James Richard Finch was an English-born lad brought up on in hovels and , who 1954 at the age of 10 was – like so many waifs in the 164 years before him – transported to the colonies and placed in the care of the State.
Unlike the scared young wastrels who had made the long journey across the seas before him, Finch was not placed immediately into penal servitude upon alighting from his transportation hulk, but he may as well have been, for he was instead placed into the care of notoriously brutal Barnados homes for orphaned or wayward children, at the time regarded as erstwhile charitable institutions dedicated to deterring saving Fagin’s from a life of crime and transforming them into model citizens.
It was of course a lie, for like similar institutions such as Westbrook and Boystown in Queensland, the Barnardos homes were later revealed to have been hotbeds of sadistic rape, abuse, torture, violence and perversion; a playground for the perverts who flocked in droves to become warders and guardians in the homes dotted around the wide brown land.
It is little wonder then that Finch, by the time of his release known as Jim – or Jimmy to his mates – became a hardened and violent criminal who haunted the mean streets doing the best he could for a living, and dispensing the rough justice that he had learnt in the Barnados home to any ill-advised wannabe tough guy who looked at him the wrong way.
Similarly, a slightly older lad with a near identical institutional upbringing named John Andrew Stuart – Johnny to his mates – was stomping angrily around the same streets stomping on the heads of those he didn’t like, when he wasn’t shooting them that is.
Fate and a hardship-filled, horrific childhood full of hardship and hate brought the pair together in Sydney’s Long Bay prison in the 1960’s, and serendipity saw them sharing a cell and becoming the closest of friends.
Unlike the orphan Finch, whose life path was arguably inevitable given the deprivation he suffered as a child, his cellmate Stuart seemed just to be plain bad, a psycho by nature not nurture, for a lack of maternal love was not a key feature of his life. Stuart had in fact a slavishly devoted mother named Edna Watts, a deeply religious woman who blamed the drunken brutality of first husband as the reason that golden locked little Johnny strayed from the path of righteousness, and she fawned upon her John with a one-eyed devotion borne perhaps both from love, and a from driven desire to atone for her long dead husband’s sins toward her son, and maybe even to atone for his too.
Stuarts Mum visited her boy regularly during his frequent prison spells, and she took an immediate shine to Finch, and he to her; the boy/man who had never known a mother’s love took Edna Watts to his heart, and before long regarded her then and forever more as his true mum, and she him as her third son.
After his release from jail following a long stretch earned by shooting another once institutionalized youth turned criminal, a hit man named John Regan, who ironically – suspiciously is a better description – would later testify at his Whiskey Trial without mentioning the bullets he had borrowed from Finch’s gun, the Englishman was finally released and deported back to the mother land, which he hadn’t seen since he was a wee slip of a boy breaking and entering dwellings in order to put bread and his belly and thus keep the air pumping in his lungs.
He never forgot hid prison cell pal Johnny Stuart though, and despite their separation by thousands of miles of ocean, the pair kept continued to keep in touch. Freudian could have a ball working their relationship out, and Professor Paul Wilson would almost certainly have some bizarre apologetic explanation for it, but most say they were simply staunch crims who bonded like brothers.
Finch never forgot the kindness of his adopted mother Edna Watts either, and when in early 1973 he learnt that she was deathly ill and scheduled to undergo an operation in a last-gasp desperate bid to save her life, Finch – although his passport was cancelled and his papers marked in big, bold letters ‘Never to Return to the Wide Brown Land’ – determined to ignore the printed advice and slip into the country to be by her side and, if life gave him the obligatory kick in the guts that he had come to expect as normal, to say goodbye to the only mum he’d ever known.
And so, using a false passport provided by his former cellmate Stuart, the jail-hardened 29- year-old hard man who fate had never given a sucker’s break slip made the worst decision of his life, and slipped into Brisbane to be by the side of the woman that he called a queen.
