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[ There is war among the thieves in Melbourne (says the Melbourne Age). During the last few months there have been several mysterious shooting cases and serious assaults in JFitzroy, to which no special significance was" attached at the time. But tlie singular reticence of the men concerned in these affrays, and the consequent futility of police investigations, have, excited public wonder. l<'or weeks past this drama of the underworld has been going on, and the struggle has assumed seri,ous proportions. The climax came quite recently. Then; according to a most reliable authority, attempts, were made on the lives of two men who .were recognised by the other thieves and by the police as the directors of many big robberies. Owing to the peculiar and silent nature of the light, and the difficulty in gaining full information, the police seem practically powerless to cope with the situation. The trouble, it is said, originated in a series of disagreements between the actual thieves and who planned .several important robberies .last year. the point in dispute was the division of the spoil. Crime as practised by the members of this select circle is conducted on a business basis. The operations are directed by a head whose word is law—the only law they recognise. Thisman rules like an autocrat. It is Ms business to think out the jobs'; to select the safes to be operated upon; to direct the robberies and burglaries from outside. It appears these "middlemen" have been appropriating more of the proceeds than the men who had executed the thefts considered they were entitled to. The arguments were not confined to words. Most of the parties carried guns—and used them. Of late tlio nring of revolvers in Jb'itzroy has become a., matter of not infrequent occurrence, but more often than not no significance has been attached to these outward signs of the duel. In a recent shooting case four men entered a house in I<litzroy, fired a number of shots at a man in bed, and left the place. The faut could not be concealed, because the man had to be taken to a doctor for treatment, so the authorities got to know of it. But exhaustive inquiries by the detectives and police elicited no definite clue as to the motive for the shooting i the wounded man was obstinately uncommunicative, and a description of the assailants could not be obtained from anybody else in the vicinity. But the account between the parties concerned will probably be settled another way. They do not want to call in the police. They have a way of their own of arranging these disputes,, and the police are the last people in the world they want to have anything to do with.

Anotlier stage in this vendetta amongst the thieves haß heen reached, a, second man having been assaulted. As in the first case, police inquiries were useless—tlie real motive for the attack was not divulged. But it was ascer-tained-thai, the trouble had been accentuated by the threatened' 1 vengeance? of other thieves, who complained that they had been kept out of many jobs through the agency of this "middleman." . Hi.s transactions after several robberies, it is declared, had proved him untrustworthy i'rom their point of view. It is an accepted fact in criminal circles thai if the proceeds of certain burglaries aio not "placed" with this particular "mid-

dleraaii" the. freedom of the perpetrator of the crime is often in jeopardy. As an example of the power exercised by, j these men, the flourishing sly-grdg i trade at Fi.tarby is a striking illustraj tion. In this locality control of the i business is said to be vested in the (.'hands of one man, and it is an unwritten law that before a new sly-grog shop is opened his - approval must be gained. • if, on the other hand, the aplicant persists in opening this illicit f beer shop without his permission, information somehow" mysteriously finds its way to the 1 police authorities, and , it is very unusual for .the shop to last i any length of time. Incredible as these ! facts may seem to the outside public, i.they are matters of common knowledge !to .the. inhabitants in these parts of 1 JPitzroy, and also to the police.

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Bibliographic details

THIEVES' ORGANISATION., Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9597, 29 April 1919

Word Count

THIEVES' ORGANISATION. Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9597, 29 April 1919