Did Squizzy Taylor rob the Thornbury Bank?
Well known criminal Leslie (Squizzy) Taylor was arrested in connection with a bank robbery that occurred in High Street, Thornbury in 1921. Taylor claimed that he had nothing to do with it and as the thieves were not apprehended during the robbery there was no way of knowing for sure that Taylor was involved. It was quite a coincidence that he was seen on High Street in Thornbury in the moments before the robbery took place.
Newspaper reports at the time indicate that Taylor was arrested days after the incident for “loitering in a public place with intent to commit a felony.”
When the time came to appear in court, suddenly all the witnesses changed their story. Perhaps they were bribed, or more likely threatened.
Below are the reports that appeared in the Northcote Leader.
Northcote Leader 12th February 1921:
THORNBURY BANK ROBBED
OVER £300 STOLEN.
THIEVES ESCAPE IN MOTOR CAR
Audacity and daring characterised a
robbery in broad daylight on Monday
by two men at the Thornbury branch
of the Commercial Bank.
The bank, which is a single-fronted
brick building, situated in the centre
of a block of land fronting High Street,
is opened daily during the usual
business hours, and was in charge of
Robery Milton Turner, a clerk attached
to the Northcote branch, and residing
at Shaftesbury parade, Northcote.
Turner has been attending the
Thornbury branch for about two years.
There is a paling fence 5 ft. in height
surrounding the bank, and a gate
communicates with an open piece of
ground at the rear.
Mr. Turner opened the bank at about
10 o’clock and placed £271, which he
had brought with him from the
Northcote branch, in a drawer under
the counter. He had occasion to leave
the building for a few minutes, at 20
minutes past 12 o’clock, and locked it up
securely. While he was in an outbuilding
at the bottom of the yard he heard the
sound of footsteps running down the
yard. He rushed out in time to see two
men, one of whom was carrying a bag,
pass through the gate. Mr. Turner
recognised the bag as the one in which
he had carried the money from the
Northcote branch, and immediately gave
chase. Having reached the vacant
allotment, the men separated, and ran in
opposite directions. Mr. Turner pursued
the man with the bag, who ran towards
High Street. When near the corner of High
Street and Rossmoyne street, Mr. Turner
got within five yards of the fugitive, who
said “If you touch me I will shoot you.”
A motor-car, in which a chaffeur was
seated, was standing at the corner of High
and Rossmoyne streets. Approaching the
motor car, the thief threw the bag into the
vehicle. He then clambered in, and the
motor-car drove off in a westerly direction.
Mr. Turner went to the savings bank, and
communicated with the police by telephone.
Constable Swanwick arrived, searched the
neighbourhood for the companion of the
man who had boarded the motor car, but
he had made good his escape. The police
are of opinion that he was picked up by
The detective office at Russell street was
notified of the robbery, and Superintendent
M. J. Bannon immediately despatched
Detective-sergeant T. Coonan, and
Detectives McArthur, McGuffie and Grieve in
the police motor- car. An examination of the
window at the rear of the building showed
that it had been forced open with a jemmy.
When Mr. Harrington, manager of the
Northcote branch, and Inspector Bradbury
arrived, they investigated the extent of the
robbery, and found that £321, 7/3 had been
stolen. The money consisted of £5 notes,
single notes, 10/- notes, silver, and copper.
A small brief bag was also missing. Part of
the money consisted of deposits made
during the morning by customers.
The police have a good description of the men.
One is said to be about 20 years of age, 5ft.
8in. in height, fair complexion, clean shaven,
and was wearing a blue twill suit and a dark
felt hat ; the other was about the same age
and the same height, of thin build, and was
wearing a blue sac suit and a black velour hat.
Northcote Leader 26th February 1921:
Thornbury Bank Robbery.
Leslie Taylor has been arrested in connection
with the Thornbury bank robbery. It is alleged
that Taylor was seen in the vicinity of the bank
shortly before the robbery was committed.
Taylor was remanded to Northcote Court on
Northcote Leader 8th March 1921:
THORNBURY BANK ROBBERY.
