Friday, 28 June 2013

Detective Piggott's Casebook

In a comment on an earlier post, abg referred me to Kevin Morgan's book on the Gun Alley murder.  I haven't yet come across that book, but my search did lead me to another book by Kevin Morgan, in which Piggott is also the central character:   Detective Piggott's Casebook.   This sets out the true stories of nine important Victoria Police investigations in the early 20th century in which Detective Frederick Piggott led the investigations.   I found the book absorbing not just because of its insight into policing techniques but also because of its descriptions of the lives of those involved and of the social scene and habits of the era.

Frederick Piggott had a long police career, starting as a country policeman in 1898, transferring to the CIB in 1912. and retiring in 1934.   In an era of under-educated and under-resourced policing, Piggott exercised a shrewd intelligence and a forensic attention to detail far ahead of his time.  The author has drawn on Piggott's personal papers as well as the official files of the period.  Apparently all the dialogue set out in the book is actual and sourced from the records.  The localities are also described in detail, as is the effect of World War 1 on a couple of the characters.  It was also interesting to read the outlines of the subsequent lives of the people involved.

House in Crimea St in which Irene Tuckerman lived is still there
While Piggott had many strong qualities and undoubtedly had some successes, he was not perfect.   The killer of Irene Tuckerman (in what is described as the Caulfield Outrage) was never identified - although the book speculates as to a couple of possibilities.

The Gun Alley investigation is referred to in the chapter dealing with the Irene Tuckerman murder, but is not dealt with in detail in this book  (it's described, I understand,  in detail in  Morgan's book,  Gun Alley: Murder, Lies and Failure of Justice).   However, Piggott's investigation of the rape and murder of 12 year old Alma Tirtschke in the Gun Alley case resulted in the conviction and execution of the wrong person, who has subsequently the subject of the only (to date)  pardon for a judicially executed person in Australia.   The Gun Alley murder occurred a year before the Irene Tuckerman murder, and the press certainly identified similarities between the cases (they both concerned the murder of a young girl).  However, at least in the Tuckerman case the authorities did not seek to rely on the evidence of two perjured witnesses, who were influenced by the reward on offer, even though Piggott appears to have formed the view that the person implicated by those witnesses was the guilty party.

I drove down Crimea Street, North Caulfield, and the house in which Irene Tuckerman lived still stands.

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