Each time Katherine James sees a police automobile, worry flashes by way of her.
It has been 35 years since she took the stand to testify towards corrupt police at Queensland’s well-known 1987 Fitzgerald Inquiry. Nonetheless, the whistleblower says she has lingering trauma.
“I can management it,” she tells herself, every time she imagines she’s seen one thing within the shadows.
Katherine James shouldn’t be her actual title. This pseudonym was used to guard her in 1987, and he or she has not spoken publicly ever since.
After giving proof on the inquiry, she went into witness safety, and ultimately left Brisbane all collectively.
When she took the stand, she already had 35 felony convictions, together with 12 expenses of false pretences.
She was criticised and had her testimony challenged all through the inquiry. Fitzgerald himself mentioned she was a posh and self-motivated individual.
However she gave detailed proof concerning the greed and corruption she’d witnessed firsthand – cops demanding weekly bribes from intercourse staff, threats, intimidation, sordid events.
Her testimony performed a significant position in bringing down the system of kickbacks and corruption that had plagued Queensland policing for 3 a long time.
In June this yr, Katherine determined to talk to the ABC after listening to components of her story instructed within the ABC podcast, Dig: Sirens Are Coming.
“I wished to place my facet of it throughout,” she instructed Matthew Condon, host of Sirens Are Coming.
“And to be completely trustworthy, I am not that effectively.”
After weeks of negotiation and planning, Katherine and Matthew agreed to satisfy on impartial floor in Toowoomba.
Katherine was able to reveal what she noticed as a central participant in Queensland’s intercourse work business when police corruption had a maintain on the state and the lives of these round her.
The place all of it started
It is laborious to think about Katherine might have ever anticipated the influence she would have on the vice sport, and police corruption.
When she acquired her foot within the door she was simply a youngster, nonetheless making up excuses to her dad and mom to elucidate the place all her cash got here from. By 17, she says she was working a therapeutic massage parlour referred to as Prime of The Valley, and shortly a second: Kon-Tiki.
However when heroin swept the streets of Brisbane within the mid-70s, she turned addicted and commenced promoting medicine. In 1975, she was charged with possessing heroin with the intent to promote it.
She knew she was going to jail, so she absconded, hoping to postpone the inevitable to spend time together with her new daughter.
As her child turned a toddler, Katherine and her husband realised she must confront the drug expenses ultimately.
“We wished to get it over and accomplished with earlier than my daughter might bear in mind it,” she says.
So in 1978, she returned to Brisbane, steeling herself.
“I did not know for certain that I might go to jail. I hoped I would not.”
She was sentenced to 5 years jail.
Being launched to the vice world
Whereas she was in jail, corrupt cops used Katherine to take down a rival: the straight-dealing Detective Basil Hicks, who was pegged to interchange the corrupt Tony Murphy as head of the Felony Intelligence Unit (CIU) – a squad of trustworthy officers tasked with cleansing up the pressure.
Officers took Katherine from her Boggo Street cell to police headquarters, the place it was demanded she give an announcement detailing an affair with Hicks.
Police had heard hearsay Katherine had paid a photographer to secretly seize her having intercourse with Hicks, so she’d have blackmail materials to cease Hicks “harassing” her.
“I used to be requested about [the photographs] and I used to be instructed that I used to be developing for parole quickly. And if I wished to get it, I needed to cooperate.
“And I assumed, I am between a rock and a tough place right here. So I simply pretended that they have been destroyed.”
Nonetheless, an announcement was signed. Katherine denies it was her signature on it.
That assertion was tendered to premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen by Murphy’s shut affiliate, the corrupt Police Commissioner, Terry Lewis.
Hicks was not promoted to move of the police integrity squad and as a substitute transferred to a regional place.
Later, on the Fitzgerald Inquiry, Hicks insisted that he had by no means been intimate with Katherine, and he or she gave inconsistent proof beneath cross-examination.
Fitzgerald concluded it was “fairly potential that she pretended that she had helpful data [on Hicks]. In any occasion, she was undoubtedly accurately recognized by those that used her to discredit Hicks as an enormously advanced one who would act, maliciously if wanted, to swimsuit her personal ends.”
Immediately, Katherine maintains the photographs have been actual and says the inquiry “discredited her a bit”.
After serving round 18 months of her five-year sentence, Katherine was launched on parole.
Witness to corruption
After her launch in 1979, Katherine began her life once more in Brisbane, working in a jewelry manufacturing unit initially. However the therapeutic massage parlours had a sure lure she couldn’t resist: “The cash.”
