Guess who’s coming to dinner? Gangsters at the Webb’s dinner table.
How involved was Charlie Webb with the older criminals who were part and parcel of his family? As a young man might he have marvelled at the toughness of his brother Roy’s father-in-law Joseph Gavey and his stories of wild times in Melbourne. Perhaps he met Gavey’s accomplice Charles Alsop, heard boozy tales of their criminal escapades with Squizzy Taylor. Hold-ups. Shootings. Armed robberies. Race fixing. Imagine Charlie and his brother Roy sitting at the Christmas table listening to those mug lairs who the more they drank the louder they became.
Melbourne criminals styled themselves on American gangsters in both appearance and breadth of interests, Taylor himself (on the left with crutches) was dapper little man who earned his income from armed robbery, prostitution, the sale of illegal liquor and cocaine, race-fixing, sly grog and protection rackets, he was also adept at fixing juries and as a result was rarely convicted.
How easy it would have been for young Charlie to succumb to their influence? We know as an older man he had a violent streak and liked to gamble, we also know two prominent baccarat players thought it was Charlie’s image in the Melbourne paper when they published the picture of ‘The Unknown Man.’
Identified by two men, both prominent players. They both said he was an un-talkative fellow who worked in the illegal club for 10 weeks before disappearing without leaving a word. Ten weeks, that’s plenty of time for a couple of regular players to see and remember Charlie Webb.
We know the man on the other end of the Adelaide phone number found on the back cover of Webb’s ROK had a criminal background and was on record as warning a woman he had defrauded not to go to the police about an un-named Melbourne business partner of his because ” he’s not the kind of person you go to the police about.”
This same man only a recent arrival in Adelaide as well and who appeared to have had little trouble in installing himself in the motor trade, handling individual car sales for the modern day equivalent of between $40,000 to $50,000 – and in those days not many in that particular business were willing to wait four days for a cheque to clear.
The motor vehicle business by all accounts was ripe for the picking post-war and here’s Charlie arriving in town with a variety of tools in his suitcase that were well suited for the business of appropriating somebody else’s locked vehicle.
Header pic is Squizzy Taylor in October 1922, five years before the deadly shoot-out in Carlton, arriving in court on crutches after being shot in the leg in an earlier incident (Photo: HWT library).
“Far from the sharply dressed, big spending, ultra-salubrious, Great Gatsby crooks of Chicago, Melbourne crooks stuck to the crumbling, poverty stricken buildings and communities within the inner city. There was no real concern with empire building, but more an operational push to be rich, to maintain status, to squash rivals, and to get even with double-crossers.”
Getting even with double-crossers eh?