When eight-year-old Graeme Thorne was kidnapped on his way to school in July 1960, it became a crime that gripped Australia. NSW Crown Prosecutor and true crime writer Mark Tedeschi spoke to Better Reading about the case explored in his new book, Kidnapped.
Graeme Thorne’s parents had won a fortune in the Opera House Lottery weeks before his kidnapping but the unlikely kidnapper, Stephen Bradley, felt he was more deserving and this greed for the Thorne’s windfall consumed him. It led to him planning a kidnap of one of the Thorne children which he bungled, with tragic results.
Using his vast knowledge of criminal behaviour – Tedeschi has prosecuted more than 200 murders including the Ivan Milat case – Mark Tedeschi reconstructs the events leading up to this heart-wrenching crime. He is able to get into the minds of the criminal, the criminal’s wife, as well as the victim and his family, and the police. He describes the subsequent police investigation launched to solve the case, and reveals that, while the techniques used by the police are considered commonplace today, they were pioneering at the time and marked the beginning of modern-day forensic science in Australia.
With powerful research and storytelling skills, Mark Tedeschi has delivered a gripping story about one of Australia’s greatest, and heartbreaking, true crime dramas.
Better Reading: We’re delighted to hear that you’ve written a second book of crime fiction, after the success of your 2012 book Eugenia. It’s a very different story – what inspired you to write about this case of a child kidnap from 1960?
Mark Tedeschi: I enjoyed writing Eugenia so very much, and I decided that I would definitely write another true crime book. I decided to write the story of the kidnapping of Graeme Thorne and the apprehension and trial of his kidnapper because it was the only kidnapping of a child for ransom in the whole history of Australia, and at the time I was exactly the same age as Graeme. I was also aware that this case marked the beginning of modern day forensic in pursuing a criminal investigation.
BR: You can remember the case?
MT: I remember the case very distinctly. In fact, I had a press photograph of Graeme plastered on a cupboard in my bedroom so that if I saw him I would be able to let my parents know.
BR: What was it about this case in particular that gripped the nation at the time?
MT: What gripped the nation about this case was that anyone could be so callous as to take advantage of the love between parent and child in order to gain a financial advantage. The death of Graeme Thorne also horrified the nation because his parents were so willing to pay the ransom moneys. Kidnapping of a child was a crime that was unknown at that time, and in fact there was no crime of kidnapping on the statute books. To my knowledge there has not been another case of its kind in Australia to date.
BR: Obviously your wide experience of murder cases as a crown prosecutor would have helped you reconstruct events that happened over 50 years ago, especially given that many of those involved, such as Bradley, are now deceased. How much of your own experience do you bring to a book like this?
MT: I am unable to answer this question as I am currently in the course of a criminal trial in the Supreme Court of New South Wales
BR: How did you research the case?
MT: I began by getting hold of the transcript of the trial. I then got the police brief, the Crown prosecutors notes and a manuscript written by Magda Bradley. I also extensively researched the newspapers at the time.
BR: In researching the case, has additional information come to light that was not previously known?
MT: I believe that I am the first researcher to locate and analyse the manuscript written by Magda Bradley when she was in London in 1961 awaiting her return to Sydney for the trial of her husband
BR: The investigation into this crime marked the use of early forensic science as an investigative tool in Australia. Which of those new techniques were significant in the arrest of Bradley?
MT: There was extensive use of the forensic sciences to detect Bradley as the kidnapper, and later to provide evidence against him. It included plant seeds, pieces of mortar, dog hairs, human hairs, analysis of fabrics of varying kinds, forensic pathology, and a number of other areas.
BR: Could advances in criminal investigation/forensics bring about a different outcome if a similar case happened today?
MT: Undoubtedly, if the same crime were committed today, DNA would play a major role.
BR: You have been the prosecutor of many high profile crimes, including the Ivan Milat murders and over 200 murder and attempted murder cases. With all that you know from your job as a public prosecutor as well as writing about true crime, have you found yourself becoming to some extent desensitised about hearing the details of such terrible crimes?
MT: As stated earlier, because I’m currently involved in a criminal trial, I am unable to make any comment about my work as a prosecutor.
BR: With two true crime titles now completed, is writing true crime something you intend to pursue in the future, in addition to your role as Senior NSW Crown Prosecutor and your work as a photographer?
MT: I love writing true crime, particularly in the genre of creative non-fiction. I intend continuing to do so in the future.