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Unsolved Crimes

All is revealed in Victoria`s Great Bookie Robbery

Date: 2000/02/14
Location: , Australia


After more than 20 years, a Melbourne barrister has finally revealed the secrets to Australia`s largest heist, the Great Bookie Robbery.

On April 21, 1976 a well organized gang of robbers got away with a multi-million pay day when they hit the Victoria Club, which was located on the second floor of the Queen Street building.

Phillip Dunn, QC, the lawyer for Norman Lee( pictured), the only person to have ever been charged over the robbery, but subsequently acquitted, has finally told of the elaborate scheme the gang put into to place that resulted in getting away with between $6 million and $12 million.

Mr Dunn said that Lee ``came clean`` about the 1976 heist after he was acquitted and was able to confirm the story with another person who was close to the robbery. Mr Dunn also said he could not reveal all the details earlier because of lawyer-client privilege.

Norman Lee was shot dead by police in 1992 during another multi-million dollar heist at the Melbourne Airport.

The story that Mr Dunn now reveals is in complete contradiction with what was believed to have happened in the days immediately following the robbery. It was always thought that the bandits got away with the money in a stolen white van.

Lee explained to Mr Dunn that the money never left the building until weeks after the heist. Three months before the robbery, the gang, which include Raymond Bennett, the mastermind, Ian Carroll, Laurence Prendergast, brothers Brian and Leslie Kane and Lee, rented an office in the same building as the Victoria Club. This office proved to be the gang`s command centre as they worked on the details of the heist.

After the bandits had stolen the money they placed it in their office which was only two floors above the scene of the crime. The stolen white van was intentionally noisy and obtrusive to plant the ruse that it was how the money was removed from the crime scene. For weeks after the crime police went on a wild search for the stolen money. Over the following weeks the gang returned at the their leisure and retrieved the money.

On the day of the robbery the bandits tampered with the elevator causing it to break down, effectively sealing off the second floor of the building. Armed with machine guns the gang burst into the settling room and with bolt cutters opened the cash boxes. One of the bandits proceeded to rip all the phones from the wall.

From there it was a quick dash up the stairwell to their office to hide the money and then down to the ground floor for the get-a-way. The entire raid took less than 10 minutes.

The gang never really got to enjoy the fruits of their labour as over the ensuing years all six were killed. Bennett was acquitted of the slaying of Leslie Kane. Bennett himself was gunned down the following year by Kane`s brother, Brian. Brian Kane in 1982 was shot dead in a crowded hotel. Carroll was shot to death in 1983. Prendergast went missing in 1985 and has never been found.

As no-one has been convicted over this crime, technically it is still classified as unsolved.