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The Nitkeeper. Nick Pelling’s runner

Dome’s entry, firming ever so slightly.

Two men positively identified the man labelled Keane as being in Melbourne four years before he was found dead. An illegal club employee, a nitkeeper for a baccarat school in 1944. The war at its peak in both Europe and the South West Pacific. Keane aged forty plus. Worked there for about ten weeks, not a big talker, no mention of an accent. Left without saying goodbye.

In a hurry.

Nitkeepers were called cockatoos in Sydney, they gave a whistled warning to the Two-Up rings. A fine job that was for a boy who knew the streets and alleyways of inner Sydney. No problem in spotting a patrolling copper, they all wore uniform. The only time a plain-clothes detective walked these back streets of East Sydney was at night

Two-Up was a working man’s game played in the sunshine. Baccarat was different. They had clubs. One door off the street, another at the top of the stairs with a peep-hole, then into the room. Women, cigars, cocaine, liquor, soft chairs around the baize. Plush. Money everywhere. Nobody ever just blew in.

Nitkeeper, good word that, it pictures somebody picking through their hair searching for the one nit making them itch. Nit keepers had the same itch when they watched the passers-by on the street outside their club.

The man labelled Keane had to know if the plain-clothes cop coming at him had a pair of handcuffs in his pocket or was wanting to get upstairs and into the game.

Know what I mean?

Keane had to know good cop from bad cop, cop being detective or higher, only they had the money to play regular baccarat. And a plain-clothes dick off the time-sheet with high-stakes gambling on his mind doesn’t stop to ask the nitkeeper if he passes muster.

Keane was connected.

And if the wrong cop got past him the consequences would be severe.

Perhaps they were.


Dome’s entry:

The missing Lonsdale Street nitkeeper…

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. At heart, I don’t buy into the idea that the Somerton Man was a completely “unknown man”. For example, between the time that he bought a train ticket and the time that he got on a bus, his plans had changed – he had new information.

    My best guess is that this new information came from a phone call to someone local, who said (something along the lines of) “I’m not in Henley Beach today, meet me in Glenelg instead”. Perhaps that was George (who was connected with both): it’s certainly not a terrible guess.

    And we now know that The Nurse knew who he was: so that’s probably two people who knew him. And doubtless many, many others did too, but (I suspect) chose not to say. We have to remember that Gerry Feltus isn’t an investigative journalist, but a retired policeman.

    But anyway, that whole Glenelg angle has been raked over so many times that all the topsoil has gone, it’s all just rocks. Whereas nobody seems to have explored the baccarat nitkeeper side at all yet.

    Just think: two prominent Melbourne baccarat gamblers. That’s pretty specific. Forty years later you’d say Kerry Packer without blinking, so anyone who knew about Melbourne baccarat gambling back then would have known exactly who they were. So what were their names?

    April 25, 2020
    • Two hours on Trove reading about baccarat dens in Sydney and Melbourne is visiting another world. Baccarat and sly grog dens in abundance, knifing shootings .. executions, leaving a body in a childrens playground in July 1947.
      The Coate’s murder shares a remarkable similarity to the Somerton Man, being described by the police as the ‘most baffling’ they had ever faced.

      April 26, 2020
      • Like a bolt from the blue … dude, that knife is a bloody shiv!

        April 26, 2020

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