the bush." (Archibald 1961, p.39)

The 'difference' between New Australian and Anglo-Saxon family life was work ed into the structural understanding of the affair mainly through the role given to the respective fathers—Bradley and Thorne—who were involved. Basil Thorne's TV appearance on July 8 was able to show him saying

If the person who has my son is a father and has a child of his own, all I say is, for God's sake, send him back to me in one piece. (Sydney Morn i ng H erald 9 July 1960)

Basil Thorne then 'buried his face in his hands', a non-verbal but televisual appeal. Bill Archibald seems to echo this TV appearance, expecting it to be mir rowed in Bradley's statement at the end of the trial: the expectation is that Bradley's protestations of innocence should also refer to fatherhood and his failure to do so 'convicts' him doubly:

Wouldn 't you have expected him to cry out something like, "I couldn 't do such a dreadful thing! I'm a father could I kill a little boy?" Put he didn't. (Archibald 1961, p.120)

Apart from this, the two families differed in other respects. The Thornes were 'close-knit', a 'happy, typically middle-class household', but the Bradleys were a family combining children from both previous marriages. In such a situation, the responsibility of fatherhood, in the context of the 'extended family', was sure to falter.

Part of police investigations in the Thorne case involved interviewing all New Australian babysitters in the area of Bondi, as well as 'several New Australians absent from work', and when Bradley was placed in an identification parade, it was with 'sixteen persons of European nationality'. (Clarke 1962) Race in the public viewing and reading of the Thorne affair presented itself as a way 'in' not only to speaking about the matter (differencel'there-but-for-the-Grace-of-God', etc.) but also to understanding the media output on it. In particular ~naturalization


presented watchin/reading/listening subjects with a problem—cast by TV in particular as public jurors in a situation in which TV was seeking to assimilate with the other institutions of the land, the TV audience was drawn into assess ing not only the 'authenticity' of visual gestures (Basil Thorne's head in the hands, for example) but also the linguistic ('Australian') genuineness of Bradley's ut terances. Bradley's 'speech' in his original ransom telephone call was characteriz ed by his 'foreign accent' (Sydney Morning Herald 25 March 1961), which linked a form of speech to a form of crime. Bradley also owned a make of car—a Gog gomobile—which in the late 50's was enough to signify its owner as either weird or foreign, or both. As far as speech was concerned, however, there was a pro blem—although a man with a 'foreign accent' had made the first ransom call, he also had, as a witness said, 'a command of the Australian idiom—for exam ple, his words "feed him to the sharks":

There are many New Australians with strong accents who would not have com mand of the idiom. (Sydney Morning Herald 25 March 1961))

In Bradley's defence, Mr Vizzard, Q.C., also asked of Detective Sergeant Doyle, a detective who, along with Detective Sergeant Bateman, had brought Bradley to Sydney from Colombo, whether the police submission that Bradley had writ ten a confession was not (in the light of Bradley's persistent claim that he had been verballed) a concoction:

Doyle: That's quite wrong ... it is deliberately false ... you only have to look at the wording and phraseology to see if Bateman or I had any part of it. That (i.e. with masses of spelling errors, and with the substitution of simple/'have' past tense for the normal preterite that characterized the confession') is not my type of language: and Bateman does not use that type of language.

Vizzard: No, it is not your language, but you have heard New Australians talk like that. (Archibald 1961, p.120)

Whether or not Bradley did it, his ~confession' is more Nino Culotta than anything, and quite likely a verbal. From the point of view of the largely satirical discourses on New Australians available in the early 60's (form the innocence of Culotta's writings to the 'emergence' of Bradley as stereotypically a 'naive petty and characterless opportunist'), it is not hard to see the way in which these provided displaced justification for discourses onlof 'Australian' family life, mode of speech and choice of consumer durables. The fact that kidnapping was a 'foreign' crime not only introduced a 'new' (or not so new, since in Bondi in 1932 a wealthy grazier had been held in a Roscoe Street flat and forced to write a $10,000 order to a firm of stock and station agents) form of outrage to Australia. It also activated a series (already present but not articulated) of crises in Australian society—the importance of lottery gambling, the crisis of home economy and the inability to pay cash signified by the growth of HP, the fractionalization of the family and the growth of a new child and teen literacy based on TV viewing, the ambivalence towards New Australian workers in the workplace, incipient racism based on differences in pronunciation and syntax (themselves exaggerated to justify 'Australians' 'parallel lapse from the grammar-book norm'). A displacement


in the form of a newspaper and TV drama of these crises had been found in the Thorne crime, variously, of an 'other'—the 'foreign'.

