Books Notorious Australian Criminal Bertie Kidd sets the record straight in new book By Grant Titmus | March 11, 2020 | There have been several “versions” written of the role one of Australia’s most notorious criminals Robert ‘Bertie’ Kidd played in hundreds of crimes around the country. The problem for Kidd is that some of the criminals may not have given an accurate account of what actually happened. Kidd, who is now 86, has collaborated with author Simon Griffin to write a no-holds barred account of Kidd’s life as he saw it. For more than half a century Kidd has been infamous to several generations of crooks and cops. He was not a one-trick pony and his crimes varied from being a master safe breaker, forger of currency, fixer of races and a standover man once described by police as “a nasty, vicious and violent criminal”. Kidd was a suspect in many more crimes than those for which he was jailed. He was also acquitted 19 times. There is so much to Kidd’s story that it has been split into three books. The first, The Audacious Kidd, was released late last year and details his life until his jailing in 1971. The second and third books, The Notorious Kidd and The Infamous Kidd, will be released later this year. The former chronicles from when Kidd was sent to Pentridge, where he changed H division’s draconian disciplinary rules by challenging everyone and everything. He swore and threatened retaliation for any brutal punishment he met. This caused the then Minister of Prisons Ian Smith to go on record saying that Kidd was a “damned pest”. Kidd will have been out of jail for two years in May and likes to spend most of his time now in the relevant anonymity of Launceston. Author Simon Griffin worked on Kidd’s story when Kidd was incarcerated in the South Coast Correctional Centre in Nowra. Due to the sensitive nature of the material, the book has been written under a pseudonym. “Bertie would give me a page or two of dot points and I would use that to write a chapter,” says Griffin. “I would give him five chapters at a time to review and approve or change as he saw fit. After a two-year process The Audacious Kidd was finished; however, due to Bertie being on parole it took over another year to print.” The material confronting Griffin has been colourful, to say the least. “A friend of Bertie’s contacted me and after a short time I started working with Bertie on his role in a chemical factory robbery, for which he was jailed in 1997: for nine years,” continues Griffin. “I could understand why some people were terrified of him, but to me he has always appeared to be genuine, friendly and has acted as a gentleman. “He was out the back of a warehouse looking for chemicals and a car came flying up to him. A guy hopped out while it was still moving and began shooting. “He was a policeman, although Bertie says he never identified himself at the time. Bertie thought it was a bikie due to the way he was dressed. “Anyway, after the policeman unloaded his Glock, Bertie returned fire with a six-shot 357 magnum and hit the bloke in the wrist after the bullet ricocheted off a metal object. “By then other plain clothes police, who heard the gunfire, had arrived and joined in the gun fight. One policeman, who had a machine gun, let two bursts go and a sniper missed as well. “Kidd believes the only reason they missed is due to them sprinting a hundred metres after hearing the initial gunfire and [they] would have been gasping for breath.” Subsequent charges were laid by NSW prosecutors over previously committed violent home invasions and robberies during the mid-1990s in the exclusive Sydney suburbs of Manly and Burraneer Bay. This led to Kidd’s 21-year sentence. Griffin says Kidd got away with so much “because he says he had so many cops and lawyers on his side – paid, of course”. “I found Bertie to be likeable and I could easily understand how he managed to have friends in high places from his affable nature. A younger Bertie Kidd, with his dog. “He says he had high-profile solicitors, seasoned detectives and criminals all happy to work with him.” There was a certain menace, as well, however. “I could understand why some people were terrified of him, but to me he has always appeared to be genuine, friendly and has acted as a gentleman. “The books are not about glorifying crime and spending nearly a third of your life behind bars. But so much has been written about Bertie in multiple books that is not true. He wants to set the record straight.” Kidd spent 27 years in prison during three major stints. He was due for release in August 2015, but received considerable publicity when then Immigration Minister Peter Dutton wanted Kidd deported back to his English birthplace the minute he stepped outside of jail. Kidd fought the deportation order and won. He was finally released in May 2018. Kidd made “well into the millions of dollars” pulling off hundreds of crimes. He broke into countless bank safes, staged major robberies and was the major instigator of the Fine Cotton race-fixing fiasco. He first came to police attention in the 1960s, shortly after the introduction of decimal currency. He financed the forgery of millions of dollars’ worth of $10 notes which circulated for years. He first came to police attention in the 1960s, shortly after the introduction of decimal currency. He financed the forgery of millions of dollars’ worth of $10 notes which circulated for years. His most audacious – albeit unsuccessful – known crime is the “great plane robbery”. In 1982, after at least two dry runs, he and several associates hid inside large wooden crates on a flight carrying $1 million in Reserve Bank cash to regional banks in Queensland. The scheme came unstuck when the hand of one of his accomplices was spotted outside a crate in Rockhampton. There was also a period in the early 90s where Kidd was implicated in two murders. On May 20, 1991, underworld figure Roy Thurgar was shot in the head while sitting in his car. The weapon was later identified as the sawn-off shotgun used by Kidd in a series of Sydney home invasions. And on June 12, 1992, underworld figure and former boxer Des Lewis was shot dead outside his Bondi Junction home. The murder weapon was later identified as also belonging to Kidd. The Audacious Kidd is out now in select bookstores through Fin Press ($21.95-$34.95). Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn Email About the Author: Grant Titmus Grant Titmus is books editor at Daily Review.