The 'Apache' Thief
During research for the Underworld exhibition Sydney Living Museums staff scanned all of the ‘Special’ mugshots held in the NSW Police Forensic Photography archive. The images that did not make it into the exhibition continue to reveal interesting stories of Sydney’s underworld.
I can’t help but admire the theatrical flair of my latest discovery, a knuckleheaded teenage thief who adopted the alias ‘Apache’.
The Apaches were French street gangsters renowned for their violence and during the 1920s a series of films and books featuring Apache characters led to a craze for their clothing and dancing style. The glamourisation of their criminal lifestyle in popular culture proved fascinating to romantic and naïve youths like Dennison.
In 1925 Sydney police were mystified by a series of break-ins at which taunting notes were left signed ‘Apache’. Although he had adopted the name of Paris’ toughest street gangsters ‘Apache’ proved to be a gormless South African eighteen-year-old, Jack Dennison, who was not particular skilled at his chosen profession of thief. It seems he failed to ‘crack’ every safe he tried to open and only succeed in stealing items left lying around the city warehouses and shops he targeted in Washington Street.