The available intertext for understanding the kidnapping was the Peugeot case of 1959, in which Eric Peugeot, the grandson of the millions, was abducted for money. For an Australian understanding of this connection, the mystique of own ing 'continental' cars is not unimportant. Apart from that, two other kidnappings could not but have provided guides to reading the Thorne case. One was the Leopold-Loeb kidnapping of the 20's. which (given the Jewish names—the Bradleys were also part Jewish) gave notice of a superior 'smartness'. Vince Kelly compared it also with the Lindbergh kidnapping, tied up as it was with fame, fortune and technology, as was the immediate pre-text, namely the Peugeot af fair. The 'opportunist' and 'passionless' nature ('After all wouldn't a man in his position have been more impassioned') of the Thorne affair was everywhere pro posed and perhaps coincides with the popular perception of wealth—as crime, to which a further crime (such as kidnapping) is easily appended. From the Peugeot kidnapping to the J. Paul Getty Jr. kidnapping in the early 70's, the sup position is not only that the crime of the rich justifies the crime of the poor. However, while the crimes of the rich are passionate, heroic, romantic (as in the notion of the 'corporate raider'), those of the poor are without passion or inten sity. This is because, basically, they are foreigners within our own land. In the Thorne kidnapping, the Bradleys (guilty or not, which is far from the intent of this paper to be concerned with) provided an array of signifiers of the 'foreign' (cars, family structure, etc.), which Australians were only too glad to accept/read as the externalization of their own predicament, not least in that, via TV, the papers and radio, the affair articulated a crisis in Australian society of the time.

In writing of the Cleft Chin murders of the late 40's in England, George Orwell points likewise to crime (violent) as 'importation' (these were done by an American serviceman and an English woman who ran down, stabbed and otherwise despat ched several people in a brief time in 1945):

Perhaps it is significant that the most talked-of English murder of recent years should have been committed by an American and an English girl who had become Americanized. (Orwell 1980, p.128)

The murders were, in Orwell's terms, less memorable than old Elizabethan poisonings,

(the) product of a stable society where the all-pervading hypocrisy did at least ensure that crimes as serious as murder should have strong emotions behind them.

The abductor in the Thorne matter does not have a wholesome Irish name like Kelly; instead, the perpetrator's name is Baranyay, obsequiously 'Anglicized' as Bradley.

The late 50's and early 60's in Australia were signified, as far as an examina tion of the economic, social and cultural 'life' of Australians at the time is con cerned, in terms of parking meters, drive-in bottle shops, naturalization ceremonies. and the arowing imwrtance of lotteries as acceptable images of


wealth and capital accumulation (in the same way as, in the latter case, mining and the 'boom' functioned as pungent and puissant mythologies in the late 70's and early 80's). The way in which these matters (a) were structured as pinion points in understanding a teleological history and (b) the material conditions for deal ing with that idea, are as yet largely unexamined. While all these developments functioned in both the major media and in suburban newspapers (whose pervasive influence also starts from the late 50's), the neglect of 'events', and their overdeter minative influence on how people at the time regarded their material conditions remains largely unobserved. The purpose of the foregoing investigation of the Thorne affair is propelled by an urgent need: namely, questioning the role of (and particularly the Sydney) the media in 'providing' telescopic nodes for viewing this society at a particular point in 'time' (historylsocietylconflict), and questioning when and how existing media practices were nailed into place. A problem that should and might follow from this is how the media 'telescope' appears as a microscope—in other words, how the 'investigative' (and, by analogy to the work of the police, profitable) work of the media elides with or is identified with a sociology, a history and a philosophy that is 'Australian'—an activity without. seemingly, a 'remainder' that leaves sociologists, historians and philosophers any effective function. In effect, we 'pick up the pieces'. What we do with them is, as they say, 'anybody's business'.

Noel Sanders teaches at the New South Wales Institute of Technology


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