The subject of this story is Arthur James Murdock nicknamed the ‘Black Stallion’ by his fellow inmates. He was born on Palm Island, Queensland in about 1935. Most of what I’m writing is based on readily available sources in the print media and online. If you follow the links you will see that a beautiful tropical island isn’t always a recipe for a happy lifestyle.
Murdock has spent over 54 years in jail for violent sexual behaviour and I believe is now living back in his community. Not content with raping and dehumanising his victims he would bite chunks out of them. Being inside didn’t deter him as he would attack any prisoner given the slightest opportunity. He gave evidence against the two men charged with the Whiskey Au Go Go firebombing in 1973 in which 15 people died, claiming that John Stuart confided in him. An unlikely claim given that Murdock was a well-known Dog to start with. Stuart and Finch went down and Murdock, amazingly enough received parole. While on parole in 1977 he savagely raped two women, who he followed home from a picture theatre – back inside for our Arthur.
When he came to Wacol prison he went straight to the cages, or the pound as we termed it. There was only a single layer of mesh between the small yards in our pound and the shower nozzles were located on the roof of the cage. One wall of mesh had a nozzle on each side. Arthur showered often and I believe he liked showing off his body, extremely fit he would stand under the cold spray and soap his genitals for what seemed like forever. One morning he had a distraction, a young prisoner was sentenced to three days in the pound and for some strange reason was housed next to Murdock. The officer on that morning nipped over to the side of the officer’s mess to collect his morning tea and heard the screams for help. The young lad had decided to shower and Murdock stripped off and switched his on, grabbed his soap and dropped it through the mesh. In a classic newbie mistake the new inmate bent over to pick up the soap.
Quick as a flash Murdock reached through the mesh, grabbed him by the arm and pulled him up against the cage. The mesh was large enough for him to drag his victim back and attempt the rape. Pressing his face against the wire he tried to bite him. A valuable lesson learned for the young fellow and the officer, some prisoners cannot be left unsupervised. A few months later after intense lobbying by a couple of chaplains, prisoner’s rights groups and civil libertarians Murdock was returned to the general prison population. In retrospect I have often wondered what goes through the minds of some people, albeit well-meaning ones. They didn’t seem to care about Murdock’s victims, or how he savaged them like a rabid dog, the mental-physical-emotional scars that he left on them. There were no marches through the streets for the support and rehabilitation of his victims, or for monetary assistance to help them cope with their upturned lives. All they cared about was that he was an Aboriginal and in custody. Therefore he was a victim of the system and being horribly treated by the said system. End of story. There had been a spate of deaths in custody involving Aboriginals which fuelled controversy. I probably sound racist here but nobody cared when an 18-year-old Caucasian man hung himself after being gang raped in Boggo Road Gaol, by several Aboriginal men. Sadly it will always come down to colour and not the person.
So Murdock had his freedom to wander at large, under certain conditions. He was given the job of office block cleaner in the compound, this involved the Chief’s and Senior’s office, interview room, medics dispensary and open air cinema. All of his cleaning utensils were stored in the small tower above the dispensary, reached by a staircase resembling that of a lighthouse. Murdock was supposed to be kept under strict observation by the officers who worked in that area. Naturally familiarity breeds contempt and Murdock, being the shifty character that he was soon ingratiated himself into the ‘good books.’ He became part of the furniture and did a splendid job of cleaning. When he’d completed his work he would spend time sitting under the staircase which allowed access to the small dispensary, or sit in his little tower room. At times he would stand by the fence that segregated the compound from the offices and talk to other prisoners. This was actively discouraged and he would go back to his duties.
Chloral Hydrate in liquid form was dispensed to prisoners who had been prescribed it at night. It is an effective sedative and hypnotic agent and was kept in a large bottle on the desk of the dispensary, next to the senior’s office door. You don’t spend most of your adult life in jail and not learn anything, Murdock was no exception. Over a period of a week prisoners began complaining that their medication wasn’t working and demanded a higher dose. The prison officer medic checked the level of chloral hydrate in the bottle against the dosages given out and concluded that nothing was amiss. The complaints continued and the bottle was changed over with a fresh one, problem solved, must be a dud batch.
