Two half pig carcasses placed on a wooden chair with tags reading, EXHIBITS - To be kept for evidence.

A Christmas crime

As Christmas approached, the Magistrates at the Water Police Court, now the Justice & Police Museum, were often faced with a very seasonal crime – the theft of Christmas hams

Dark haired woman wearing a red dress and black blazer leaning on a wooden door frame

A life in crime

Curator Nerida Campbell has got the dream job – rummaging through the grit and grime of Sydney’s criminal past to help us to come to terms with the city’s dark side

Archives behind the scenes - gaol photos

In this episode we show you the very popular Gaol Photo Description Books. The photos (or mugshots) of prisoners are from gaols right across NSW and date from 1870-1930

Two photos of the one man, one front facing and one in side profile

Attempted murder and conspiracy: the Lemon Syrup Case

Ferry captain George Dean was found guilty of "administering poison with the intent to murder" his wife in April 1895


Behind the scenes: How to read a ‘special’

Around the world, police forces followed established conventions when taking mugshots. But Sydney police in the 1920s did things differently

Gold painted plaster bust of William John Mackay, Commissioner of Police

Big Bill MacKay

William John MacKay (1885–1948), known as Bill, was a Scottish-born police officer who played a major role in policing Sydney’s underworld during the 1920s

Black and white image from the 1920s of a man who looks to be in his 50s.


Sydney’s underworld bosses were tough, resolute and violent – mess with one and you would know you had been in a fight

Portrait of a man glued to a description sheet

Captain Moonlight, bushranger

One of the more famous gaol photographs in the State Archives Collection is that of A.G. Scott, otherwise known as Captain Moonlight, which was taken on 26 November 1879

Gaol photo Cecil Pierpont

Captured: Portraits of Crime 1870-1930, Cecil Pierpont

Cecil Pierpont, a 37 year old musician from England, was photographed at Parramatta Gaol on 20 October 1903 while serving a twelve month sentence for false pretences