Mar
03

Lingering Doubts by Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis

March 3, 2014 - 4:45 pm 10 Comments

Lingering Doubts

by Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis

Sixty-six years after Reg Brown was convicted and imprisoned for the alleged sexually-motivated slaying of 19-year-old Bronia Armstrong, his granddaughters, Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis, investigated ‘The Arcade Murder’—as it was generally known—and published Lingering Doubts. If this book hasn’t vindicated their grandfather, to some extent straightening a highly-suspect official record, it has raised grave doubts about the integrity of the police investigation in 1947, headed by Detective Frank Bischof.

A person of interest in the 1987-89 Fitzgerald Inquiry, Bischof appears in Lingering Doubts to have expedited the investigation into Bronia Armstrong’s death in order to get a quick result. He rose through the ranks to take on the role of Police Commissioner of Queensland in 1958, appointed by Premier Frank Nicklin, to the widespread disapproval of the Labor Party.  Bischof was reputed to have solved 32 out of 33 murder investigations—Bronia Armstrong’s slaying apparently being one of them, so it is possible that Reg Brown’s arrest and subsequent conviction was just a small part of the collateral damage inflicted by Frank Bischof’s focus on personal promotion and ever-burgeoning power. Reg Brown was arrested by the investigating officers within 12 hours of the discovery of Bronia Armstrong’s body. Two months and nine days later, his dead body was found by a gaol warden hanging from the grille covering the window in his cell in Boggo Road Prison.

On the day the Boggo Road prison warden made his grisly discovery, Queensland police received an anonymous letter, via The Courier-Mail, from a man confessing to Bronia’s murder, describing why and how he killed her and how he carried her body with the help of two mates, back to the BAFS building where she had worked. He also explained how the victim’s missing dress—the subject of a widespread search and much speculation—had been donned by one of his friends before they all left the building; he mentioned a cushion that he had pushed Bronia’s face into, and explained how the pendant Bronia had been wearing, had been caught around one of his own buttons while re-locating her body. The letter-writer said he had thrown the pendant into a drawer—it was found in Reg Brown’s desk—in his offfice. Ridiculing the suggestion that the confession was authentic, the police gave several reasons for their stance, which the authors of Lingering Doubts believe carry little weight.

Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis have unearthed disturbing details about the murder and its investigation, many of which never surfaced in the court case. It would seem that if the evidence didn’t fit the initial theories of Detectives Bischof and Kerr, then they weren’t even mentioned in court. There were huge gaps in the investigation: the blood found on the floor of the BAFS office was never grouped, the cushion that may have suffocated the victim was not tested for lipstick smears when it was well-known that Bronia applied fresh lipstick whenever she went out—even if she was just picking  up some milk for the office coffee break. No one—apart from Reg—in the Brown family was interviewed, nor were other possible witnesses officially interviewed such as bus drivers who knew him well and could verify the time he arrived home.

As Janice Teunis says in her Introduction, “We don’t aim to be apologists. We cannot say we have found the ‘real’ murderer. But we did uncover several astounding anomalies, heartbreaking injustices, and a police ethic that was less than sound.”

Lingering Doubts took seven years to punctiliously research and write. There is no doubt that someone murdered Bronia Armstrong in January 1947, but it doesn’t seem very likely to this reader that Reg Brown, the man convicted and gaoled for the crime, was her killer.

The authors are extremely restrained in the exposition of their findings. They never suggest the identity of the person who  took Bronia’s life, nor even hint at a motive for her slaying. They merely lay the evidence they’ve uncovered before their readers. What seeps into their investigation is the sadness, suspicion and shame suffered by the Brown family over several generations, and the alarming possibility that our justice system could so easily have convicted people of crimes for which they may have been completely innocent.

Lingering Doubts is a compelling—if disturbing—read, for anyone who takes the interests of a just society to heart.

10 Responses to “Lingering Doubts by Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis”

  1. Heather Jacobs Says:

    Really looking forward to meeting Deb and Janice – looks interesting.

  2. Cheryl Says:

    Yes, I think you will enjoy the April meeting for both Deb and Janice are coming to talk about their research and the writing of “Lingering Doubts.” They are also coming to this year’s SANDCLIFFE WRITERS FESTIVAL which will be presented at Bracken Ridge and Sandgate on the last two (or three) days of Winter. The dates so far are 30 and 31 August, 2014, though there may yet be another workshop or two on the Friday before these dates. Very exciting. Deb and Janice are engaging speakers with plenty to tell us.

