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Further to two articles published here relating to the hunt for murder Brian William Robinson in 1963. This event was the first and last time the viewers of a WA television station armed themselves to assist the police capture a fugitive from the law.

Lindsay Smith seeks feedback on hunt for murderer Brian William Robinson OB

TVW won the Television Society of Australia award for best “Television News Item – MANHUNT” in 1963“television-news-item-–-manhunt”-in-1963/

Lindsay has kindly forwarded further relevant information, courtesy of Brian Bull AO APM, who served 45 years as an officer of the WA Police Force, including a decade as Commissioner of Police for Western Australia. Brian Bull has also been very active with the Western Australia Police Historical Society.

Brian Bull.jpg

Front L – R): Viewing the new WA Police Historical Society premises are Assistant Commissioner (Specialist Crime) Wayne Gregson APM, retired Assistant Commissioner and WA Police Historical Society Vice President Peter Skehan APM, retired Commissioner and WA Police Historical Society President Brian Bull APM, Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan APM, Deputy Commissioner (Operations) Chris Dawson APM, Assistant Commissioner (Traffic and Operations) Stephen Brown APM and (rear L to R) Assistant Commissioner Shayne Maines (South Metropolitan Region) and Executive Director Greg Italiano.

The WA Police Historical Society encourages the preservation of historical police artefacts and memorabilia. If you would like to find out more about the organisation please go to



Attached is a summary of “An Index to Violent Indictable Crime in Western Australia Where a Conviction Was Recorded” and Prepared by Brian Purdue for the Western Australia Police Historical Society.

The following is a summary of my personal involvement into the investigation of this crime and the search for the offender.

At the time I was a Detective attached to the Fraud Squad of the Criminal Investigation Branch and on the day in question was on duty with Detective Max Marshall. We had been called to a city departmental store to apprehend a male person who had stolen an electrical appliance. We apprehended the offender and were approaching the Roe Street Central Police Station when an urgent radio call was broadcast over the police radio advising that a police officer had been shot at Belmont and all available cars were to proceed to the scene. To respond to the call we drove into the laneway of the central station and giving the stolen property to the offender we instructed him to enter the police station and to advise the station staff to charge him with stealing. Somewhat to our surprise we later learnt that he had carried out our instructions and was duly charged.

We then proceeded to the scene and on arrival were advised that a police officer and a member of the public had been shot dead and that the offender had abducted a taxi driver in his taxi and was now in the Gnangara Pine Plantation. The police radio sought a police vehicle that was conversant with the Junction of Wanneroo Road and Gnangara Road. I was the only officer aware of this locality and was instructed to set up a road block.

Some time later we were advised by the police radio that a taxi had been sighted by a search aircraft bogged on a track in the pine plantation and we were to attend the scene. Other police had also arrived and together we approached the bogged taxi with the search plane hovering overhead. At this stage we were unaware if the taxi driver and offender were in the taxi and accordingly approached the vehicle with considerable caution. As we neared the vehicle a shot was fired which was at first assumed to be fired by the offender. We then learnt that the shot was accidentally fired by a police officer and that the taxi was empty. We then learnt that the shot was accidentally fired by a police officer and that the taxi was empty. We were later advised that the taxi driver was located safely by other searching police.

Instructions were then given that all available police were to constantly patrol the perimeter of the pine plantation in an effort to restrict the offender to this area as darkness was approaching. It was intended to search the pine plantation at first light, including the use of a native tracker.

The following morning my task was to assist and protect the Native Tracker Mick Wilson who was on holiday in Perth from Port Hedland. Approximately two hundred yards behind us were about six police officers who were prepared to move forward quickly if the tracker informed me that we were close to the offender being tracked. I admired the courage of tracker Mick Wilson who was completely exposed if we came close to the offender and was the one most likely to be fired upon should this occur.

After many hours of tracking the tracker advised me that we were getting close to the offender. I moved as close as possible to the tracker and indicated to the officers following us to move forward. Suddenly we heard several shots and I advised the tracker to stop and I moved closer to him. Hearing the shots the six officers immediately moved forward to protect us. Within a short time of hearing the shots we were informed by other police that the offender had been shot. When we walked out of the bush onto the roadway we learnt of the armed members of the public being called to the locality to assist the police.

When we realized that we had been directly in the path of the armed police and members of the public it became evident that we had been exposed to considerable risk from “friendly fire” and it was fortunate that the offender was shot before many police and armed members of the public opened fire.

I commend the tracking skills of tracker Mick Wilson, particularly his courage to continue to perform his task in the knowledge that he was at all times completely exposed to the risk of being shot by the offender or perhaps from “friendly fire”.

Brian Bull AO APM

Commissioner of Police Retired.


29/5/1963 ROBINSON Brian William @ Porky charged with 2 counts of wilful murder.

