Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Meet William 'Big Bill' MacKay

MacKay in 1932
WJ MacKay began his career in the Scottish police force before migrating to Australia and joining the New South Wales police force in 1910.

He climbed the ranks in the NSW police force quickly, in part due to his role in stamping out the notorious Darlinghurst razor gangs in the 1920s and became the Chief of the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) in 1928.

He is also remembered for his role at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. Francis de Groot, a member of the right-wing paramilitary organisation, the New Guard, attempted to upstage the NSW Premier’s official opening of the bridge, by riding in on a horse to cut the ribbon himself. MacKay tackled the man off his horse and arrested him.

MacKay became NSW Police Commissioner in 1935. He was dogged by accusations of incompetence and corruption in the force, particularly by tabloid newspaper The Truth, which ran a series about the NSW police department’s growing list of unsolved crimes, including the Pyjama Girl.

MacKay was well-versed in the art of ‘verballing’ or verbal intimidation. It’s quite likely that while interrogating Antonio Agostini, he implied that if Agostini were to confess, he could avoid the gallows.   

MacKay suffered ill-health in his later years, but remained NSW police commissioner until he died suddenly, in 1948, while entertaining colleagues. He was 63.

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