2017 Reviews · Australian · crime · non-fiction · true crime

Book Review: Getting Away With Murder by Duncan McNab

Title: Getting Away With Murdergetting away small

Author:  Duncan McNab

Published: January 30th 2017

Publisher: Penguin Random House Books Australia

Pages: 320

Genres:  Non Fiction,  True Crime

RRP: $34.99

Sydney’s shame: Up to 80 men murdered, 30 cases remain unsolved.

From 1977 to the end of 1986, Duncan McNab was a member of the NSW Police Force. Most of his service was in criminal investigation. The many unsolved deaths and disappearances of young gay men are the crimes that continue to haunt him.

Around 80 men died or disappeared in NSW from the late 70s to early 90s during an epidemic of gay-hate crimes. The line between a vicious assault and murder is a slender one and this was a time of brutal attacks on gay men, featuring gangs of young thugs like the ‘Parkside Killers’ and ‘Bondi Boys’, who took to the growing gay rights community with fists and feet.

Even more troubling are incidents in which gay men disappeared and have never been found, or where deaths were initially dismissed by the NSW Police as either misadventure or suicide. We now know that a number of these men were hunted down by gangs and thrown over beachside cliffs near the nation’s top tourist spots.

Investigation of crimes against gay men wasn’t always high on the list of priorities for the police and over twenty years later they are still slow to come to grips with their own dismal track record. The families of the victims, and some journalists, have not given up and continue to push the NSW Police Force for more answers.

This book is the story of a unique time in our history when social change, politics, devastating disease and police culture collided, and you could literally get away with murder. 

My review:

Former NSW police officer Duncan McNab opens up the raw truth to a sorrowful chapter in Australia’s past. From the late 1970’s, through to the 1990’s, a spate of crimes occurred striking the heart of the gay community. McNab’s informative book, Getting Away With Murder, provides a comprehensive picture of the unsolved deaths and incorrectly labelled suicides through McNab’s in-depth investigations.

Duncan McNab places specific attention in his latest book, Getting Away With Murder, to around 80 different cases of NSW based men who sadly died or simply vanished, the suspected victims of gay hate crimes. These individual cases ranged in severity. Some were murdered, some died in circumstances that alluded to suicide, while others were callously bashed by gangs that deliberately targeted gay men. McNab also works to draw out attention to the sheer volume of disappearances related directly to gay men. Sadly, many of the cases were not appropriately investigated by the NSW police force. As a result, they were mishandled; a final ruling of suicide or misadventure often attached to the case. For the devastated families left behind by these unnecessary crimes, Duncan McNab works to draw renewed attention to their loved ones cases. It is a process that reveals negligence and reflects back on Australia’s most recent past, a time defined by significant social change, political upheaval and fear for public health with the onset of AIDS. Most of all, McNab exposes the lax conditions that made it possible for these heinous crimes to take place.

Duncan McNab’s book, Getting Away With Murder, is a scathing account detailing a surprising number inconsequential deaths and crimes that occurred in Australia’s not too distant past. The cases are surprising to me, as the lack of police interest and investigation attached to these incidents was utterly appalling. In some individual cases, it was the police themselves who were involved in the beatings or assaults of gay men. This really makes for a sorrowful and embarrassing chapter in the NSW police history.

McNab sets a stark scene in Getting Away With Murder. He adequately describes the social conditions that gave rise to these gay hate crimes. McNab provides the reader with an insider’s view into the gangs that existed, the hate that existed towards to gay community and the widespread fear that occurred once AIDS was discovered. The political atmosphere in Australia also provided fuel for these hate crimes to arise. All these factors are brought to the table in a deeply honest and factual point of view.

Getting Away With Murder is presented cleanly and is wholly representative of the subject matter in which it is focussed on. McNab carefully catalogues a range of crimes from murder, disappearances, abductions, to beatings, assaults and gang attacks. Perspectives are drawn from a variety of sources, from eye-witness statements by former police personnel, impact statements from families and loved ones of the victims in question, as well as the moving accounts of survivors of some of the attacks. I will warn you, some of these cases do not make for an easy read and this is a book that may induce feelings of distress.

Getting Away With Murder offers the reader a balanced insight into NSW’s history, a history where the conditions in the community gave rise to homophobic attacks, which were exacerbated by police corruption. What I gleaned from Duncan McNab’s book was its ability to give a voice to those who were murdered, simply vanished into thin affair or were the victim of an attack. Whatever the situation, clearly the impact has been felt heavily by those families that have been ripped apart by one of these tragedies. Hopefully the release of books such as Getting Away With Murder will serve to bring about a change in attitude, induce reflection and work to ensure these dreadful acts of violence are lost in the past.

Getting Away With Murder by Duncan McNab was published on January 30th 2017 by Penguin Random House Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Getting Away With Murder, Duncan McNab, visit here.


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