S1E1  Whiskey Au Go Go – 50th Anniversary: Trouble Brewing 

Mar 1, 2023 | Crime Files | 0 comments

Whiskey Au Go Go - 50th Anniversary: Trouble Brewing

Presenter: Jack Sim, Author and Director Crime Tours Australia 

Special guest:  Paul Tully, Historical Contributor


There were a series of incidents prior to the infamous firebombing of the Whiskey Au Go Go in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley which have become forgotten half a century later. It did not just happen.

In this episode Murder Trails author and publisher Jack Sim, and special guest Paul Tully, discuss these crimes, what Brisbane was like in 1973 referencing original newspaper articles and sources from the time. 

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Fifty years ago on 8 March 1973 Brisbane, Queensland’s worst mass murder took place in well-known Fortitude Valley, at the time Australia’s worst act of mass-murder – eclipsed only by Martin Bryant’s terrible act at Port Arthur in Tasmania. Fifteen people – 10 men, 5 women died in the Valley Inferno. They came from across Queensland and ranged in age from 15 to 50 years of age. It stunned the entire nation and the crime has haunted Brisbane for half a century.

Described as a big country town Brisbane on Australia’s eastern coast was the laid-back capital of the Sunshine State. At night locals let their hair down at various clubs in Brisbane’s CBD and Fortitude Valley.

The bombing of the Whiskey Au Go Go destroyed the innocence of the River-City bringing the violence of southern states, and cities like Sydney and Melbourne to the streets of the northern capital. At the time the newspapers were full of stories about IRA bombings, literally a world away. However, trouble was brewing… Brisbane’s nightclub scene was becoming more violent. Legendary journalist Brian “The Eagle” Bolton published a series of frontpage stories in the popular Sunday Sun newspaper in which he revealed the shocking claim that southern criminals were

muscling in on the Queensland nightclub scene. The plan, given to Bolton by a confidential criminal source, was that the owners of Brisbane clubs were in fear of their lives. They were being threatened into paying protection money – to protect them from having their businesses burned. The focus seemed to be on two of Brisbane’s most popular clubs: Chequers Nightclub in Elizabeth Street in the City – Queensland’s fanciest club patronised by the social set of the state, and the popular Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub in the Valley.

In January 1973 just a month earlier the car of the acting manager of the Whiskey Au Go Go Night Club on St Paul’s Terrace was firebombed in the street outside the club. Then Alice’s Café in Brunswick Street – belonging to John Hannay, former manager of the Whiskey Au Go Go – was burnt down. He fled to North Queensland. Then Torino’s Nightclub was set alight 11 days before the Whiskey Au Go Go would explode in flames.

Senior police publicly doubted that such a scenario was real and threw shade on the claims in the newspapers. They were either naïve, stupid or in on the joke …

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S1E1  Whiskey Au Go Go - 50th Anniversary: Trouble Brewing