A CASE BREAKS DOWN
Arising out of the robbery from the Thornbury
branch of the National Bank of £321, by two
men on February 7th, a man named Leslie
Taylor was charged at the Northcote court on
Thursday, before Messrs Hayes (chairman),
Cohen, Timmins, Jones, Johnson and
Redmond, J’s. P., “that he at Thornbury on
the 7th February, 1921, was a rogue and a
vagabond, for that he being a suspected
person did loiter in a public place with intent
to commit a felony.”
Detective Sergeant Coonan prosecuted. Mr.
C. Barnett for the defence.
Robery Milton Turner, clerk in charge of
the bank at Thornbury, stated that on
February 7th he opened up the bank for
business at the usual hour. About 25
minutes past 12 he went to the back for a
few minutes, and while he was there-
Mr. Barnett objected that such evidence was
not relevant to this issue.
Witness continuing said that when he came
out he saw two men running down the yard.
He also saw a window open and conceived
that the bank had been robbed.
Mr. Barnett again objected.
Continuing Turner said he gave chase to
one of the men up High street, and he
turned and said “If you touch me I will
shoot you.” He (witness) returned to the
bank, from which £321,7.3 was missing. He
did not see the accused on the occasion.
Mr. Barnett again contended that the evidence
was irrelevant so far as this charge was
The chairman said that speaking personally
he did not think any evidence had been
given bearing on the present charge.
Cross examined by Mr. Barnett, witness said
the description he had given to the police of
the man he chased was that he appeared to
be a man from 20 to 24 years of age, 5 feet
7 inches or 5 feet 8 inches in height, fair
complexion, clean shaven and dressed in a
blue twill suit. He could not say how old the
second man was, or what he was like.
Henry Charles Dyte, chemist, 759 High street,
Thornbury, said he was in High street on
Monday, 7th February.
Detective Coonan- Do you know him?
Witness- Yes ; two years ago I had a motor
collision with him.
Pressed again to say whether accused was
the man he saw in High street, witness said:
“He looks something like him, but I will not
swear he was the man I saw.”
Continuing witness said it was about 11.30
when he first saw the man, and two or three
minutes later he saw him get on a tram and
Mr. Jones, J.P.- Is the man before the court
the man you had the collision with?
Mr. Jones- Did you ever tell anyone you saw
this man there?
Witness- I said I saw a man I believed to be
Mr. Barnett- You would have reason to
remember the man you had a collision with?
Witness- I should think so.
Mr. Barnett- Are you in a position to swear
that the man you had the collision with is the
man you saw at Thornbury on the 7th
Stanley Wilmott Murden, grocer, 761 High
Street, Thornbury, stated that he was in High
street on February 7th.
Detective Coonan- Do you remember seeing
the defendant there?
Witness- It was only a passing glance I had,
and the man I saw was, I think, a thicker set
man than the man before the court.
Further examined, witness said the man he
saw had jumped on a tram and was going
south between 12 and five past 12. He
never saw the man there before.
Watson McDonald, grocer, corner Gooch
and St. David streets, said he was in his shop
when he saw a man running along Gooch
street. This was about half past 12. He would
not swear that the man he saw was the man
now before the court. The man who ran past
him and boarded a motor car appeared to
be a thicker set man than accused.
Detective McGuffie stated that after arresting
accused he asked him if he was at Thornbury
on February 7th. He replied “I might have
been, I am everywhere.”
Mr. Barnett said not one of the witnesses had
identified accused as the man they saw at
Thornbury on the day of the robbery. He was
in the midst of a lengthy address when the
chairman said he need go no further, as the
Bench had decided to discharge the accused.
THORNBURY BANK ROBBED. (1921, February 12). Northcote Leader (Northcote, Vic. : 1882 - ), p. 2.
THORNBURY BANK ROBBERY. (1921, February 26). Northcote Leader (Northcote, Vic. : 1882 - ), p. 2.
THORNBURY BANK ROBBERY. (1921, March 8). Northcote Leader (Northcote, Vic. : 1882 - ), p. 3.