  3. Adele Moy Says:

    Well thought out review Cheryl, of a disturbing episode in Brisbane’s grim, dark past. Deb and Janice, Reg Brown’s granddaughters are to be applauded for their dedication in reinvigorating interest in Bronia’s sad story. They’ve presented the facts in a comprehensive, dsipassionate manner which will certainly leave ‘Lingering Doubts’ in their reader’s minds. I look forward to hearing them at Society of Women Writers on 8th April

  4. cheryl Says:

    Thank you for your comment, Adele. There is another fascinating book around now called THE MOST DANGEROUS DETECTIVE. It’s written by journalist Steve Bishop, who gives a no-holds-barred account of the power of the Queensland Police Force from about 1950 to the Fitzgerald Enquiry into corruption in the Force. Frank Bischof figures prominently in the story which focuses on the eponymous Glen Patrick Hallahan and the group of very bent policemen who created a corrupt culture in Queensland and called themselves “the Rat Pack.” This, with Matt Condon’s books, THREE CROOKED KINGS and JACKS AND JOKERS supports Deb’s and Jan’s evidence that their grandfather was probably “set-up” for the murder of Bronia Armstrong. The question which intrigues me is why this happened? Was Reg Brown just the victim of an overweeningly ambitious policeman, Frank Bischof? Or was there an even more sinister motive for the slaying of a popular nineteen-year-old girl who happened to be working with Reg Brown? Remember that he was an accountant. Perhaps he uncovered something that someone in power was concerned about. It is likely that Jan and Deb are going to have to write a sequel to LINGERING DOUBTS, because, as they said at the SWWQ meeting, they have found out a lot more about the murder since they published the book.

  5. Deb Drummond Says:

    Thank you so much Cheryl, Heather and Adele and the ladies from SWWQ for helping Jan and me re-present our grandfather’s case to the public. As you mentioned Cheryl, important new evidence has already come forth. What an amazing journey it has been and continues to be! We are truly humbled (in fact astounded) by the reviews our book has received – your informed and insightful analysis included Cheryl. Never did we dream this 67 year old case would attract the level of support it has. If anyone would like to track our progress (hopefully toward a conviction overturn), purchase a book or simply join the LINGERING DOUBTS journey, we have a website: http://www.lingering-doubts.com – many thanks again to all.

  6. Cheryl Says:

    I’m looking forward to the next book, Deb and Jan. You’ve got a lot of people in Brisbane and farther afield, intrigued. It’s like having another baby. The second is quicker and usually less of a drama because you know so much more. Good luck with yours!
    Cheryl

  7. Jan Teunis Says:

    Ah Cheryl, you can never say never again with absolute assurance, can you? It does feel as if we are on a journey that never ends, but on the way are amazingly serendipitous events, and wonderful people to meet. Looking forward to Sandcliffe WF. Cheers, Janice.

  8. Cheryl Says:

    We’re looking forward to having you, too, Janice. Believe me, it’s going to be a good one this year, and your amazing story is going to add to its cachet.
    Best wishes,
    Cheryl

  9. NEIL ADDIS Says:

    AFTER READUNG YOUR VERY INTERESTING BOOK THERE IS A PASSAGE IN THE BOOK I WOULD LIKE TOQUERY AFTER MR.BROWNS ARREST HE WAS ESCORTED BACK TO HIS RESIDENCE WHERE ONE OF THE INVESTIGATING POLICE WENT TO THE LAUNDRY AND TOOK POSSESSION OF SOME UNDERWEAR MR.ROWN HAD BEEN WEARING AND ONE PARTICULAR ITEM OF THE UNDERWEAR WAS SOILED, WAS THIS EVER FORENSICALLY EXAMINED, OMCE AGAIN CONGRATIONS FOR FINE BOOK

  10. Cheryl Says:

    Hi Neil,
    There wasn’t much, if any, forensic examination in this case. Remember it was 1947 and the investigation was headed by a man who seemed to be more interested in promoting himself as someone who “solved 32 murder investigations out of 33.” As Reg Brown was accused of the murder of Bronia Armstrong, tried and jailed for this crime, one has to wonder how many other crimes that were the responsibility of Frank Bischoff to investigate were “solved” as this one was purported to be.

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