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A school for serial killers

By Bernie Matthews - posted Friday, 26 May 2006

“Reigning in Hell”, screened on ABC Four Corners on May 22, revealed how the Aryan Brotherhood formed inside America’s San Quentin prison during the racially turbulent 1960s to protect white prisoners inside US prisons.

Over the next 40 years the prison gang emerged as a sophisticated criminal network, both inside and outside prison, dealing in drugs, extortion, robbery, murder, gambling and prostitution. Australia’s eagerness to follow American trends has also created similar prison gangs here that have been allowed to evolve under the cloak of secrecy that pervades most Australian prisons.

In Queensland s100 of The Corrective Services Act 2000 is explicit when it forbids media access to the state’s tax-payer-funded prison system.


Journalists who have been ensnared in the legislative censorship trap include former Courier-Mail journalist Ella Riggert, former Sunday Mail journalist Lou Robson, Channel Nine 9 reporter Margueritte Rossi and Sydney documentary-maker and former ABC Media Watch researcher, Anne Delaney. All were charged under the restrictive censorship legislation enshrined in the Queensland Corrective Services Act and unceremoniously hauled before Queensland courts for doing their job - enforcing the public’s right to know.

The exclusion of media access and lack of transparency has resulted in sanitised media releases from the Queensland Department of Corrective Services and its minister. Any information that could be regarded as politically sensitive is culled from those releases and the public never hears about it.

This situation has allowed Queensland’s prison system to secretly foster the emergence of a phenomenon I term “the prison serial killer”. It is an emerging phenomenon I have watched and studied over the past nine years. And it is a phenomenon that portends dire consequences for society as a whole, on par with the evolution of the Aryan Brotherhood in America.

The evolution of the Queensland prison serial killer had its beginnings on March 24, 1993 when 29-year-old armed robber and prison enforcer, Bart Hans Vosmaer, was murdered inside the gym at the Sir David Longland Correctional Centre.

Rumours of Vasmaer’s impending demise had been circulating within the prison days before his murder. Those rumours compelled the SDL CC prison guard in charge of the gym to take sick leave on the day of the murder and inadvertently allow the murder to occur in an area where there should have been custodial supervision and presence. There was none on March 24, 1993 and the murder occurred free of any intervention by prison guards.

Vosmaer’s death spawned the “Angry Gang”, a prison gang of young men who had graduated through Queensland’s juvenile institutions and banded together for self preservation within Queensland’s maximum security prisons.


Two members of the gang, Lee Garrett and Jason “Waxy” Nixon, pleaded guilty to Vosmaer’s murder and received life sentences. Garrett and Nixon were previously catapulted into public prominence in 1991 when they escaped with Harry McSweeney after crashing a garbage truck through the main gates at Boggo Road Jail. Nixon did a repeat performance in 1997 when he and three others escaped with Brenden Abbott from SDL CC. He was recaptured a short time later and was confined with the Maximum Security Unit at Woodford prison.

The Angry Gang multiplied and gradually took control of the drug, gambling and extortion rackets inside Queensland prisons. Young prisoners eager to enhance their prison reputations and cloak themselves with the prison gang’s protective mantle queued for membership. Among those were Mark Day and Andrew “Mugwah” Kranz. Both men had graduated through the Queensland juvenile justice system and were imprisoned for crimes of violence. They were the first of the Queensland prison serial killers.

Day earned admission to the gang with his 1994 conviction for the prison murder of Dung Van Nguyen at Mareeba CC. Nguyen was stabbed with a screwdriver and a pitchfork blade after he failed to pay nine packets of White Ox tobacco for a gambling debt.

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About the Author

Bernie Matthews is a convicted bank robber and prison escapee who has served time for armed robbery and prison escapes in NSW (1969-1980) and Queensland (1996-2000). He is now a journalist. He is the author of Intractable published by Pan Macmillan in November 2006.

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