In July 1917, a girl was featured in a Melbourne newspaper as the lucky winner of a cash prize. The only problem was that she was next to her mother in the photo, and her mother was wanted by the law.
by Michael Shelford © 2018
In July 1917, the daughter of Gertrude Burns won a competition. She had been snapped in a crowd photo at the Moonee Valley Races by ‘The Winner’, sports newspaper, and the photo published with a circle around it. Beneath the photo were what would normally have been the welcome words: “Any person whose face is ringed in the picture is entitled to a reward of 5/.”
It just so happened that next to her in the same photo was her mother - and her mother had a warrant out for her arrest. This did not go unnoticed by the police, who recognised her as the person wanted for twice robbing the licensee of the Bridge Hotel, in Richmond, by use of fraudulent cheques. They cut out the clipping, placed a cross on Gertrude’s face and included it in the case file as a clue.
It’s not known whether Gertrude’s daughter ever collected her prize but the police finally collected theirs 9 months later when Gertrude was arrested in Melbourne.
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.