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Robson Lacey (Bob) Bradbury (1930–2010)

by Malcolm Brown

'I am Detective Sergeant Bradbury of the CIB,'' were the words that rang out by megaphone on that chilly central coast dawn in 1976 when police moved in on a madman, Phillip Archibald Linwood Weston, who had been hiding out at Avoca Beach. Bradbury called on Weston to come out with his hands up. Instead, Weston, wanted for bank robbery and murder, opened fire. In the shootout, Weston was killed.

It was but one dramatic encounter in the life of Robson Lacey (Bob) Bradbury, who served nearly 40 years in the NSW Police Force and was involved in some of its greatest dramas, including the Wally Mellish siege, the ''Mr Brown'' Qantas hoax, the arrests of the Morse murderers and the bombing murder of a police constable and his wife at Bega. As chief superintendent of the CIB he oversaw inquiries into the Milperra bikie massacre and the murder of Anita Cobby.

Bob Bradbury was born at Ramsgate on July 22, 1930, one of six sons of a NSW police officer, Lacey Bradbury, and Helen (nee Bishop). Policing was in his blood. His great-grandfather, Walter Bradbury, migrated in 1837 and spent several years guarding convicts. The young Bradbury, moving with his father's postings, went to a number of schools in Sydney and the Hunter region before finishing at the selective Newcastle Boys' High.

At the age of 16, he joined the NSW Police Cadets.

At 19, Bradbury was appointed a probationary constable and worked at Newtown, Pyrmont, Newcastle, the Fingerprint Section and the Subversive Organisations Investigations Branch, as it then was. In 1950 he was posted to the state's north-west. Transferred back to Sydney, he was assigned to 21 Mobile Division, then to Phillip Street Police Station as a trainee detective. In 1956, he went to the Consorting Squad at the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB). In March 1957, assigned to the Modus Operandi Section, he met a NSW public servant, Joyce Cooke. The two married at Hunters Hill on December 6, 1958.

Soon after, Bradbury went to the CIB's Safe and Arson Squad, where he served for seven years.

In 1957, when a constable and his wife were blown up by a massive bomb at their Bega home, Bradbury found a small piece of metal from a cream can; that clue was enough to solve the crime. That year, Bradbury was awarded a certificate of merit by the Royal Shipwreck Relief and Humane Society after diving with a fellow officer into a flooded creek to save a man from drowning.

In 1966, Bradbury was transferred to Chatswood and promoted to detective sergeant. Twelve months later, he was appointed to 21 Division as a supervisory detective sergeant. While there, he was contacted by a Greek shopkeeper he had met almost 20 years earlier, who passed on critical information that a murder victim had been buried at Sydney Airport, where the runway was being extended. Police found the body and two men were convicted of murder.

Bradbury returned to the CIB, where he joined the Special Crime Squad and became a member of the Special Weapons and Operations Squad (SWOS). In 1973, he was involved in the arrests of Kevin Crump and Allan Baker, who had killed a farmhand, Ian Lamb, and abducted, raped and murdered a Collarenebri housewife, Virginia Morse. In 1974, Bradbury was appointed head of the Special Crime Squad and had its name changed to the Homicide Squad. In 1981, he led an investigation into the kidnapping of a Castle Hill woman, Enid Perini, and 33 hours later found her chained to a tree in Frenchs Forest.

In 1984, Bradbury became chief superintendent in charge of the CIB, at 53 years of age the youngest person to hold that position. He had received 19 commendations and his appointment was warmly received. Bradbury was in the chair for more than two years. But dark clouds were hovering over the CIB, with constant allegations of corruption. The police commissioner, John Avery, said publicly he had ''utmost confidence'' in Bradbury. Bradbury said that corruption was ''an easy road to go down'' but ''I have never had any personal difficulty maintaining my ethics''.

Despite that, in 1986 Bradbury came under internal investigation over allegations that in two instances he had mishandled reward money. He faced departmental charges, to which he claimed innocence. In December 1986 he was found guilty of misconduct related to not keeping a diary and proper records. There was no suggestion of dishonesty.

He was nevertheless demoted to superintendent and transferred. His wife Joyce expressed a common outcry against someone with such a fine record being dealt with so harshly. The Police Medical Board found that because of acute stress, Bradbury was unfit for service and on March 5, 1987, he retired. He received the Australian Police Medal.

Bob Bradbury, who died at Royal North Shore Hospital on October 6, is survived by Joyce, children George, Tom and Bill and grandchildren Ben, Emma, Danielle, Jake and Ian.

Original publication

Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Bradbury, Robson Lacey (Bob) (1930–2010)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 April 2024.

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