I came into work one morning for a six o’clock start and had to wait while an ambulance came in between gates. I was posted onto C wing and went to my post, guess where the ambos were going? I took over from the night shift and was given the story. We’ll call the unfortunate prisoner Billy, he was still a kid of about 18. When he went past on the gurney he looked half dead. We went down to his cell and stood at the door, I worked in an abattoir as a young teen and had seen copious amounts of blood. I’d also seen sudden death in Vietnam but this left me speechless. Billy had taped his issue of four razor blades together and in the early morning hours had sliced through his left bicep, clean to the bone. The wall by the bed streamed with blood, he’d rolled over and bled into the foam mattress and the blood had seeped through where it filled up his rubbish bucket, a half-gallon one. That’s right, half of the blood in his system and the rest in his room, well except for about a pint. The amount doctors said he still had in him when he arrived at hospital. Just another prisoner taking the easy way out? A depressed man not able to cope? No, a man suffering from an overdose of chloral hydrate administered by Murdoch. One of the symptoms of such an overdose is deep depression.
A quick investigation that morning came to the following conclusions. Murdoch had been syphoning off the drug. It appeared that on the previous afternoon Murdoch lured Billy to his love nest under the stairs, with promises of a drink of home-brew. After guzzling a small shampoo bottle of chloral hydrate Billy became doped out and Murdoch raped him in his imitable style. I have no idea how he managed to do this, right next door to the senior’s office. Or why Billy wasn’t noticed acting strangely throughout the rest of the day. It appears that Murdoch also gave his victim another bottle of the drug to keep him quiet about the rape. The empty bottle was found in Billy’s cell. A search was made of the tower and secreted in a door panel were six shampoo bottles of chloral hydrate. Murdoch must have known what was going on as he tried to make himself scarce. There was a passageway between both sides of the compound that ran between the two Rec rooms and the offices. A gate led into the small office compound from each side of the main compounds, these could be locked in case of riots. At the end of the offices a heavy glass fronted, sporting trophy display cabinet had been bolted to the wall. I’d been directed to man one gate and another officer the opposite one. Murdoch came out of his little hideaway and saw us blocking the exits, doing his best to keep his cool he walked around to the trophy cabinet and stopped. We approached him from each side and stopped a few feet away,
Me, ‘Okay Arthur, you’re coming out to the pound. Going to be any trouble?
Him, ‘Not me Mr Smith.’
He raised his right fist and I thought, Oh shit, here we go. Instead he turned and punched his fist through the toughened glass, it shattered leaving a long shard sticking up. He looked at me, smiled, rammed the inside of his arm onto the shard near his elbow and ripped his arm open to the wrist. It went deep and he stood there still smiling, flesh and tendon hanging, blood spurting out and said,
‘Won’t be going out to the pound now Mr Smith.’
That was the last I saw of Arthur James Murdock. Billy? Well he survived to end up in a vegetative state. Murdoch went to Stuart gaol in Townsville, then Rockhampton and if you take a look at the links you will have an idea of where he is now. If you read the link about Palm Island you will see a story unfold about racism, a patriarchal government and a way of handling a native people that is abhorrent today. Murdock came out of this society and I dare say it would have been a hard existence, fuelled by brutality from both white and black. No doubt he was either subject to abuse or learned abusive practices as a child. That doesn’t give a person license to debase and ruin other people’s lives. It was blatantly obvious to me that he had no trouble receiving or doling out pain, he didn’t flinch when he slashed his arm. Gaining sexual pleasure and release from biting hunks of flesh out of your helpless victim is certainly not the sign of a healthy mind. What is he like in his seventies? I don’t know, have his sexual urges gone – dried up leaving him a shell of a man? I honestly don’t care. I only hope that he isn’t able to hurt anybody else in this life.
Because a person grows old it doesn’t mean that they have grown as a human-being or repented their crimes and changed. It usually means that they’re physically unable to continue doing what they loved to do. Klaus Barbie, the Nazi ‘Butcher of Lyon’ a rather despicable human being was unrepentant until the end, dying in jail at 77. (An interesting story in itself). One day society may be able to look beyond a person’s skin and see them as people and not as a colour. Then make whatever legal judgement necessary for the right reasons.
http://www.care2.com/news/member/945613875/484188 Murdock in cage.