WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW
An abandoned abortion clinic, a freak fatality and blood spatter spread through a well-kept empty home – these eerie images capture a glimpse of Sydney’s underworld in the early 20th century.
The haunting archived photographs give an insight into what life was like through the eyes of police in Australia’s largest city during the first decades of last century.
It was a violent time in Sydney’s history, between two world wars, when unemployment was high and respect for the law among many was low.
Cocaine was sold over the counter at chemists and used by dentists but back-alley dealers flourished as well. Bars and pubs were ordered to close at 6pm but ‘sly grog’ joints traded outside legal hours.
Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Woolloomooloo and Kings Cross became crime war zones as ‘razor gangs’ fought to take over inner-city suburbs in the 1920s and 1930s.
Razor gang leaders Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh went head-to-head to assume control over the vice trades.
Pitched battles such as 1929’s ‘Battle of Blood Alley’ in Kings Cross – a 30 minute brawl between two rival gangs armed with guns, razors and clubs – terrified the populace.
The bustling streets of the inner-city we know now filled with cafes and hipster bars is shown in these startling photographs as the scene of murders, backyard abortion clinics and mysterious fires.
A man died at at the end of an alley of a Sydney suburb in the late 1930s. The corpse was found propped up with a bottle next to the dead man and his hat still on
A rare image of an illegal abortion clinic in the late 1930s. It shows a room fitted with a single bed, chair and dresser. The dresser has a bottle on top and various other utensils for surgery
Robbers damaged these safes in a commercial building in the late 1930s. While an attempt has been made to open the safes, which are covered in fingerprint dust, a filing cabinet remains untouched
Claud Tozer (pictured), was a well-known GP on Sydney’s north shore. He was shot in the back of the head by his lover in 1920. His lover had gone to visit Tozer to end their affair while under the influence of a narcotic. She shot the doctor and herself
A driver lost control of their vehicle and drove through an overpass barricade, landing on top of a wire covering over a set of train tracks, then coming to rest against a wall
A car is destroyed on the dimly-lit Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1947 after a major accident, the cause of which is unknown
The Strand Arcade in the central business district was left in ruins after a fire ran through the popular shopping spot
A man was found dead in a vacant lot in unknown circumstances in 1933. The image shows dried blood across the dead man’s face and his body limp on the grass. An officer looks over the body as a crowd of people gathers to observe the grim scene
A car ploughed into a shopfront at night in the early 1940s on Liverpool Street. Onlookers including a group of sailors inspect the damage
A female murder victim died with her hand draped over her single bed at an apartment block. Her white pillow is covered in blood and her chest appears to be bloodied
The scene of what is believed to have been a domestic confrontation in which there was a violent struggle. Blood spatter covers the dining room’s white door
A passerby was killed by falling debris after an awning collapsed in a Sydney suburb. A boy stands by the rubble while a man to the left of the image walks by
Crowds flocked to the scene when a coal truck and tram collided. Men work to put the overturned truck back on it wheels
The contents of a coal truck is sprawled across the tracks of a tram line after the truck and a tramr collided. Onlookers examine the damage
Four men stand at the Town Hall train station air raid shelter. One man is covered in soot while another smokes a cigarette staring at the camera
A man’s hat rests near his pillow after he was killed at an unidentified crime scene in the early to mid 1940s. Blood has drenched the white bedding and dripped onto the floor
A body rests across a sandy beach-like track in an unknown location. A group of suited detectives huddles together examining the scene
Police watch closely from an elevated area for illegal ticket sellers – or scalpers – on a busy Sydney street
An accident photographed by police in the early 1940s. A car has been pushed onto its driver’s side and stuck between a truck and a brick wall
A glimpse into the kitchen of a home where a murder took place at Hurlstone Park. Everyday utensils hang from the wall
A taxi which hit and killed a pedestrian on a dimly-lit road on Broadway. The fatality happened near the corner of City Road in 1948
A seemingly quiet Liverpool Street near the corner of Riley Street at Darlinghurst in 1936. Darlinghurst was home to a turf war between razor gangs in the 1920s and 1930s
Detectives wearing suits, coats and hats cover their faces with handkerchiefs in this picture taken in 1933
The interior of a Sydney home is shown complete with silk pillows, chairs and a piano in this unknown crime scene
A detective at the scene of an inner-city taxi crash in 1946. The bonnet of the vehicle has been badly dented
A street scene in the late 1940s shows a truck parked in the middle of an alley with a detective and uniformed officer nearby
A room has been torn apart in an unknown crime scene from the late 1930s. Pillows, blankets and clothes have been thrown across the room