Brenden Abbott

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Brenden James Abbott
BrendenAbbott mugshot.jpg
Brenden James Abbott
Born Brenden James Abbott
(1962-05-08) 8 May 1962 (age 52)
Other names The Postcard Bandit
Criminal penalty
23 years imprisonment (13 year non-parole period)
Criminal status Imprisoned
Conviction(s) Bank robbery, Prison escape

Brenden James Abbott (born 8 May 1962) is an Australian bank robber who was branded the Postcard Bandit by the Western Australian Police to attract news media attention. The bank robberies he has been attributed as masterminding, yielded as much as A$6 million, though a significant proportion of that amount was unrecoverable.

Over the last 13 years he has been regularly transferred between Woodford Correctional Centre and Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, and held in both mainstream and Supermax conditions. He was moved to Brisbane Correctional Centre in August 2011, and is detained under severe, Supermax-style conditions.[1]

A film about Abbott, The Postcard Bandit, was made for television by Nine Films/Pacific Coast Entertainment in 2003 and released on DVD on 22 March 2005.[2]

Childhood[edit]

A former ward of the state of Western Australia, Abbott is a member of the Forgotten Australians and still suffers a range of anxiety and health-related problems, noted in semi-biographical work by Derek Pedley, Australian Outlaw. The hearing impaired boy was subjected to corporal punishment in solitary detention in November 1974, at age 12, in the specially-modified child torture cell at the now notorious, Hillston Boys Home. Abbott attended Eastern Hills High School in Mt Helena and was considered an average to good student. Abbott's last water colour, "Little Boy Blue," was painted after the national apology.

The biography also mentions his affliction with chronic suppurative otitis media, a painful, recurrent middle-ear disease prevalent in Western Australia's North-West, causing lifelong hearing loss and auditory processing delay, and an elevated risk of juvenile interaction with the criminal justice system. At earlier than one year of age Abbott had bilateral perforated ear drums and chronic recurrent bilateral effusion. Over the years that followed, he had repeated failed ear-drum grafts, with the last tympanoplasty taking place at age 13. As was the government practice at that time with little known about the condition and little concern for the well being and future of state wards, no additional education, medical, and communication support, no court and interrogation support, nor any appropriate rehabilitation services, were made available to the youth.

Prison escapes[edit]

Brenden James Abbott escaped from jail twice, and he also fled from police in 1986 during questioning at Nollamara Police Station. Unlike crimes Abbott was previously a party to, the escape from Sir David Longland Prison at Wacol in November 1997 utilized actual force rather than an implied threat of force. In that instance Brendon Berichon, a young former SDL inmate, fired warning shots overhead from the outside of the fence. The offenders alleged this occurred in panic, when the three escapees' intended surreptitious escape plan went awry. Sir David Longlands Prison was also known as "the Killing Fields," and was later decommissioned by the Queensland government.

On 24 November 1989, the Fremantle Prison escape occurred that earned Abbott his lifelong notoriety as a criminal genius, and ultimately led to his permanent and erroneous branding as "The Postcard Bandit." In the escape, Abbott and another inmate jumped from the roof over the high limestone prison walls, in uniforms similar to guards,' which Abbott had made in the prison tailorshop.

Fremantle Prison, built in the 1850s originally as an immigration holding centre, had a long history of escapes which feature in the heritage listed site's tours. Fremantle Prison, like Sir David Longland Prison, was also decommissioned by the government due to substandard conditions in the years following Abbott's escape. Both prisons were notorious for their severe and outdated conditions, and inmates' bloody and brutal existence. Nollamara police officers featured in the 2003 Western Australian Kennedy Royal Commission into Police Corruption, when former detainees detailed allegations of physical torture during questioning.(Kennedy Royal Commission Final Report, 2003, Chapter 3 – Operation Least Said, p. 153)

Fugitive[edit]

Abbott was on the run for six months in 1986/1987; as Australia's Most Wanted Man from 1989–1995 (five and a half years), and from 1997–1998 (six months). He was eventually caught in Darwin, Northern Territory in 1998 and is[when?] serving a 23 year sentence in Queensland for bank robberies and the 1997 prison escape. After serving two years of his current sentence in solitary confinement, he sued the Queensland Government for mistreatment.[3] He was released from solitary confinement in May 2004 and returned there on a Maximum Security Order in April 2006, after he requested medical attention three times in 12 months, which the authorities deemed suspicious. After years in mainstream, Abbott was again returned to Supermax solitary confinement in August 2008 and then released back into mainstream detention in the days preceding a judicial review hearing into his back-to-back Maximum Security Orders, in October 2009.

