Once Upon a Time in Melbourne
Melbourne University Publishing
Dirty Cops, Lying Politicians, Vampire Gigolos . . . An Unbelievable True Story
Once upon a time in Melbourne there was a gigolo who thought he was a vampire. He bit the tongue off a prostitute and was then murdered in broad daylight on a suburban street. His execution, top brass believed, was organised by police. The aftershocks of this killing—and the murder of a state witness and his wife inside their fortress
home—rocked the police force and the Parliament, vanquished one government and brought the next to its knees.
This is the story of police corruption for years swept under the carpet to avoid a Royal Commission. It is the story of a police force politicised to the point of paralysis and a witness protection program that buries its mistakes. It involves a policeman still free and living in a very big house, a drug baron who survived the gangland war only to be murdered in the state’s most secure jail, and battles royale within a police force comprised of thousands of pistol-packing members.
This is the story of Melbourne around the first decade of the new millennium: its lawmen, villains and politicians. It is a bizarre, tawdry, unbelievable tale. But every word of it happened.
Liam Houlihan is an award-winning journalist and former lawyer. He has reported from New York, Washington DC, from Sri Lanka after the tsunami, and Singapore for underworld figure Mick Gatto’s pursuit of missing Opes Prime money. He was the Sunday Herald Sun’s crime reporter for five years from 2007 until 2011 during the rise and fall of police chiefs Christine Nixon and Simon Overland. He is currently a News Editor at the Herald Sun. This is his fourth book.
Liam Houlihan writes a narrative that for the uninitiated in Melbourne politics, crime and corruption seems quite bizarre and utterly mind boggling – how could such events take place? I can appreciate now why a TV drama series based on these actions was such a huge success – whilst the TV series had an element of romanticism (is that the correct description – criminals often portrayed in a romantic light; affable, charming, rich… living a decadent lifestyle with a honour code of their own) the crooks in this tale are neither romantic or charming; they were greedy, arrogant, egotistical and thoroughly unlikeable – and sadly most but not all of these criminals were corrupt government officials and serving police officers. I could not read this tale without continually shaking my head in disbelief. This is a case where fact is stranger than fiction.
I found the style of presenting these accounts to be a little confusing at times, maybe it was my own lack of understanding of the events that made it difficult for me to piece this puzzle together though it did come together in the end. Aside from the almost unbelievable revelations the narrative exposed, a tale I found incredible, I loved the language of this book; a colloquial, no nonsense approach, I can see the author smiling as he wrote this. I will share a few gems with you; “…Brumby got out the mats and did his backflip. It was no ordinary backflip. It was a triple-pike-half in-half-out-with-full-twist-backflip- through gritted teeth.” Later Houlihan describes a detective on the stand as “…a bulky man with a touch of the latter day Elvis about him.” These descriptions make perfect sense to meJ and there are so many more gems like this to be found in this otherwise serious read. This book is a revelation, I don’t think I will ever look at a politician or a cop in the same way again.