DOUBLE TROUBLE: The Amazing True Story of the After Dark Bandit
by Geoff Wilkinson and Ross Brundrett
Wilkinson Publishing, Melbourne
Paperback: 288 pages
Reviewed by Jeffry Babb
Long ago I had a friend named Dave Norgaard. He was “pictorial editor” for the Daily News in Perth. Dave had worked on The Sun News Pictorial in Melbourne. He had also worked in England, Hong Kong and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The Daily News, Perth’s afternoon paper, followed Dave into the grave.
Dave was a heavy drinker and died in his 30s. Dave could always be found at the window at Steve’s Pub after work. Dave was a shrewd man who had had much experience with the seamier side of life in his profession as a journalist. I was, at the time, around 25 years of age.
One night, as we were drinking, I asked Dave about crime. He said: “Do you know why criminals end up in prison?” I said I did not. Dave answered his own question: “Because they are stupid. Being a criminal isn’t a good career choice for an intelligent person.”
Double Trouble confirms Dave Norgaard’s thesis. The After Dark Bandit was in fact two people, twins named Peter Kay Morgan and Douglas Kay Morgan. They eluded the police for two years, only to be collared by two Victorian country coppers. Their escapades in outer suburban and country Victoria and their pursuit by the police recall the exploits of the Scarlet Pimpernel:
“We seek him here, we seek him there
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere!
Is he in heaven? Or is he in hell?
That demmed elusive Pimpernel.”
The twins’ father, Kay Morgan, took to a life of crime after his varied business ventures collapsed. He had good ideas, but no head for finance. The family was always on the run, doing one midnight flit after another.
The boys were hardly into their teens when they became active members of the crime family. Their father ended up in prison and then decided that he would “go straight” as a builder.
The boys were not fools, but like their father they were “smart alecks”. When Peter did his first armed robbery, he chose a red GTS Falcon as a getaway car. Before you could say “King of the Mountain”, the high-powered car went into a slide and ended up in a creek. Peter was lucky to escape.
“Although their modus operandi in the early days of their two-year crime spree sometimes bordered on the slapstick, some of their later jobs showed cleverness and cunning and a real flair for their work” (p40).
But cunning didn’t keep them out of prison. Often theory didn’t translate into practice.
The State Savings Bank at Mirboo North was Doug’s first big score. The TABs that they had been robbing paid tradesman’s wages but the Mirboo bank job paid over $15,000. The twins started getting cocky. Like most criminals, they didn’t want to put their money in the bank, they wanted to have fun – in the twins’ case that meant racing and trading in horses.
In May 1978, things turned serious. Following a raid on the Torquay TAB, Doug wounded a pursuer with a shotgun, the first times the twins had shot anyone. The twins became front-page news and gained a sobriquet – the After Dark Bandit. No one knew that they were twin bandits, not one.
Shortly afterwards, the head of the Armed Robber Squad, Detective Inspector Tom O’Keefe, said the investigation “was not a Ned Kelly fight between the coppers and the villain”, and he said he was concerned at the lack of public assistance in the hunt for the bandit. (p82)
The twins were caught, convicted and ended up in Pentridge. The sentences were remarkably light considering their long string of crimes, but they did cooperate fully with the police and were surprisingly presentable in court. Justice King openly admitted that he was impressed by the demeanour of the defendants.
The twins did not have an easy time in the prison. Both tried to break out.
They regarded crime as a natural way to earn a living. They continued in regular jobs in the building trade even while they were robbing banks and TABs. They had been inducted into the world of crime by their father, who died young. They weren’t nasty, and their pleasant personalities earned them reprieves when it came to sentencing.
This is a fascinating book, full of twists and turns. It is easy reading. The authors appear to have made an effort to get their facts right. You never know what is going to happen next. The twins don’t fit the stereotype of hardened criminals. Their relaxed demeanour in court helped win them a reprieve in sentencing. They did fall out from time to time, but they were, after all, twins.