… terrible retribution with gun, blade, or bludgeon which nowadays comes on swift, silent feet …
Truth (Sydney), 16 September 1928
The brawn of Sydney’s underworld, bruisers had a penchant for senseless violence. Some were independent operators who collected cash by intimidating owners of various legal and illegal businesses, from greengrocers to sly-grog shops. Others worked for crime bosses as bodyguards and debt collectors. The tools of their trade were revolvers, cutthroat razors, and their fists and feet. Many bruisers met violent ends.
Special Photograph number 842. New South Wales Police Forensic Photography Archive, Sydney Living Museums
John Daniel ‘Snowy’ Cutmore
(alias Harris, John McLaughlin, John Nolan, John Watson, Wilson)
5 July 1922
Suspect, offence unknown
Cutmore was a Melbourne-based tough who made forays into the Sydney scene when things grew too hot for him down south. He was a gunman, sly-grog seller and housebreaker with multiple convictions for assault. Cutmore’s death in 1927 was legendary. He was recuperating from the flu in bed at home in Melbourne when his enemy notorious gangster Squizzy Taylor burst through the bedroom door with a gun, intent on murder. Cutmore grabbed his own revolver and the two men shot at each other until Cutmore died, riddled with bullets. Taylor succumbed to his own wounds shortly afterwards.
16 July 1929 & circa 1930
Suspect, offences unknown
Sleek and self-assured, Caletti was a standover man and bludger (pimp) who robbed and assaulted his victims. He also acted as a pimp for his sometime girlfriend – Sydney’s most desirable prostitute, Nellie Cameron – and fought other bludgers who came sniffing around. It was rumoured that he could shoot the ash off a lit cigarette and throw a knife with unerring accuracy. Labelled a ‘gangster’ by police, Caletti was known to threaten witnesses, and few people were game enough to testify against him.
Special Photograph number 800. New South Wales Police Forensic Photography Archive, Sydney Living Museums
George ‘the Midnight Raper’ Wallace
18 April 1922
Suspected of attempted theft from a person
Wallace targeted the city’s sex workers, demanding a portion of their earnings and assaulting any who would not, or could not, pay up. Many prostitutes did not tell police about the assaults, fearing they would not be treated seriously and might be attacked again for talking. Wallace also dabbled in drug dealing and was said to be a cocaine addict. He sometimes worked with other bruisers, such as the infamous gunman Norman Bruhn and ‘Razor Jack’ Hayes; newspapers of the time christened the trio the ‘Unholy Three’.
Special Photograph number 1266. New South Wales Police Forensic Photography Archive, Sydney Living Museums