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The Forum > Article Comments > The tale of Russell 'The Fox' Cox and the prison that never was > Comments

The tale of Russell 'The Fox' Cox and the prison that never was : Comments

By Bernie Matthews, published 6/12/2004

Bernie Matthews describes the circumstances of Russell 'The Fox' Cox's escape from Katingal in NSW

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Bernie, as always, brilliant article. Take care. Tilly
Posted by Tilly, Monday, 6 December 2004 3:05:36 PM
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very informative more on this type of subject would be appreciated
Posted by monkey, Thursday, 9 December 2004 6:57:30 AM
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Fantastic article. One point that interests me is how Cox came to be recaptured. Was he sold out by Denning at this stage or was Denning being followed or were there other informants involved? In the article Bernie says Denning accomplished what the police force could not. What really happened here?

Posted by karl, Friday, 10 December 2004 12:46:53 PM
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I am a little disturbed by the tone of this article. The author speaks of Denning being "rewarded for his treachery" and still sounds like a criminal.

Whilst certainly criminals have the right to speak and to be allowed to lead a normal life once they have served their time, it seems wrong for them to be permitted to do so on this website if they speak of the criminal actions of their one time fellow inmates with seeming pride, whilst disparaging Denning for doing the right thing for once and telling the truth to authorities.

There is no question that anyone injured, criminal or otherwise should receive immediate medical attention - however, the prisoners who used the prison guard as a human shield are scum who by firing at officers and threating people's lives certainly deserved to be in prison for their entire life and certainly should be denied freedoms which may place officers and the community at risk by potentially allowing them to escape.

The fact Katingal was never gazetted is certainly bad, but essentially it's a unfortunate technicality that allowed a criminal to escape the consequences of his actions. That said, I actually support Russell Cox being granted his freedom if he has changed, is contrite and is now a well behaved citizen.

IMHO no-one should be released prior to the end of their sentence if they have not written an apology to thier victims or victim's families and are contrite. If they don't want to genuinely do this, then it seems to me they do not deserve to leave jail early and should stay in until the last possible moment.

Criminals should be ashamed of their criminal past - not celebrating it. The fact Denning chose to lift the lid on his fellow criminal's wrong doing is a very good thing, even if it offends criminals's warped sense of morality.
Posted by bob, Saturday, 11 December 2004 1:12:21 PM
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I noticed that comment too, and in some respects had the same reaction. But that is one of the things that gives Bernie's writing interest - he doesn't have a conventional framework. I think people can work that out for themselves, as your comment demonstrates. It's not reason to censor or edit Bernie's comments. I'd be interested to hear what he has to say about your post.

Graham Young
Posted by GrahamY, Saturday, 11 December 2004 3:09:45 PM
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Karl, Bob and Graham, There appears to be some controversy concerning my recent article about Russell Cox. First of all Bob, I am not a criminal – I WAS A CRIMINAL – I am not now. There is a distinction. If that distinction does not fit with society’s view then I would suggest that the term criminal should also apply to Neslon Mandella, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (the 1971 Nobel Literature prize winner) Oscar Wilde and Henry Lawson who all served time in various prisons for criminal offences. The term ‘criminal’ could also apply to Robyn Kina, Kelvin Condren (Qld) Ziggy Pohl, Tim Anderson, Douglas Rendall (NSW) Edward Splatt (South Australia) Lindy Chamberlain (Northern Territory) The Mickelburg brothers (WA) Arthur Thomas (New Zealand) and not to forget Timothy Evans who was hanged as a criminal in 1950. Subsequent Royal Commissions found them to all be innocent but they still served time (in some cases over 10 years) as criminals and in the ccase of Evans he was killed by the judicial system. It is just a small point Bob. No offence intended. I was a criminal. I am no longer a criminal.

I believe Russell Cox has paid his debt to society over and above what was prescribed by law. I say that simply because I saw some the punishment that was meted out to him. He and another prisoner were dragged to a cell and left to die at Long Bay. Only the threat of a full-scale riot forced authorities to get them medical treatment. It is not conjecture on my part. I was there when it happened.

I was also at Grafton Jail during the latter part of 1975 when Cox and Motric were sent there for punishment after the shoot-out at Long Bay. I saw Cox baton-whipped unconscious by Grafton prison guards for having a button undone. He and Motric also suffered the ‘reception biff’ that existed at Grafton jail from 1943-76 as an introduction to those prisoners who were sent there for punishment. He was stripped naked and baton-whipped to a state of semi-consciousness. The floggings and baton-whippings continued for the whole time Cox and Motric were at Grafton until they were transferred into Katingal.

If my observations of the brutality inflicted at Grafton Jail are offensive then I suggest a perusal of the transcripts of the NSW Royal Commission into Prisons would be in order. Not only was evidence given as to the brutality inflicted upon Cox and Mortic but the NSW Department of Corrective Services also admitted that such practices had been in existence as unofficial policy from 1943 until 1976. The evidence of ex-Grafton prison warder, John Pettit, also described the violence and brutality inflicted upon prisoners like Cox and Motric. Grafton was indeed the Alcatraz of the NSW prison system during that time and the public was blissfully unaware of what was occurring inside the prison. I think that both men certainly suffered the consequences of their actions over and above that prescribed by law.

Cox was sentenced to life imprisonment for ‘shooting to avoid lawful apprehension’. No life was lost and one of the prison guards involved in that shootout, Steven Tandy, has recently made a public statement that he holds no animosity towards Cox and in actual fact recommended and fully supported Cox’s release on parole. And Tandy was the victim.

