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George Leonard (Gunman) Gaffney (1904–1929)

A bitter feud which exists amongst rival underworld gangsters resulted in a further outbreak of gunplay on Wednesday night and early yesterday morning.

Women were prominent in the events which led up to the shooting.

George Gaffney, aged 28 years, known as "Gunman Gaffney," was fatally shot outside the residence of James Devine at Maroubra, and a man named Walter Tomlinson was badly wounded.

Earlier in the night, Frank Green was shot in the shoulder in an affray at Woolloomooloo.

James Devine, 37, described as a shearer, of Long Bay Road, Maroubra, was charged yesterday with the murder of Gaffney. Frank Green and Sidney George Macdonald, who are alleged to live with Devine, were charged with vagrancy.

Although he knew that he was dying, Gaffney refused to make any statements to the police or a magistrate who visited him at St Vincent's Hospital.

During the last few months the criminal underworld of Sydney has been greatly disturbed, and rival gangs have indulged in shooting and violence. The feuds arose, it is believed, over the main sources of revenue of the underworld, drug traffic, sly grog selling, and disorderly houses.

Criminals have settled their troubles with pistol, boot, and bludgeon, and in each instance the police inquiries have been hampered by a veil of silence. Concerning this last shooting affray, the same silence is being maintained.

Some of the principals in Wednesday night's occurrenee were at the Central Police Court on Monday, when a disorder took place between several women, who, in a circle formed by many men and expensively-dressed young women, engaged in a fight. They screamed and bit each other, rolling on the ground. It was a disgraceful scene.

Since then the underworld has simmered with expectancy, and even the police felt that gunplay was to be anticipated at an early date.

The first shot was fired early on Wednesday night in Woolloomooloo, Frank Green receiving a bullet in his shoulder. He was treated at Sydney Hospital, but, after refusing to state how he met with his injury, he left the institution.

He went to the home of James Devine and his wife, Matilda Devine, at Maroubra, and it was outside this house that further shooting took place during the first hour of yesterday morning.

At about 12.30 a.m., alarmed residents of the neighbourhood of Long Bay Road and Torrington Road, Maroubra, informed the Daceyville police that volleys of shots were being fired in the locality Sergeant White and Constables Harper, Head, and Dumack hurried to the intersection. They discovered Gaffney lying in a large pool of blood on the footpath outside a house situated on the corner block. He was unconscious.

While Constable Dumack was summoning an ambulance, Sergeant White found Tomlinson lying some distance away with his right forearm shattered. The Eastern Suburbs Ambulance arrived shortly afterwards and conveyed the two injured men to St Vincent's Hospital. It was found that Gaffney had been shot through the side, the bullet passing through both lungs.

Those concerned in the affrays were extremely reticent, but the police have ascertained that after Green left Sydney Hospital he was accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. James Devine with whom he boards, to their home at Maroubra.

The three people were discussing the first shooting when they heard a car pull up outside the house, and a man shout to them, "Come outside". Devine seized a military service rifle, which he had borrowed, and went to the front door. He told the police that he saw four or five men standing beside a taxi-cab, that he warned them against attempting to come into the house, and that when he saw them trying to climb the fence he fired at them. He saw one man stagger.

A number of other shots were fired, and another man fell to the ground. The remaining two or three men jumped into the waiting taxi and drove off at a furious speed.

Devine said that several of the bullets fired at him narrowly missed hitting him. He fired in self defence, he said.

The police believe that the men who drove to the house in the taxi were concerned in the affray at East Sydney, and were again seeking Green. An automatic pistol which was fully loaded, and had not been fired for some time, was found on the ground near where Gaffney was lying.

Devine was arrested by the police. A search is being made for the other men who were in the taxi also.

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'Gaffney, George Leonard (Gunman) (1904–1929)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 26 May 2024.

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