Brisbane’s “Scotland Yard”, 1864-1964

Report from the Detective Office, 1895 (QPM)

The Detective Office began on 1 December 1864, 11 months after the inauguration of the Queensland Police Force on January 1. Samuel Joseph Lloyd was placed as the officer in charge of the new branch. Lloyd immigrated to Australia from Ireland and joined the Victoria Police Force in 1855, where he served as a Detective for nearly a decade prior to joining the Queensland Police. Lloyd was OIC of the Detective Branch on and off for the next 32 years, until he retired in February 1896. The number of Detectives in the Office was nominal and drawn basically from the best police officers in Brisbane. There were 2 classes – Detective Constable 1/c and Detective Constable 2/c. Employed only on a part-time basis, the Detectives spent the other part of their time carrying out ordinary police duties. They received no extra pay despite the complicated character of their work and the long hours they often worked in criminal detection.

Shortly before Lloyd’s retirement, on 1 July 1895, at the request of Police Commissioner William Parry-Okeden, the Detective Office was separated from the workings of the ordinary police and became known as the Criminal Investigation Branch. Sub-Inspector 1/c James Nethercote took charge of the new Branch along with 1 x Detective Senior Sergeant; 4 x 1/c Detective Sergeants; 1 x 2/c Detective Senior Constables; 1 x Acting 3/c Detective Sergeant and two 3/c Detective Constables. A year after the re-organisation, Parry-Okeden was pleased to report that between 1896 and 1897, convictions in the Supreme and District Courts more than doubled, which he attributed to the increased efficiency of the CI Branch, 8 to 17 and 12 to 28 respectively. (Annual Report, 1897).

List of Members of the Force who were called “Detectives” on the 1st July 1895, are since that date known as belonging to the “Criminal Investigation Branch”

CIB Building

St John’s Cathedral was the first home of the Branch. The church property was sold to the Queensland Government in 1901. The Cathedral was demolished leaving the Synod Hall located on the corner of George and Elizabeth streets. The Synod Hall became the home of the CIB and contained the offices of the Detectives of the CIB, the Fingerprint, Modus Operandi and Photography Sections.

In 1934, the space was remodelled to fit the combined Detective and plain clothes staff. The old entrance on Elizabeth Street was closed and moved to George Street, where a set of rooms and offices just inside the entrance gave the interior a smart and business-like appearance. It remained as the CIB headquarters until 1962 when the CIB moved into the new police building on North Quay. It was demolished in that same year and the brick was reused by St John’s Cathedral.

Old CIB building (church) corner Elizabeth and George Streets, Brisbane, where Queen Victoria park is now located. Lands Department Building is shown in rear of photograph.
Image No. PM0204b courtesy of the Queensland Police Museum.

CIB Sections

Between 1864 and 1964, Brisbane’s population grew from 12,551 to 169,390 in 1916, and finally to 740,306. (QLD Treasury) Meanwhile, the CI Branch saw its work load also increase significantly. In 1917, the fingerprint section processed 1,868 prints and identified 155, in 1928, the number rose to 3,042 and 1,327. The number of arrests executed increased from 404 in 1919 to 674 in 1929, and 1,238 in 1935. (AR 1929, 1935) The effective Branch strength increased from 13 to 35 Detectives and 48 plain clothes Constables. The newly introduced Modus Operandi system was singled out as a key contributor in the growing efficiency of bringing possible suspects forward. This System comprised the recording and classifying of crime, the methods used by criminals and their physical peculiarities, such as visible scars, missing limbs, deformities, etc. (AR 1935) The offences that otherwise might ‘not have been elucidated were traced to the perpetrators solely from information supplied to the investigators by officers employed in the section.’ (Telegraph, 23 Oct 1936) Numerous articles of property which were either stolen or lost were subsequently recovered and returned to the owners as a result of this system.

In 1965, or thirty odd years later, the upward trend continued. The Branch expanded to include 227 Detectives and 120 plain clothes Constables. Between July, 1964 and July, 1965, the MO Section recorded the particulars of 109,334 persons, and the photographic section made 21,000 prints of prisoners or offenders photographed during the year. One of the more gruesome cases successfully investigated by the Branch was the Coorparoo Junction Murders .  Following extensive field and investigative work the perpetrator was arrested only two days after the crime.