In this riveting new book, Getting Away with Murder, Duncan McNab describes how from the late 1970s to the 1990s, 80 gay men died or disappeared in New South Wales, most the victims of gay hate crimes. Thirty of those cases remain unsolved, often on account of the refusal of police to investigate properly at the time for reasons of prejudice.
Journalist Rick Feneley broke this story some years ago in the Sydney Morning Herald (and worked on a documentary on the subject last year on SBS), but McNab’s decision to produce a book on the subject is worthy – an extraordinary and deeply disturbing chapter in the city’s dark history.
Despite Sydney’s long tradition of homophobia, it’s still a distressing record, given that this was the period when gay men were apparently achieving some sort of recognition and acceptance for the first time. Some others were threatened and upset by this, and reacted violently, and sadly, the growing openness created opportunities for killers.
It’s a salutary tale, especially as Sydney in this period is often portrayed as a sort of paradise on earth. A reminder of how life can be so different for people who share the same time and place.
This is an important book. Following his recent books on Roger Rogerson and the waterfront, productive ex-detective McNab is now contesting Clive Small’s crown as the leading contemporary chronicler of Sydney’s murky past.