In 1981, Katherine re-entered intercourse work in Brisbane, and located the “New Joke” in full swing.
The New Joke was a extra ingrained and organised evolution of the unique kickbacks system, generally known as “the Joke”, which began within the 60s beneath the “Rat Pack” — corrupt officers Terry Lewis, Tony Murphy, and Glen Hallahan.
By the early 80s, the 2 consortiums that dominated Brisbane’s parlours and brothels have been paying police 20 per cent of income in kickbacks, by Katherine’s estimates.
Police have been additionally supplied free booze and intercourse with the employees throughout their patrols, Katherine instructed the inquiry.
She labored for each consortiums, however what Katherine actually wished was to return to her roots as an unbiased parlour supervisor.
She approached one in all her police contacts, Nev Ross, and sought a inexperienced mild to begin her personal parlour. She mentioned she paid him $10,000 up-front and agreed to a weekly kickback to seal the deal.
Her new parlour was referred to as Xanadu, and it sat just a few blocks from the Hapeta/Tilley consortium’s boutique brothel, Fantasia.
Xanadu created competitors in a market dominated by two main gamers.
“The minute the door was opened, I used to be being raided each minute,” Katherine mentioned.
Her association with Nev Ross appeared forgotten, and he would not return her calls. She mentioned she’d spent $35,000 on renovations alone, however her new enterprise was pressured to shut inside a yr.
Working on this new period was unsustainable, Katherine felt. The scene was so completely different to her experiences within the Nineteen Seventies, and he or she discovered herself always shocked by what she noticed.
“The police simply went to the acute. It went from the purpose of simply administration and the police figuring out what was occurring, to everybody,” she mentioned.
“The police have been coming in [to sex work premises], having intercourse with the ladies. They simply misplaced management and simply have been simply so grasping and so assured and conceited that they may do something.”
She described one incident that epitomised the greed and recklessness of the period: a infamous “Gangsters and Molls” themed celebration that the Bellino consortium threw at their Kangaroo Level parlour, Pinky’s.
“It was going to be one of many sweeteners to get [the police] to rein it in a bit,” Katherine mentioned.
“The licensing department and some detectives acquired invited, and sure women have been picked out for that night time.
“They’d the police automobiles out entrance, exterior. They have been all so drunk it wasn’t even amusing.
“There have been lounges and then you definately went as much as 5 big rooms, all fantastically accomplished, all in shades of pink.”
The women have been hand-picked for the event, and paid to provide sexual favours to the friends, together with a number of police, Katherine mentioned.
The disrespect for girls in her occupation, the greediness, and the cheapness of all of it fuelled Katherine’s distaste for police.
“I felt like I used to be in a B-grade film,” she mentioned.
This greed and corruption was lastly uncovered in Chris Masters’ groundbreaking 4 Corners expose, Moonlight State, in 1987.
It instantly prompted a fee of inquiry.
Katherine’s involvement within the scene would come beneath the inquiry’s phrases of reference. She may need seen the writing on the wall, or it may need been the chance she was on the lookout for to blow the whistle.
One factor was for certain: she was not going again to jail.
She took indemnity and ready to testify on the fee. A minimum of this fashion she might have some management over the best way her daughter discovered the reality about her profession.
“It was at a stage the place I did not need her listening to that her mom had been a prostitute. Or a madam. And if she did hear it, I wished her to listen to it in the precise context,” she mentioned.
“I wished her to know why I did it. And I believe that she does … however we simply do not discuss it.”
Katherine definitely was taking cost of the state of affairs she was in. A lot so she mentioned she had the fee prepare new outfits for her daily – from Carla Zampatti, no much less.
She was conscious her dad and mom might be watching, and although she was hidden from view by a privateness display screen, she was acutely aware of how she would come throughout.
Journalist Margaret Simons, who was additionally one of many authors of the Fitzgerald Report, instructed Sirens Are Coming that Katherine was a composed witness, who spoke with a refined voice.
In naming and shaming officers who engaged in corruption, she helped create a domino impact of officers talking out to hunt indemnity from prosecution.
As every rolled over, one other got here ahead.
The ripples rapidly reached Commissioner Terry Lewis and he was stood down, later to be imprisoned for corruption and forgery.
After the inquiry, Katherine was positioned in Queensland’s witness safety program.
However she mentioned she and her younger daughter felt cramped by the witness safety officers following their each transfer. College drop-offs and pick-ups have been cumbersome, and her residence was by no means with out 4 officers on guard, she mentioned.
And the officers did not actually make her really feel secure anyway.
“They have been like kids. You possibly can hear them at night time taking their weapons aside and placing them again collectively. They usually actually thought they have been Starsky and Hutch,” she mentioned.
