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Bruhn, Norman (1894–1927)

from Sydney Morning Herald

Norman Bruhn, aged 34 years, the victim of the shooting affray in Charlotte-lane, Darlinghurst, on Wednesday night, died in Sydney Hospital at 7 o'clock yesterday morning.

Conscious, and in full possession of his senses till just before his death, Bruhn had repeatedly refused to give the police any information likely to incriminate the man who shot him.

As the result of Bruhn's silence, there is now little probability of his murderer's arrest. Constable J. G. Blanch, who was attracted to Charlotte-lane by the sound of the five shots fired at Bruhn, saw a man running away, but from too great a distance to allow him to identify the man.

Robert Miller, of Dowling-street, was with Bruhn at the time of the affray. He told the police that he was shouldered out of the way by the two men who accosted Bruhn and was told, "Get out of this. We don't want you." He also informed Detective-sergeant Quinn and Detective Allmond that he had not recognised either men, and would not be able to identify the one who shot Bruhn.

"If I did know I wouldn't dare tell you," he is alleged to have added.

Other men questioned were equally hesitant about giving information. At the end of the day, the detectives had only the slenderest of clues to the murderer's identity. They had been successful, however, in tracing the main facts of Bruhn's recent history. From them, they were able to deduce the probable reasons for Wednesday's affray.

Bruhn, they stated last evening, came to Sydney eight months ago, a fugitive from the Victorian police. A charge of shooting and wounding had been laid against him in Melbourne, and he had absconded from bail. By the time his hiding place in Sydney was discovered, the man he was alleged to have wounded had recovered and had refused to be a party to any prosecution. The charge was accordingly withdrawn. Bruhn, nevertheless, decided that he would not go back to Melbourne. According to the detectives, he had discovered in Sydney a new field for exploitation, a field so profitable that several well-known Victorian criminals followed him to Sydney. They formed what is known in the back streets of Darlinghurst as the "razor" gang. Its object was a crude form of blackmail. Its working methods were very simple. Its victims were people who, for their own reasons, wished to avoid the police—cocaine traffickers and thieves—against whom charges were outstanding. These persons the gang would attack in laneways, in side-streets, sometimes in their own homes. Members of the gang would demand money. Their threat being that, if money were not forthcoming, the person attacked would be slashed about the face and body with a razor.

The detectives stated yesterday that six people who had refused the gangs demands and had been subjected to maltreatment had been interviewed by the police in the past few months. Their invariable answer was that they did not know who had attacked them. The police know from other sources that they had fallen victims to Bruhn's associates.

If these people had given any information about their attackers the detectives admitted, they would have endangered their lives. The community of which they were members regarded "informing" as the one unpardonable sin.

Cocaine traffickers suffered most from the gangs exactions. Recently they had been making common cause against its attacks. Counter attacks followed, and it is believed that one of these led to the wounding of a man who, recently questioned by the police in hospital, said that he had no information that would lead to the arrest of his assailant.

The detectives stated last night that they believed Bruhn's death to be a climax to this warfare.

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Citation details

'Bruhn, Norman (1894–1927)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/bruhn-norman-13636/text24398, accessed 22 September 2017.

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