The early bird c.1915
by Michael Shelford © 2018
About 2.30am on the morning of the 28th September 1915, Constable Preece was working his beat in the back streets of Fitzroy when he saw a lone man carrying a galah in a cage. Being an unusual hour of the morning for someone to be out walking their pet, he decided to stop the man and ask him his business.
The man, it turns out, was a career criminal by the name of John ‘Scotty’ King. Scotty’s explanation, that he’d won the galah in a hotel raffle, was viewed as unlikely by Constable Preece, so he decided to arrest the wayward bird fancier. Scotty, who was obviously not partial to the handcuffs produced, threw a punch which broke Constable Preece’s jaw and dislodged 3 of his teeth. During the ensuing struggle a 2nd bird escaped Scotty’s pocket and flew to freedom. Constable Preece, dazed and vulnerable, pulled his police revolver and commenced firing shots in the air to attract attention. He then tempered Scotty’s recalcitrance by bringing down the aforementioned handcuffs on his head. A weakened Scotty and the squawking bird were subsequently escorted to the Fitzroy lockup and detained. Both Scotty and Constable Preece required medical attention, and on the way from the lockup to hospital, Scotty said to Preece “I hope you are not cross with me for hitting you. It is all in the game – mine to get away if I can, and yours to get me if you can.”
The galah was released from custody the following day when collected by its rightful owner.
John ‘Scotty’ King was found guilty of stealing in a dwelling and assaulting a police officer and sentenced to 2 years in Pentridge Prison.
To learn more about the era when Fitzroy was considered by Police to be “the home of Melbourne’s criminals”, come along on the Fitzroy True Crime walking tour. Sundays at 1pm and Fridays 2pm. Gift Vouchers are also available and are the perfect present for Birthdays, Christmas or any excuse really. Gift Vouchers can be purchased and tour bookings made by clicking on the 'Book Now' button or tab.
Michael Shelford is a writer who specialises in Australian true crime. He is currently completing a book on Melbourne's crime scene c1890's to 1920's. He is also the creator and guide for the walking tour company Melbourne Historical Crime Tours.