But the best laid plans of mice and men are sometimes spoiled by dogs and rats and greed and fate and corrupt cops, and so it was for James Finch, because just a dozen days later the Whiskey Au Go Go erupted in fire, 15 innocent young party-goers lost their lives, and Queensland’s finest senior police officers, almost to man up to their necks in the shakedown gone wrong, convinced the desperate and drowning new Commissioner Ray Whitrod – who had quickly realised that he wasn’t the most popular chief boy on blue in history, or not with with his political masters anyway – that a quick arrest was his path to perdition, and that John Andrew Stuart was without a shadow of a doubt his man.
The boys palming brown paper bags plush full of cash of used providence and in large denominations didn’t of course tell their despised new Commissioner that they had threatened to load up Stuart’s brother Daniel – a fellow criminal who had always resented the lifelong favoritism his mum had shown towards little Johnny – with a brick of Burmese brown poppy powder and shout him a verbal and a certain ten year spin in the bin if he didn’t point his finger at his brother, and as an added incentive to assist him to make the decision to turn dog on his bro threw in the promise of a $50k reward.
Finch wasn’t in the frame at that stage, mainly because the bent coppers didn’t have a clue that he was in Brisvegas, but after he dropped his passport taking the bolt from the family function organised by Daniel Stuart that was rudely disturbed by heavily armed police eager to arrest his brother a couple of days of the fire, Finch suddenly became Queensland’s most wanted, or he did about 3 seconds after Daniel Stuart told them who he actually was, and lagged him with a fairytale too, just to his brother had someone to keep him company in the can I guess.
Which when you think about it was mighty kind of him, and had the added bonus of ensuring that Finch didn’t break both his arms and legs and then shoot him in the head as a gift for telling horrible lies about his own kith and kith just to save his own skin and line his pockets with the police issue bag full of 50 thousand bucks.
And so Finch and Stuart became the Whiskey Au Go Go murderers, despite a lack of any evidence to justify their conviction other than a web of lies and some unsigned confessions drafted up by a couple of cops while a couple of others belted the living sh*t out the manacled men while they waited, and thus another chapter in the Queensland history books was falsely written.
The real story about the Whiskey Fire is far too long to tell here, so will have to wait for another day, but let me tell you that it is intimately connected with the disappearance of the McCulkin women, and I strongly suspect that they have got the wrong blokes banged up without bail for that one too, but that’s a long story for another day as well, and if prisoners of Her Majesty Vincent O’Dempsey and Gary Dubois had decent lawyers both tales would probably be told at once at their upcoming (some time in the next decade) trial.
O’Dempsey’s highly talented lawyer Terry O’Gorman may well just tell it too, depending on what tactics he decides on to save his client from dying in a prison bed, but given that Dubois’ incompetent legal team can’t even secure him bail despite the absolute paucity of evidence against him, it’s unlikely that they would even be able to understand the intricacies of the sordid tale, let alone cogently explain in to a jury.
So you might just have to leave it to me yet, which will be far more interesting anyway, but before I one day share it with you I want to have a little chat to the wrongly convicted Jim Finch just to fill the couple of small gaps in my piecing together of the tale.
Only problem is that I’m a little bit short of readies for the flight to Heathrow, and after tracking Jimmy down last night I discovered that he doesn’t have the phone on at home – as you’ll see from the pictures below he’s not travelling too well, living in that dank sh*thole of a council flat in ******** (sorry mainstream media plagiarists and research robbers, you’ll have to work this one out yourself), so we might have to wait until I strike a quaddie, or some kind benefactor with an interest in actually true True Crime tales slings me a ticket.
But good things come to those who wait they say, and Jimmy Finch’s waited more than 40 years for the truth of the terrible miscarriage of justice that caused he and his mate Johnny so much torture and pain, and in the case of Stuart his life too – so I am sure he can wait just a little bit longer until old Archie’s ship comes in.
While we’re waiting we might see how good the so-called gun sleuths of the fourth estate truly are.
Where’s Jimmy fellas and fillies?
Can you find him in less than an hour too? And just for good measure throw in his girlfriend’s full name, address and date of birth, and the name of his local boozer too?
I can, and don’t you worry about that. Wave out the window to Uncle Archie Jimmy!