When I compare Cox’s case to other cases, like the Bill D’Arcy case in Queensland where there were child victims that have been scarred for their entire lives after sustained sexual abuse, I find it a little difficult to compare the sentence of 10 years and six months given to D’Arcy and the life sentence imposed on Cox. D’Arcy will serve the minimum time in relative comfort inside the Qld prison system while Cox has served nearly 3 decades in prison or as a fugitive. I do not envision any of D’Arcy’s victims advocating his release on parole.

I am not an advocate for Russell Cox nor am I glorifying his criminal actions. I am just reporting the other side of the story that will never appear in the mainstream media. It was always my view that OnlineOpinion served as a vehicle to ventilate controversial issues that the mainstream media failed to report. I believe that is one of the reasons the 2004 Queensland Media Awards selected one of my articles published/posted at OnlineOpinion for the best feature posted in the electronic media. There are people in the community who want to know what is the news behind the news. The news that mainstream media cannot (or will not) supply. I try to accommodate those requests at OnlineOpinion.

I would now like to address the issues that Karl, Bob and Graham refer to. To understand my use of “Denning was rewarded for his treachery” I have to relate the untold story of Raymond John Denning so that phrase can be placed in its right perspective. Denning was a self-centred mercenary character whose whole world revolved around Raymond John Denning. He did not become a supergrass because he was atoning for his sins or he had some ultraistic sense of helping society. He told stories to maximise his own position financially and to gain freedom for killing a prison guard at Parramatta Jail during an escape attempt in 1974. There is also evidence to suggest that NSW police and prison authorities may have colluded to allow Denning to escape from Goulburn Jail in 1988 for the sole purpose of recapturing Cox but that link in the Denning saga has never been officially substantiated. What Minister of the Crown of Police Commissioner could publicly admit to collusion by supping with the devil and allowing a lifer to escape from prison?

The facts, as I know them, are these: during 1986-87 Denning was involved in a conspiracy orchestrated from within Parklea Prison to import heroin from Hong Kong. Denning recruited two couriers. The couriers were apprehended at Hong Kong airport by Hong Kong and Australian Federal Police. They were detained for 72 hours in which time they informed authorities of other Australians, both prisoners and non-prisoners, who were involved in the conspiracy and then they were allowed to leave Hong Kong and return to Australia. NSW State and Federal Police as well as NSW prison authorities were aware of the heroin import conspiracy but allowed one of the couriers to continue visiting Denning in prison when she returned to Australia. She told Denning what had happened. Denning feared for his life if any of his co-conspirators found out what had happened during the police interviews in Hong Kong. Then a series of mysterious circumstances occurred.

Denning’s prison classification was down-graded and he was transferred to the less secure Bathurst Jail at a time when the then Minister was posturing in the media that men like Denning would serve out their entire life sentences. In Denning’s case Ministerial confirmation was required for any lessening of his classification. A short time later he was transferred to the minimum-security section of Goulburn Jail and from there he escaped in July 1988. Eight days later he reunited with Cox and the pair were recaptured at the Doncaster shopping centre.

In 1989 Denning became a supergrass against Tim Anderson over the Hilton Bombing case. An application was made on his behalf by two high ranking NSW Police Officers for the $250 000 reward in relation to the Hilton Bombing. The then Qld Attorney-General, Dean Wells, was also petitioned by the same two NSW Police officers (both of whom left the Police Force as a result of the 1995 NSW Wood Royal Commission into Police Corruption) for indemnities for Denning for all crimes he had committed in Queensland which included a bank robbery at Zillmere he confessed to committing after the 1988 Goulburn escape. The then Attorney-General, Dean Wells, granted Denning unlimited indemnity and immunity for all crimes he had committed in Queensland.

In December 1990 I participated in a 2UE radio talk-back program with Kathryn Greiner (the then NSW Premier’s wife) and trenchantly criticised the rewarding of criminal/prisoner informers. I outlined three cases where the rewarding of criminal informers had had dire consequences for the community. One of the cases was that of Raymong John Denning.

At the time of that interview I was unaware that Denning’s application for the Hilton Bombing reward was en train to the NSW Rewards Evaluation Committee. A short time after the program the then NSW Premier, Nick Greiner, publicly stated that Denning would not receive any reward from his government.

It was after Denning’s reward application had been torpedoed in 1991 that I was arrested, extradited to Queensland and wrongfully imprisoned for a $690 000 Brambles armoured van robbery that carried four consecutive terms of life imprisonment upon conviction.

Although I was innocent a Sydney detective verballed me in a Queensland court by stating that I had confessed to the robbery. I remained in a Queensland prison for just under one year before Queensland police arrested two men who confessed to the crimes I had been wrongfully extradited and imprisoned for. A Queensland Supreme Court judge ordered my immediate release and I petitioned both the NSW and Queensland governments for compensation for the wrongful extradition and imprisonment. I found myself in a catch-22 situation. The NSW government blamed the Queensland for my wrongful imprisonment and the Queensland government blamed NSW. Neither government accepted responsibility.

Needless to say I was not compensated by either government and the loss of my house, nearly a year imprisonment in another State and the eventual collapse of my marriage is what could be termed collateral damage in the Denning-Cox saga because I had the temerity, as a "criminal", to speak out about things the general public are blissfully unaware.

When I said 'Denning was rewarded for his treachery’ that is exactly what occurred and quite a number of innocent people suffered as a consequence including Tim Anderson who was wrongfully imprisoned over the Hilton Bombing.

I sincerely hope I have set the record straight about the choice of phrases in my articles. Thank you Karl, Bob and Graham for your views. They are appreciated. Bernie Matthews.
Posted by kilos, Monday, 13 December 2004 10:18:55 AM
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