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Terence Murray (Terry) Lewis (1928–2023)

by Matthew Condon and Michael McKenna

from Australian

Corrupt former Queensland police commissioner Terry Lewis has died.

Multiple sources late on Friday told The Weekend Australian that the disgraced police commissioner, who lost his knighthood and spent almost seven years in prison on 15 counts of corruption, had died in Brisbane, aged 95.

A source close to the family said that Lewis, who was suffering advanced dementia, had been “gravely ill”. He had been living with one of his daughters until he was transferred to a nursing home in recent years.

Sources said Lewis died on Friday afternoon, and his family was “too distressed” to talk.

Greg Early, Lewis’s long-time personal assistant, said on Friday night that his boss was “a good commissioner”.

“He did a lot for the Queensland Police Force,” Mr Early said. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”

But Lewis was convicted of corruption, overseeing a police service that became the focus of an inquiry headed by Tony Fitzgerald that unearthed a rotten culture within its ranks and in politics.

Lewis was appointed police commissioner in 1976 by then-premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and was stood down in 1987 by police minister Bill Gunn amid allegations of corruption. Two years after the Fitzgerald inquiry, he was charged with 23 counts of perjury, corruption, and forgery.

A District Court jury found he had accepted bribes totalling $700,000.

He never once admitted to any wrongdoing, let alone entrenched corruption, despite a jury of his peers finding him guilty of corruption and sending him to prison for a decade following his trial in 1991.

Later in life in interviews he threw suspicion on the behaviour of his fellow Rat Packers Tony Murphy and Glen Hallahan, but never exposed them as corrupt.

Many police and observers of that era were convinced that Lewis was the “patsy” for a corrupt system that infected almost every corner of Queensland life; that he was the “weak” member of the trio who fell for the trappings of high office, including a knighthood which was later stripped from him.

Into his 80s he was bright, convivial, had a good sense of ­humour and a brilliant memory. The death of his wife Hazel in 2009 was a serious personal blow to Lewis, and he often referred to her as “the perfect commissioner’s wife”.

Former Queensland police officer Jim Slade, who the Rat Pack tried to frame when he rejected corruption, told The Weekend Australian that Lewis oversaw a corrupt culture.

“In spite of claiming his innocence, Lewis brought institutionalised corruption from the Bischoff era of 1950s into his era of the 1980s as commissioner of the Queensland police force causing suffering misery, and pain for many in our community,’’ he said.

“His death doesn’t end the quest for the truth surrounding the extensive corruption that existed around the illicit drug industry rampant in Queensland in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s that wasn’t addressed by the Fitzgerald inquiry or the Fitzgerald-endorsed CJC.”

Lewis will be remembered fondly by some but not by the many police men and women whose ­careers were destroyed because of their unwillingness to go over to the “dark side”.

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Citation details

Matthew Condon and Michael McKenna, 'Lewis, Terence Murray (Terry) (1928–2023)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 May 2024.

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