Because the mud settled, Katherine felt this system was now not well worth the imposition on her privateness. Two years after the inquiry, she voluntarily signed herself out of the witness safety program, she mentioned. She ultimately moved to the nation and transitioned to farm life, removed from the lure of Brisbane’s vice scene.
It may need been a danger, however she believed if she stayed out of the vice sport, she might safely go away that a part of her life behind, together with the officers who have been a relentless reminder of it.
“I might by no means enter that world once more. Whether or not or not it’s medicine or any type of prostitution. I knew if I did that, that I might be discovered overdosed someplace,” she mentioned.
“I knew that I must change my life virtually fully.”
What occurred to Simone Vogel?
There was one factor the Fitzgerald Inquiry did not cowl that was on Katherine’s thoughts on the time: the disappearance of fellow brothel madam, Simone Vogel.
Katherine mentioned she bought her parlour, Kon-Tiki, to Vogel, and continued working beneath her for a time.
“She was a wonderful girl. She had an actual presence,” Katherine mentioned.
“Very engaging woman. Superb to employees. Hated medicine.”
The presumed homicide of Simone Vogel stays unsolved, but it surely’s one thing that has haunted Katherine all these years.
Vogel could have been on the cusp of exiting the vice scene — or presumably even turning into a whistleblower — earlier than she disappeared.
She had began to provide data to sure trusted police, who believed Vogel would quickly begin naming names and speaking concerning the safety funds she’d been paying to the Licensing Department.
“[The police] had by no means taken cash off me at Kon-Tiki, however [Vogel] was telling me that it was simply getting worse and worse and worse, the sum of money that she needed to pay them,” says Katherine.
“I believe she was nearly able to get out.”
A former detective, Keith Smith, instructed the ABC’s Sirens Are Coming podcast he investigated Vogel’s hyperlinks to the Rat Pack and their potential involvement in her disappearance, however his investigation was shut down beneath the orders of Rat Packer Tony Murphy.
Smith mentioned he gave a replica of his confidential report back to an officer who reported on to Police Commissioner Terry Lewis. The officer later instructed him that he had shredded the report after discussing it with Murphy and Lewis.
If Lewis is aware of something about Vogel’s disappearance, or if she lingers on his thoughts, he hasn’t revealed that over time that Matthew Condon spent interviewing him. Having served his time, Lewis lives quietly in a Brisbane nursing residence, the final surviving member of the Rat Pack.
Katherine mentioned she’d at all times heard the identical hearsay together with Vogel’s dying: that Rat Packer Glen Hallahan was accountable.
“I wasn’t there, so I actually do not know. However I used to be instructed that she was placed on a ship. Taken out into Moreton Bay and put by way of an industrial mincer,” she mentioned.
“She was by no means going to be discovered. There might by no means be any hint of her.”
Hallahan at all times denied he had something to do with Vogel’s dying, and there was no proof linking him to her disappearance. A coronial investigation discovered Simone Vogel was met with foul play, however no-one has been charged together with her homicide.
Simone’s dying got here after at the least two different intercourse staff had tried to reveal police corruption.
Six years earlier, in 1971, the brothel madam Shirley Brifman had gone on nationwide TV to inform Australia what she had witnessed within the vice sport. A number of months later, whereas Brifman was offering detailed statements to Queensland police, and weeks earlier than she was set to testify on the perjury trial of Rat Packer Tony Murphy, she was discovered lifeless in her police secure home. Reason behind dying: barbiturate overdose.
Then, in 1972, Dorothy Edith Knight turned the primary to carry out a sting operation with a wire, aimed toward entrapping Rat Packer Glen Hallahan within the act of receiving bribes. The proof was dominated inadmissible although, and Hallahan slipped by way of the cracks.
“It is like a relay,” mentioned Katherine. “If I did not have these two come earlier than me, I might have been extraordinarily apprehensive.
“I believe they paved the best way for me.”
Katherine has made peace together with her previous and is content material together with her new life, removed from Brisbane. She says that if you happen to instructed her 35 years in the past she’d be residing on a farm in a distant a part of Australia, she would have laughed in your face.
“However I adore it. Recent air … I would by no means transfer”.
It might have come at a price, however she mentioned she has no regrets about coming ahead by way of the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
“I bear in mind pondering [Simone Vogel] could be happy with this,” she mentioned.
Sirens Are Coming is the newest season of the Dig podcast — a recent tackle the long-lasting tales you thought you knew about Australia’s most infamous and influential characters. Hear without spending a dime on the ABC hear app.