It was with some scepticism I started this book, much as I found the subject fascinating and setting familiar, having been brought up in Brisbane in the 1950s and 60s.
I was holding it at arm’s length because I thought a story written by the main protagonist’s relatives would naturally seek to exonerate him and recalibrate the public perception of a man, tried and convicted for a shocking murder of a young woman, Bronia Armstrong, in Brisbane’s city heart in 1947.
But as I read further into the narrative, I was stunned and overcome by a great sense of pity and sadness for a family so brutalised by the justice system and media of the day, it angered and shocked me to the core. Not only do I think it highly unlikely the convicted Reginald Wingfield Spence Brown had anything to do with the killing, but it’s also likely his death just days after being sentenced to life imprisonment in Boggo Road jail, was also not suicide as was ruled. The police sought and got a fast arrest and neat wrap up and that was all that mattered to them and the courts were both too naive to counteract or complicit in the dire proceedings.
Even dispassionately weighing up the circumstances of the killing, did it not seem absurd to most people at the time that the convicted, Reginald Brown, would attack his beautiful young employee in broad daylight in his workplace and coolly remain within metres of her lifeless body, making phone calls and calmly conducting his business in the minutes and hours thereafter?
Was not a man of such impeccable character, reliable, trustworthy, respected, moral and kind, deserving of even a smidgeon of doubt and the means to fully defend himself in the face of repeated set-ups, hidden or lost evidence, witness anomalies, influences, lies and trickery?
He was never allowed out of custody to see his family again after being charged.
Even without the hindsight knowledge we have now of the insidious corruption of the late sub-Inspector ( later Police Commissioner) Frank Bischof, the ambushing and denial of natural justice to Reginald Brown reads like a far-fetched melodramatic script.
Yet it is the factual, punctilious and heartbreaking record of the systematic failure of the crime investigation and courts. It cost Reginald Brown his life and his family peace and joy thereafter.
This story has been gathered over nearly 10 years and told with a dedication driven by love, hurt and pride by Reginald Brown’s two granddaughters, Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis, who were born after he died and never knew him. They knew only a yawning gap opened up in the lives of their parents, Reg Brown’s children, who were young adults when he died, and a hole filled with pain and shame that took them decades to talk about.
It’s a gripping read even if you have no connection to the time, people or place of the murder. It’s more chilling if you consider that there but for the Grace of God went many of our relatives living in the fool’s paradise of Brisbane’s corrupt past.
Julie has many strings to her bow - journalist, PR, publicist, marketer, web writer, sub editor, events manager - currently a garden blogger, garden writer and freelancer for BMag lifestyle magazine http://bmag.com.au/issues/275/
and event manager for the upcoming Caboolture Twilight Fiesta next summer. https://www.facebook.com/ julie.thomson.7370
Up until 12 months ago Julie was an ABCTV publicist for Gardening Australia , Australian Story and Landline programmes.. http://gardengrapevine.
We are proud to publish your review, sincere thanks Julie.
Deb and Jan