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History

04 Jun 2019

History Image

Daring robbery at City Rd

The former City Road Post office, on the corner of Hanna Street (now Kings Way), was a substantial red-brick building that was part of the State School grounds. It is gone now, another victim of the massive changes to the road network in the 1980s.

It served the community well for many years – as a post office, telegram centre (from where telegram delivery boys operated) and as a branch of the Commonwealth Bank. It often carried a substantial amount of cash from the sale of stamps and money orders.

But post offices were generally peaceful places and nothing prepared the staff for the events one Wednesday morning in January 1936. The office had just opened and Postmaster J. Evans and his assistant W.J. Fielding were behind the counter when a man entered. With his face masked by a handkerchief, he jumped on the counter and pointed an automatic pistol at the shocked staff, keeping them covered and telling them to put their hands up quick.

“Before we realised what was happening he had leapt across the grille and was menacing us with a gun” recounted the postmaster. He was then joined by an accomplice (also masked and armed) who had been guarding the door, before ransacking the office drawers and forcing the postmaster to hand over the keys of the safe and removing the cashbox. Threatening to shoot them both if they made a sound, and to come back if they raised the alarm, they were then locked in a rear room overlooking Hanna Street.

But the crooks weren’t done yet! As they exited the post office they encountered a youth who was headed into the building with mail and relieved him of seven shillings. Witnesses described how they then jumped onto the running board of an already-moving car and took off rapidly towards the city.

The post office staff, both badly shaken, couldn’t ring the alarm as the window to the room they were locked in was stuck after a recent paint job. But they hammered furiously on it and soon attracted the attention of a passing blacksmith from a nearby business.

A few minutes later, local police arrived on bicycles and motor cycles, followed by a car load of detectives who sped towards the city in the direction taken by the bandits’ car. The daring (and well-planned) robbery took place with such precision that few people were aware of it until the detectives and patrolmen arrived. Some months later a young man was charged with the robbery but was acquitted.

Like many of the other armed robberies in a very violent mid-1930s Melbourne, it was never solved.

Robin Grow

President - Australian Art Deco and Modernism Society

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