50 years ago: enter John Warren

The most powerful gangster ever killed in Sydney was casino boss Richard Reilly, gunned down by John Warren in June 1967. But the lead-up to that began on 22 April.

Woollahra moneylender Charles Rennerson was an old man who’d run out of patience with two men who owed him a lot of money and were not paying. He decided to have them killed, as an example to other debtors. The second would be Reilly, and the first was Claude Eldridge, also a figure in the illegal baccarat industry. Through a middle man, Rennerson  offered John Warren $8,000 to kill Eldridge. Warren was a small-time gangster with a  reputation for violence and several chips on his shoulder. He’d set up a casino in Liverpool but been forced by police to shut it down. He’d also tried to run a  casino in the Cross, but been driven out by Reilly himself.

On 22 April, Eldridge was visiting his mistress in Kurraba Road Neutral Bay. Warren had paid 50 pounds to have a rifle altered so it would fire like an automatic. He got associate Ray Brouggy to drive him across the Harbour Bridge, and when they reached Neutral Bay donned a mask of black glasses, big moustache, and large plastic nose. He shot Eldridge seven times with the rifle, but it did not fire as smoothly as he expected. On the way back across the bridge, he complained to Brouggy that he’d had to pull the trigger each time.

It makes you wonder which gunsmith had decided to rip off a hitman.

Warren then turned his attention to Reilly, and with his girlfriend Glory McGlinn began to follow him and plan his murder. This took two months – we will return to that in June.