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Queensland. Perfect one day, deadly the next.

To this day, former Queensland police commissioner Terence Murray Lewis declares his innocence in relation to the 1989 charges of corruption, bribery and forgery, while police officers – now aged in their 80s – still live in fear.

“Three Crooked Kings”, the first volume about the growth of Queensland police corruption from the 1940s to the Fitzgerald Inquiry in the late 1980s, is based on three years of interviews with Terry Lewis and many others.

Near the end of last year, Brisbane author and journalist Matthew Condon cracked. To his own and Terry Lewis’ surprise, the accumulated filth, scum and complications of this story had become too much.

“I just cracked. I said: “I just can’t wait til this is over. I am going to take a very long shower and wash the crap off myself.” And he (Terry Lewis) sat back in his chair and was shocked,” Condon said.

“I did feel that because when you get to a point where the life of a family is affected for two, three, four generations because a cop in the ’50s decided to invent a story against the father in this story – destroy his reputation, destroy his career – because he may have said something against the police practice of corruption, then that ripples through generations of one family. Multiply that by 20,000 more, then that’s the danger of a system like this.

“I spoke to police officers in their 80s who were still fearful; living today in this city saying: “Whatever you do, don’t mention to anyone that I told you what I’ve told you.””

Condon concluded: “That’s pretty powerful stuff – that this story is still visceral today.”

At the launch, Condon was joined by former police licensing branch constable and whistleblower Nigel Powell, former Queensland premier Mike Ahern and Mary Anne Brifman.

Was Terry Lewis guilty?

While Condon said Terry believes he was set up by Jack Herbert and others, Nigel Powell described how Lewis rose through the ranks under the guidance of the previous police commissioner Frank Bischof.

Mike Ahern said: “He was guilty alright.”

At the time, Ahern said he was informed a police seargent passed weekly money collections through a hole in the wall to a house in Bardon – the Lewis’ house.

Shirley Brifman’s daughter, Mary Anne, recounted a childhood memory of police officers dividing crime proceeds in their home with one setting aside “Terry’s share”.

Shirley Brifman’s suspicious death from a drug overdose came after she decided to expose the corruption of police who had previously protected her brothels.

Her daughter Mary Anne, pimped by her mother at 13, described her mother as a naive country girl who wanted a better life.

Brifman called for the recent embargo on Fitzgerald Inquiry documents to be lifted and earlier told CitizenJ she may write an account of her parents’ lives.

The slideshow contains more discussion on the growth of Queensland police corruption and the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

Audio produced for 4ZZZ
Photos by Shirley Way
Music: Poetic Pitbull Revolutions, Diablo Swing Orchestra used under Creative Commons