Dubbed "The Postcard Bandit," media reports in the 1990s said Abbott sent postcards of his travels to the Western Australian Police. However, the postcards in the "Postcard Bandit" story were a WA Police Media Unit invention;[4] The "postcards" were photos Abbott lost while running from police after the Fremantle Prison escape with Aaron Reynolds, and were intended for his friends and family. They included a picture of Reynolds outside the Dwellingup Police Station, in Western Australia. While Reynolds was arrested within weeks, the fugitive, Abbott, went on to establish himself as a "professional" bank robber, using self-taught skills in make-up to create convincing disguises, computers to create false IDs, and electronics to dodge alarms.

His five and a half years on the run came to an end when police tracked down a post office box on the Gold Coast, Queensland used by Abbott, which was found to contain a pager bill registered to the address where he was living. Confronted by police at a Darwin laundromat he surrendered without resistance and this is a typical facet of each of his arrests, historically.

Current sentencing[edit]

The Australian mainstream media has widely featured speculation that at the conclusion of Abbott's current Queensland sentence the West Australian police may apply to the Queensland courts to extradite Abbott to complete the remainder of a sentence for an armed robbery, and for trial over one count of escaping custody. Presently, no legal provisions exist for his past and present sentences to be served concurrently across the state boundaries of Queensland and Western Australia, and this is one factor contributing to the public perception that the prison time Abbott has served is disproportionate to sentences commonly handed down by the courts for similar offences.

Western Australian Labor politicians have twice refused Abbott's transfer applications in 2005 and 2008 to return to the state to complete his sentence. In 2004 Queensland authorities approved an interstate transfer[5] but Western Australian Attorney-General Jim McGinty refused to accept him.[6] In early 2007, Abbott re-applied to be transferred to Western Australia and that was approved by the Queensland Attorney General in 2008.[7] However, former WA Corrective Services Minister, Margaret Quirk, promptly released a media statement rejecting Abbott's bid to return home. Abbott has applied for transfer back to Western Australia four times in response to the outstanding warrants, though all the applications have been refused by the Western Australian government. In May 2010 Glenn Cordingly of The Sunday Times in Perth, cited an unnamed WA Police source who alleged that Western Australian authorities "had a cell waiting" for Abbott, although there has been no official confirmation of such.[8] The story sparked public debate for over a year, which is indicative of the public perceptions of Abbott's treatment and sentencing.

Armed robbery[edit]

A 1994 warrant for questioning remains in place with Adelaide Criminal Prosecutions Branch for one count of armed robbery in Glenelg, South Australia. In mid-2008, Brenden Abbott applied for an interstate transfer to South Australia to address the outstanding warrant. The application followed official statements by Adelaide detective Sid Thomas, in The Advertiser in 2008, that detectives were travelling to Queensland to question Abbott at Woodford Correctional Centre, although no such interview has ever occurred. In December 2010, Abbott's application for a South Australian transfer was approved by the Queensland Attorney General, and the South Australian Attorney-General's decision is pending. On 12 June 2011, The Advertiser reporter, Nigel Hunt incorrectly reported that Abbott had filed for a Supreme Court Judicial Review regarding the application to transfer to face the charges.[9] Hunt's story concludes with an unnamed source's suspicions that Abbott could have committed not just the one he is sought for questioning over, but multiple robberies in South Australia. The author of the book based on Abbott's life, Australian Outlaw, is currently the night-editor at The Advertiser, and speculated in the book that Abbott had done robberies in South Australia, though the SA Police have never questioned him.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Steven Wardill (9 September 2011). 'Postcard Bandit' Brenden Abbott relocated to Brisbane Correctional Centre, scene of his jailbreak. The Courier Mail. Retrieved on 30 October 2012.
  2. ^ Buchanan, Matt. (26 May 2003). Born To Run. Sydney Morning Herald.
  3. ^ Townsend, Ian, "Postcard bandit" sues Qld Govt over mistreatment in jail. The World Today. 20 October 2000.
  4. ^ The Usual Suspect Australian Story (program transcript), 27 October 2003
  5. ^ AAP, Postcard Bandit can move to Perth, The Age, 7 July 2004
  6. ^ O'Donnell, Mick, Postcard Bandit hopes for transfer to WA, The 7.30 Report (transcript), 7 July 2005
  7. ^ Hansen, Peter (11 March 2007). Abbott faces parole limbo. Sunday Mail.
  8. ^ Glenn Cordingley (15 May 2010). WA police waiting for Brenden Abbott release. The Sunday Times. Retrieved on 30 October 2012.
  9. ^ Nigel Hunt (12 June 2011). Postcard Bandit may be on the move. The Sunday Mail. Retrieved on 30 October 2012.