Retired gangster Graham ‘Abo’ Henry thought he was Spanish but has learnt he is Aboriginal
A swarthy Sydney criminal whose nickname since childhood has been ‘Abo’ but who believed his ancestors were Spanish has learnt he is in fact Aboriginal.
Graham Henry, among the most feared underworld figures in Australia in his heyday, has been called ‘Abo’ by crooks and cops for more than half a century.
The term, an offensive way to describe Aborgines, was even the main title of Henry’s 2005 memoir about his life and crimes published by ABC Books.
For decades Henry unwittingly told friends and family he had Spanish ancestry on his paternal side and the nickname came from his dark looks.
The 68-year-old retired gangster has now taken to Facebook to reveal his father was indigenous, a family secret kept from him since childhood.
‘Well funny how life turns out sometimes,’ Henry wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. ‘For nearly all my life I thought I had Spanish blood in me.
‘But when my sister died a few years ago she told me my real father was Aboriginal.’
Henry was a prolific armed robber and drug distributor for 25 years from the 1970s and is most notorious for his criminal partnership with convicted killer Neddy Smith.
Graham Henry has taken to Facebook to reveal his real father was indigenous, a family secret kept from him since childhood. ‘Well, funny how life turns out sometimes,’ Henry wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. ‘For nearly all my life I thought I had Spanish blood in me’
Graham Henry (left) is best known for his criminal partnership with Neddy Smith (right), who is serving life in jail for two underworld murders. The two criminal enforcers are pictured in jail
The pair’s exploits featured in the acclaimed 1995 ABC television drama series Blue Murder in which Henry was played by Peter Phelps.
That program portrayed Smith and Henry’s days running amok across Sydney and their relationships with corrupt police including detective Roger Rogerson.
Together Henry and Smith made millions of dollars pulling off payroll robberies and dealing heroin while punching and shooting their way through the city’s streets.
The duo, who rampaged from The Rocks through to Alexandria on fearsome pub crawls, claimed to have been given a ‘green light’ by senior police to do as they pleased.
Henry was so wild on the drink he once stabbed a police prosecutor outside the Lord Wolseley Hotel in Ultimo, and while serving a sentence at Cessnock prison was shot at during a day out on work release.
All the while he wore a nickname he didn’t originally like but eventually got used to.
Henry’s criminal exploits with Neddy Smith featured in the 1995 television drama series Blue Murder. Pictured left to right are Gary Sweet playing hitman Chris Flannery, Peter Phelps as Henry, Richard Roxburgh as detective Roger Rogerson and Tony Martin as Smith
Henry told Daily Mail Australia his friends started calling him Abo when he was about 14 because of his skin colour and physical features.
‘I was very dark back then,’ he said. ‘I had the skinny legs and the flat nose too.’
Abo: A Treacherous Life, written with Jay Prine, was published by ABC Books in 2005
Henry – who is physically imposing – didn’t look anything like his father, who was short and stocky, but for for many years did not know why.
He has now learnt his father was a man who lived in the Hurstville area and was descended from the Awabakal tribe of the New South Wales Hunter region.
His mother had a brief relationship with that Aboriginal man – whose identity Henry does not know – and gave birth to him in a private hospital, starting decades of family secrets.
‘When I look back now she probably did it to protect me,’ Henry said. ‘Aborigines weren’t much liked back then.’
The Facebook post revealing Henry’s Aboriginality has attracted more than 100 supportive comments including one from Australian boxing legend Jeff Fenech.
‘I love you just the way you are,’ the International Boxing Hall of Famer wrote.
Henry’s many Aboriginal friends posted reactions including ‘Welcome to the mob bra’, ‘Welcome to the tribe’ and ‘Good on you cuz always knew you was one of us.’
Graham ‘Abo’ Henry (left) is pictured at the funeral of fellow Sydney criminal Danny Landini in May last year. Fellow former gangster Phillip Player is pictured right. Landini was a prominent underworld figure from the 1970s onwards and an associate of crooks including Neddy Smith
The man who Henry thought until recently was his father was a troubled World War II veteran and violent alcoholic who bashed him and his mother mercilessly.
In his Facebook post Henry states before his older sister, who was the war veteran’s daughter, died a few years ago she told him his real father was Aboriginal.
‘I guess I always knew but it was a family secret,’ he wrote. ‘And now I understand why my father who raised me hated my guts and belted the daylights out of me and my mother, never my sister.
‘So after a life time of been nicknamed Abo, well it’s now officially true and I am now recognised by the Awabakal tribe as an Aboriginal man.
‘All my life my Koori friends told me I was one of them as they could see it in me.
Graham ‘Abo’ Henry revealed in this Facebook post on January 22 that despite believing for most of his life he had Spanish ancestry he is in fact Aboriginal. The post has attracted more than 140 positive comments from supporters including indigenous friends
‘Amazing when I look back at my life now and think about the way I stood on one leg with the other resting on my knee a real typical Aboriginal stance.’
Henry wrote that it was important for his descendants – three daughters, one son and six grandsons – to know their true history, which also included Welsh ancestry.
‘Anyway it won’t change my life I am what I am, but I am glad for my grandchildren to know their real heritage.’
‘There were so many little things that stood out when I was young about my real heritage, but I ignored it until now.
‘I wrote a book in 2005 and in that book I said I was not Aboriginal, but the truth is I AM and I am now recognised as being of Aboriginal blood along with a bit of Welsh bloodline from my real mother.’
Henry is one of the last men standing from Sydney’s gang wars of the 1980s. He is pictured right, with drinking companion Steve Moorhouse next to him facing the camera at the funeral of their friend, drug dealer Danny Landini. Henry said Landini was a ‘good old school crook’
Despite Henry being unaware until recently of his true ancestry it seems many of his friends had already worked it out.
‘Beautiful history Graham,’ one wrote. ‘I picked you years ago by your looks that you was Koori.’
Another wrote: ‘I must admit I always though you were a Koori. It’s good to know one’s heritage especially for the kids and grandkids.’
A third said ‘I never doubted it brother.’
Asked how he felt about the nickname Abo after learning he was Aboriginal, Henry said his Koori friends had always thought it was funny and he couldn’t change it.
‘It’s a bit late in life now,’ he said. ‘I don’t give a f***.’
Most of his real friends call him Graham anyway.
Tony Martin (left) as Neddy Smith and Peter Phelps as Graham Henry in Blue Murder. In this scene the pair tears up the Broadway Hotel in Sydney during a vicious Anzac Day pub brawl