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Morey, Noel Charles (1924–2010)

by Malcolm Brown

Noel Morey, born on Christmas Day, 1924, was a tough, straight-shooting Sydney detective, a relentless pursuer of murderers, armed robbers and extortionists and at the very heart of the NSW Police criminal investigation branch.

Effective like so many of his colleagues, including Roger Rogerson, he was not entirely unscathed when corruption allegations were aired against the CIB, though nothing against him was established.

The streetwise Morey was a member of the emergency squad, later called the special weapons and operations squad. He handled inquiries into some of Sydney's biggest dramas, including the Glenfield siege in 1968, the Qantas hoax in 1971 and the Woolworths extortion attempt in 1980.

He stopped bombings, was shot at, assaulted and threatened and, in the wash-up, kept the streets of Sydney safer than they otherwise would have been.

Noel Charles Morey was born in Sydney, the son of Percy Morey, a linesman with the Postmaster-General's Department and a veteran of the Somme, and Una (nee Bridge).

In 1942 Noel lied about his age to get into the army and found himself serving as a bombardier in Borneo.

After he was demobilised, he accepted his father's advice that policing was a good job and started as a constable at Newtown in 1946. A year later he caught two men stealing rice from the back of a truck and arrested them. Both resisted, one kicked him and got away, Morey held on to the other, and after a few hours detectives arrested the first man. ''It was then I decided I wanted to be a detective,'' Morey said.

Morey started as a detective in Darlinghurst in 1948, then moved to Rose Bay. In March 1950 he married a nurse, Joan Saywell, with whom he went on to have three daughters, Roslyn (1951), Heather (1953) and Janice (1956).

After joining the CIB in 1951, Morey worked with the homicide, consorting, armed hold-up, safe and arson squads and the 21 division.

In 1956 the criminal Raymond Claude Snow fired at him, but missed. Morey was with a team of detectives who shot a maniac armed with two bombs who tried to hijack a Pan Am jet.

He was one of the leading police called to a siege at Rose Bay where the cornered man fired more than 100 shots. In 1959 he was carrying a Thompson sub-machinegun during a hunt in the Wyong area for the notorious escapee Kevin Simmonds.

During much of his career Morey was handling crime when the safe-crackers were the criminally elite, the police and criminals often knew one another, and before the slime of the drug trade muddied everything. But it did not make crimes any less vicious.

In 1967 he inquired into the murder of an Aboriginal man, Edward John Duncan, at Redfern. The only clue was the broken back of a watch case under Duncan's body. Through marks on the back, Morey was able to trace a watch repairer in Germany, who told him he had sold the watch to a fellow German in Sydney. Pursuing the wanted man, Morey went to Victoria and Tasmania before finally arresting him at the Reschs brewery in Sydney.

But some mud did fly which, if not directed at Morey personally, came close. In 1969, when the anti-abortion campaigner Bertram Wainer needled the NSW Police Commissioner, Norm Allan, about abortion rackets in Sydney, according to the crime writer Evan Whitton, Allan sent the ''heavy'' mob to interview him. These were the then Detective Constable Rogerson, Detective Sergeant Morey and Detective Chief Superintendent Don Fergusson. Fergusson was later alleged to have been a protege of the corrupt detective Ray Kelly, and a bagman for Kelly's abortion extortion operation. Fergusson was found shot dead in the CIB.

In 1970, working with Rogerson, Morey investigated the robbery of a Mayne Nickless van at Guildford, in which $587,890 was stolen. The robbery set a record for the amount stolen in a heist, and the Toecutter Gang allegedly later tried to relieve gang members of the proceeds.

With a fellow detective, Matthew Carmody, Morey travelled to England to interview a man who had been detained in Nottingham. Morey's successes included the arrest of John Edward Mills for the murder in 1971 of a prostitute, Lolo Jean Godwin, whom Mills had accused of ripping him off. The arrest came after perseverance by Morey and Rogerson.

In 1973 Morey and Rogerson were seconded to the Brisbane CIB to help with the Whiskey au Go Go investigation. Morey, Rogerson and four Queensland police witnessed the ''confession'' of the accused fire-bomber, James Richard Finch. But the confession was unsigned and later alleged to have been fabricated.

However, there was no doubt about Morey's role in the investigation of the Woolworths extortion case in 1980. Stores in Maitland, Warilla and Sydney were bombed and two men, who tried to extort $1 million in cash, gold and diamonds, were arrested and jailed.

Morey became chief superintendent and head of the CIB in 1982. He retired in June 1984, saying that the nature of crime had changed, that the criminals had become ''dirty men, violent … they shoot their arms full of insidious fluids''.

He also thought the old CIB, which was so centralised, would become more diversified, putting detectives closer to the scene in outlying areas. After his retirement, some mud was still thrown, particularly by the rollover criminal Louie Bayeh, who told the NSW police royal commission in 1995 that he had bribed 25 police officers, including Morey. Morey, responding in the media, said he was ''very surprised'' by the allegations.

Living in Peakhurst, in Sydney's south, Morey focused his attention on rock fishing and bowls. He died on Wednesday. He is survived by his widow, Joan, his three daughters, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

His funeral will be at Sutherland Crematorium South Chapel at 11 am on Monday.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 August 2010

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Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Morey, Noel Charles (1924–2010)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/morey-noel-charles-16848/text28744, accessed 24 November 2017.

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