Sentenced to death for the wilful murder of Constable Noel Iles at Belmont. He was executed at Fremantle Prison on 20/1/1964. The largest (and most dangerous) manhunt in Western Australia followed the double murder by Robinson of Constable Isles and Andrew McDougall at Epsom Avenue Belmont. Robinson, aged 23, had been rebuked by his father George for not having a job in a time of high employment. A fierce argument followed and the next day Saturday, George found Brian sitting on a bed with a gun across his knees. When asked what he intended doing with it Brian replied it was for him, his father. They fought for possession of the gun with 70-year-old George coming off second best. The old man then asked a neighbour to get the police and when the young constable arrived at the house Robinson fired at him from the front room. Isles put hid hands to his face and collapsed to the ground. Robinson came from the house saying, “I’ll finish the bastard off”, went up to the policeman and from point blank range fired a second shot. Robinson then ran down the road and stopped a car, and tried to get in. McDougall, a passenger in the back seat grappled with the gunman who stepped back two paces and shot the man in the head. A 54-year-old taxi driver who witnessed the second shooting put out a distress call on his two-way radio and the next thing he knew Robinson was in his car. “Let’s go and don’t take your foot off the accelerator” was the command.

The taxi driver was forced up to Guildford and out to Gnangara Road to the pine plantation about two and a half kilometres along a sand track, the taxi driver deliberately bogged his vehicle. Soon after a light aircraft flew over the area and Robinson panicked and ran off into the bush. Police and civilians surrounded the area and the next day Robinson was flushed out. Robinson was arrested, tried, convicted and on 29 May 1963 sentenced to death.

The sentence reads, “To be returned to his former custody and at a time and place to be approved by the Governor, to be hanged by the neck until he be dead”. Robinson was charged on two indictments 984 and 985, and sentenced for the former. The second indictment was not proceeded with. He was hanged at Fremantle Gaol on 20 January 1964. [25999]

Source: An Index to Violent Indictable Crime in Western Australia Where a Conviction Was Recorded. B. Purdue c 2002

My recollections of the Robinson story – by Don Hanran-Smith

It was a Saturday afternoon I was working all day shooting news stories & had either just returned to the studio with my shot film or was on the way back when I either got a call over the 2 way radio or if I was at the studio I was told to go to an address in Belmont where a murder had been committed.

When I arrived there was a small car, I think it was a Goggomobile Dart sports , with a body sprawled over the back of the car & I think another body, of the policeman at the front of the house, I started shooting film of everything I could see . A bystander, whom I think said that he was a friend of some of the people involved, took offence at my working & we had a rather inconclusive fist fight which was quickly broken up by a police sergeant with no great harm done to either of us.

Shortly after this I left the scene taking my film back to the studio, I then went home for a moment as I lived close to the studio & then back to the newsroom & off to the Gnangara pine plantation where the manhunt had progressed to by this time.TVW had lent the cops some very heavy strong studio lights & one of the coppers dropped the plug end of the light cable on my forehead hence the sticking plaster I had on my scone all the next day. The search of the plantation was abandoned at some time in the night so I went home for a few hours sleep & then back to Gnangara Rd early in the morning. The armed searchers continued heading South across grazing paddocks , I think the property was called “Santa Maria” I stuck with PC Tony Martin as he had mentioned that he had run ins with the fugitive in the past so he was expecting some trouble if they met up so naturally this interested me.

When we finally got to the outskirts of what I then knew as Morley I & I believe the searching coppers were astonished to see what appeared to be hundreds of armed civilians lining the road, this was rather worrying as I’m sure none of them had any idea of what he fugitive looked like & as I & a lot of the cops were in civvies we may have been thought of as possible targets for all these gunnies. It was about here that I met up with Bob Cribb together with a mini OB crew with a tv camera on the roof of the van.

At this time we heard a rumour that the fugitive had been shot & captured nearby, Bob rushed off to check & I stayed at the OB van as I knew we had another cameraman in the street where we thought he had been captured.At this time I was asked by one of the OB crew to do a live piece to camera saying what was believed to have happened to the fugitive, I agreed & had got a couple of sentences out when to my relieve Bob came running down the street & I handed over to him . He then confirmed the rumour but unfortunately used the word “Murderer” in his P.T.C.

Don was a TVW News film cameraman from 1960- 1963

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TVW staff milling around the small OB van used during the manhunt. (Standing) Jim Healy, John O’Callaghan, Darcy Farrell, Bob Cribb (Dec), and Paul Kinna. Colin Gorey is seated on the bonnet whilst Ross McDonald and Cedric Woods are on the roof.

Many of the participants attended TVW’s 50th anniversary reunion, and are represented in the below colour thumbnail photos…

Darcy Farrell, Ross McDonald, Lindsay Smith, Colin Gorey, Cedric Woods, Peter Goodall, Vic Jones and Don Hanran-Smith all attended the TVW Reunion on Sunday October 18, 2009

Jim Healy, Paul Kinna and John O’Callaghan


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