The Whisky Au Go Go Fire was a fire in the Whisky Au Go Go nightclub located in a building on the corner of Amelia Street and St Pauls Terrace in Brisbane Australia’s Fortitude Valley in the early 1970s.On 8 March 1973, the Whisky Au Go Go was firebombed, resulting in the deaths of 15 patrons making it the worst mass murder in Australia at that time. The fire was started with the ignition of two nine-litre cans of petrol in the building’s foyer. After the Fire
James Richard Finch, 29, and John Andrew Stuart, 33, were arrested soon after the fire. During their court appearances they both loudly protested their innocence against evidence from Stuart’s brother Daniel and another witness that the two men had tried to enlist them in a campaign to become the “Mr Bigs” of the Brisbane nightclub protection racket.Both were convicted and sentenced, in October 1973, to life in prison. While in prison they continued to protest their innocence, fighting a protracted legal battle for release and also mutilating themselves to draw attention to their protest, including swallowing wire and Finch allowing Stuart to hack off one of his fingers.Stuart was found dead in his cell of Boggo Road Gaol after a six-day hunger strike in 1979.In 1986, Finch married terminally ill and wheelchair-bound Cheryl Cole.Finch won his battle for release in 1988, after almost 15 years in prison. As part of his parole conditions he was deported back to his birth country, England, from where he subsequently claimed in an interview that he and Stuart were guilty of deliberately starting the fire. He stated they were dressed in black like the Black September terrorists and the fire just went “whoosh” as it started.
Cole immediately returned to Australia, and divorced in 1991; she died in 2001. Boggo Road Gaol was decommissioned in 1992.(source)
This atrocity was no killing done in the name of Allah, this was no death for a liberation cause, this was a brutal and cruel killing done in the name of greed and the two men who did it and who were convicted of this crime managed to convince a large number of people that they were “innocent” one poor foolish woman even married Finch in Jail. I don’t actually remember much about the bombing its self but I do remember the campaign to free Finch and the poor sad woman who became the face of the campaign.
To my shame I even argued that he was innocent; because I believed it at the time, like so many other idealists I thought that I was fighting for the cause of justice; to free an innocent man “fitted up” by the “filth”. Like so many others I was very shaken when Finch finally admitted that he was guilty of causing the death of those fifteen people. I could not come out of that experience with out rethinking the concepts of truth and lies and just how good well intentioned people can be enlisted in to the serving the cause of evil. I am still haunted by the thought that I was only one of many people so diligently paving the road to hell with our good intentions.
I was very much of the left in those days and my attitude to the police and the legal system was that it was an instrument of the state that existed only to oppress the masses. I even had some first hand experience of just how unprincipled individual police men could be, but the details of that are a story for another day.
The revelation that Finch’s claims of innocence were just an elaborate deception changed the way that I saw the law, I knew that it was not perfect but I also learned that there are an awful lot of useful idiots who, for all of the right principled reasons, can end up supporting the cause of a truly evil man.
I am not a believer in god, or an afterlife but no one goes through their life without some regrets. I regret that I was one of the “useful idiots” in the early eighties and I just hope that the great chorus of the left that are chanting and chattering in the cause of David Hicks realise, sooner rather than later, that they to have become “useful idiots ” in the cause of a despicable man…