Where there is a commodity as precious as gold, there is a possibility of fraud.
In June 1950 a twenty seven year old Melbourne man arrived in Kalgoolie hoping to do a bit of gold trading.
He put the word out and soon found himself being offered an ingot in a dimly lit hotel bar. It was almost too dark to get a good look at it, but he understood when the seller told him how important it was that the transaction was not noticed by other patrons. 😎
Was he worried about the possibility of the three pound bar being fake? Not at all, because it was reportedly still warm from the smelting process. He handed over ₤350, hoping to resell it to a contact in Adelaide for about ₤600. ₤250 profit….that was a decent sum for the times. Unfortunately the deal in Adelaide fell through and the disappointed young man headed back to his home in the Melbourne suburb of St. Kilda.
For peace of mind he decided to have the ingot tested by a metallurgist. A written guarantee would surely inspire confidence in prospective purchasers. However, the report came as a dreadful shock. He had spent his money on a lump of brass, which he was informed was ‘worth about sixpence’. Going to the police in hope of redress was not an option, because he was worried he would be charged with dealing in gold without a licence. In his disgust at being fleeced he sawed the brass bar in half and threw the pieces into the Yarra river outside the Mercantile Rowing Club.
Meanwhile, police in Perth had been investigating a small ring of fraudsters who had been working in Kalgoolie over a long period. They had finally managed to impound the moulds and other equipment used to make the brass fakes. Further digging revealed that one person who fell victim to the gang had been driving a car registered in Melbourne. If they could locate the bar he had bought it would be a huge help in convicting those responsible. They radioed Victorian detectives, who traced the man through the motor registration office. Yes, it was the 27 year old who had disposed of the vital evidence in the river by Princes Bridge.
A diver called Horace Dunnadge was employed to find the pieces that would match the mould in the fraud case.
Diver H. F. Dunnadge, who spent yesterday crawling about the bed of the Yarra on his hands and knees, is one Victorian who agrees with the phrase, ‘muddy Yarra’. ‘Gee, it’s cold down there,’ he said as he climbed out of the river and washed the mud from his hands. He has searched for seven hours. ‘You can’t see a thing, and when you move you stir the mud up. All you can do is feel your way around, flat out. I’ve had to sieve the mud through my fingers and scratch out every crevice between the rocks.’ The value of the ingot for which he was searching is only a few pence. The cost of the search will run into many pounds. (Daily News (Perth) 12 August 1950)
The search was abandoned the following day. It was concluded that the pieces of broken bar had sunk into the mud of the Yarra at a depth of about 20 feet and would never be found. Oh dear, I wonder how long this allowed the great gold fraud to continue?