Author(s): Vikki Petraitis
Once a copper, always a copper. At least that’s how it seems for Brian ‘The Skull’ Murphy, long-retired but sought out by a trail of journalists and cops who regularly beat a path to his door. Once known as Australia’s toughest cop, The Skull was both charged with manslaughter (and acquitted), then awarded a Valour Award for bravery in the line of duty. It is these two sides to the complex man that intrigue audiences to this day.
A non-drinking, Catholic family man, The Skull didn’t fit the 1950s police mould and often found himself on the outer among his colleagues. Dodging crooks and corruption on both sides of the thin blue line, The Skull carefully cultivated a reputation for being a ‘mad bastard’. Over 40 men felt the sting of his bullets, and many more felt the sting of his fists.
But behind Australia’s toughest cop lay a personal secret of sexual abuse which Murphy shares publicly for the first time, in the hope that it will help others. This abuse formed the kind of police officer he later became – tough on the bad guys, but fiercely protective towards victims.
Once a Copper explores the many facets of The Skull’s story. Starting on the mean streets of South Melbourne, to his early years as a policeman, then his fight against police corruption. No one was off-limits to Skull Murphy who used his street smarts to outwit the wiliest of crooks. He formed enemies of an epic nature – among them was Great Bookie Robber, Ray ‘Chuck’ Bennett. Indeed, when Bennett was gunned down in broad daylight, Murphy was an early suspect (he swears he was nowhere near the Magistrates’ Court that day). Notorious hitman, Christopher Dale Flannery, once had The Skull in his sights, as did the infamous Painters and Dockers. He wore his unpredictability like a shield of steel, and courted unlikely informers like killer, Dennis Allen.
Much has been written about The Skull’s escapades, but few have explored the method behind the madness.
Vikki Petraitis has been writing crime books for nearly two decades. Her book on Frankston serial killer, Paul Denyer has become a classic in the genre.
Above all else, Vikki is known for the human side to her stories. She asks the questions: why do people do what they do? How do people cope when they are victims of crime, or the loved ones left behind? What is the human cost when people choose the wrong path?
“This book captures the gritty reality of the life of Brian ‘The Skull’ Murphy, almost the last of the ‘old school’ coppers. The legend of ‘The Skull’ lives on in this unique book.”
–Robin Bowles, award-winning true crime writer, Australia’s True Crime Queen
“A very compelling insight into the [Victorian] Police Force of yesterday … I kept thinking of what Winston Churchill said in the British Parliament: The opposition occupies the benches in front of you, but the enemy sits behind you.””
–Les Twentyman; National youth advocate