Flinders Street Extension murder
By Luis Calleja
At 10.30pm on Wednesday, January 29, 1947, four gunshots echoed off the walls of the Flinders Street Extension. At this hour of the night, Docklands would have been deserted (marked on the left of photo).
Two men, Yueng Shing, captain of the ship S.S. Fort Abitibi, and local taxi driver, Albert Sydney Pack, had been shot. Shing was hit by two bullets which pierced his lung and heart; these wounds would soon prove to be fatal. Pack was hit once, but luckily managed to recover in hospital.
Four hours prior to the event, Shing had been gambling at a Fan Tan parlour in Chinatown. His massive winnings of £400, the modern equivalent of $28,500, had attracted the ire of the seedy underbelly of 1940s Melbourne, and for two weeks the police and detectives attempted to track down the perpetrators.
Two days after the shooting, the D24 Taxi Company, whose telephone number was one digit off the local police force’s, received three cryptic phone calls. The anonymous caller told the company that if police went to a certain hotel, the name of which was never published, they would find “three men and a woman in gold shoes.”
Allegedly, this group would provide information on the whereabouts and identity of the killers. The taxi company, upon receiving the call, immediately contacted the police who rushed to the hotel. Unfortunately for the detectives, the group was nowhere to be seen.
Another two days passed, and the police received another tip; the primary suspect was residing in a cafe in Fitzroy. Two police cars rushed to the location, stormed the cafe, and found their first suspect, Chan Kwan, a Chinese migrant from Singapore.
Police found him hiding in the walls of a shed behind the café covered in filth, with £56 in bloodied bills in his pockets. Kwan was in Melbourne to seek medical treatment for an injury he sustained whilst aiding Australian prisoners of war – the injury had turned cancerous. He was brought in by police for questioning and charged with murder and assault with intent to commit murder. Kwan was held in Pentridge Prison to await his trial.
However, Kwan was not the sole assailant, and his suspected abettor was still at large. After several days of investigation, the police received another tip that led them to arrest Chan Sin, a Singaporean labourer, who had ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. While giving evidence in court, Sin revealed that he had first met Chan Kwan just a few days prior to the murder.
He was unaware of Kwan’s possession of a firearm and was only present at the murder site as Kwan had asked him to “visit a friend” at the shipping yards. Sin initially refused but was dragged by Kwan into Albert Pack’s taxi where Yueng Shing was awaiting his journey home. The following is directly drawn from the testimony that Chan Sin delivered which convinced the jury of his innocence …
“As it [the car] went under a bridge”, Sin “heard Kwan’s gun clicking but thought something must have been wrong with the car.” Sin then “heard Kwan ask the driver to get into the back of the car, the driver had difficulty getting over and Sin helped him” then “Sin heard bullets pass his ear. [But] he could not see distinctly what was happening. After the shooting he chased Kwan for about a quarter of a mile and nearly caught him” however upon “seeing blood on Kwan’s hands” Sin retreated out of fear for his life, not seeing Kwan again. Upon the recounting of his story, as well as corroborating evidence from Albert Pack, the jury delivered a not guilty verdict upon Sin.
Chan Kwan’s presence in the court room was far less predictable than Sin’s. His testimony was largely incoherent. When questioned on why he was in the vehicle with Pack and Shing, Kwan responded that he was intending to purchase the vehicle and wanted to take it for a test drive. However, the vehicle was not for sale. While in the courtroom examining the evidence table with his attorney, Kwan identified an image of his father that had been placed in front of him.
Sources vary over the exact wording, but Kwan mumbled something to the tune of “I have disgraced you, Father” and proceeded to tear apart and consume the image of his father in the court room. After this stunt the hearing was adjourned for the day.
Kwan, seemingly overwhelmed by the prospect of a prison sentence, took his own life in his cell at Pentridge Prison on the morning of his next court session. He left a note proclaiming his innocence. It is likely that if he had attended the court session the jury would have handed down a guilty verdict.
However, this has left the case without a clear conviction, and it is still considered to be unsolved to this day. •