CRIMINALS could probably hear the faint torturous screams of their inmates echoing through cold, crumbling prison walls as they were hung among the cells.
Pentridge Prison, which closed in 1997, housed some of Victoria’s most notorious criminals, including Melbourne underworld figure Carl Williams and members of the Kelly Gang.
Graeme Alford, a former Pentridge inmate, told the Herald Sun it wasn’t an area for the faint-hearted.
“The first couple of weeks I was in Pentridge were really unnerving,” he said.
“D Division wasn’t a great place because people were on remand, so they hadn’t been sentenced, and you had a lot of people who couldn’t handle it.”
Alford said a prisoner would commit suicide once a month.
“At night you would often hear guys yelling and screaming, maybe withdrawing from drugs or whatever,” the former embezzler and armed robber said.
The D Division, in the heritage-listed jail, was a place where Ronald Ryan and Mark ‘Chopper’ Read served parts of their sentences.
Ryan was found guilty of murdering prison guard George Hodson and was the last person to be legally executed in Australia in 1967.
He became a notorious criminal after he planned a great escape from the prison when he discovered his wife was seeking a divorce.
In December 1965, Ryan and a fellow prisoner, Peter Walker, scaled a 5m wall with help from two wooden benches, a blanket and a hook.
They were then caught by prison warder Helmut Lange but the pair overpowered him, stuck a rifle into his back and demanded he open the prison gate.
While on the run the prisoners robbed a bank in Ormond.
They were recaptured 19 days after escaping, when police received a tip-off about their whereabouts.
In the hours before Ryan was executed, he scribed a noted on some toilet roll, one to authorities protesting his innocence and one to his daughter saying his conscience was clear.
Pentridge Prison walls also smothered Gregory John “Bluey” Brazel, described as one of the prison’s most vicious and manipulative inmates. He is serving three life sentences for murdering prostitutes Sharon Taylor and Roslyn Hayward 26 years ago and gift store owner Mildred Hanmer in 1982. He will be eligible for parole in just four years time.
The cruel crim also conned an old lady into depositing $30,000 into a TAB telephone betting account, stabbed three prisoners and assaulted police and prison officers. Prisoners were kept in their cells 23 hours a day and the Herald Sun reported the shocking tales of former chaplain Peter Norden. “One of the first experiences I had when I visited in 1976 was meeting a 17-year-old who had been raped the night before in one of the dormitories. Now that was a very significant experience, a shocking experience, for me,” he said. “In many ways the chaplain was the only person in the place that could be trusted because the prisoners did not trust one another, they didn’t trust staff and they didn’t trust those employed by the prison service because everything would be used against them.”
Pentridge Prison is one of the most haunted in Australia, with the “ghost” of Chopper Read said to be lurking in the prison shadows.
During a ghost tour, a group of Pentridge Prison visitors claimed they heard the voice of Mark ‘Chopper’ Read tormenting them. Read was depraved, beyond robbing drug dealers and tormenting underworld figures, he also convinced a fellow inmate to cut off both his ears to help Read escape the H Division, which protected high security prisoners and disciplined them. It is also believed the brutal crim used bolt cutters and blowtorches to amputate the toes of his victims. He died from liver cancer in a Melbourne hospital.
A tour guide once said there was a loud bellow coming from Read’s cell in the D Division. “We had a group of lawyers on the tour and suddenly from the dark end of the cell we heard an incredibly loud and aggressive voice yell ‘get out’,” “It echoed through the entire building and we just sort of froze, it was just such a shock to me.” They even called police and security to search the D Division, where 11 prisoners were hanged. “It’s a sad and scary place,” he said.