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Liverpool Street

The Razor Gang Wars
By 1927, the cunning, ambitious and ruthless Kate Leigh, Tilly Devine, Phil 'The Jew' Jeffs and Norman Bruhn were unchallenged as Razorhurst's major crime bosses. For a while they were content to live and let live. Kate's territory was Surry Hills, where she ran sly grog and dealt in cocaine and stolen goods, Tilly's beat was brothels in Darlinghurst, Kings Cross and Wolloomooloo. Jeffs specialties were drugs, gambling and sly grog in the Cross and the 'Loo.

Bruhn and his razor gang monstered small-time vice purveyors in Kings Cross and Darlinghurst: freelance prostitutes, drug peddlers and low-rent two-up schools and sly-groggers unallied to Leigh, Devine or Jeffs. For a time, none encroached on another's turf or activity. Then in early 1927, the thieves fell out - and all hell broke loose.

It was Bruhn who first split from the ranks. Bruhn and Hayes first held up one of Phil Jeffs sly-grog shops, in Liverpool Street. On 6 June, Hayes was gunned down in Liverpool Street. Passing taxi driver Jack Edelman pursued the shooter's limousine and took its number, then returned to where the victim lay unconscious and bleeding. Police, acting on Edelman's information, traced the getaway car and charged Phil Jeffs henchman Tom Kelly with malicious wounding.

Bruhn and his gang then stormed onto one of Kate Leigh's sly-grog shops in Liverpool Street and, razors flashing, took the proprietor's nights taking, 100 pounds of the man's own money and a stash of jewelry. A few nights later they returned to Liverpool Street and extorted stolen money from one of Kate Leigh's thieves. When she learned of the heist Kate Leigh totted up the money Bruhn had once more cost her and seethed.

And so... the vendetta gets fiercer... Its climax may come in a wild campaign of shooting any night, as the mystery gangsters, once elusive, shady and unknown, are now easily identifiable by those who have sworn to 'get' them. The 'Midnight Raper' has other names, ordinary names, but they do not count much, as a criminal changes his title about five times a week if it suits him. There are others identifiable by nicknames, too, one of them of snowy white locks who is called 'Nigger', and yet another who is referred to more often that not as 'The Jew'. The reputed leader [of the worst gang] is a Melbourne man who absconded from bail and bolted for Sydney after he had been committed for trial... And so, known to the police and known to their victims, the gangsters prowl through the shadows, and even into the light of day, spreading supreme terror as they go, and never fearing that the processes of the law may be set against them.

Truth Newspaper, 1927

Adapted from the award winning book Razor, by Larry Writer © 2001, Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd. Second edition now available with new material. Find out more >> about the bookBuy the book >>
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