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BY PETER McCALLUM

It was 1950 when a 20-year-old migrant, Joe Borg, stepped off the boat from the Mediterranean island of Malta.

But, where many of his countrymen wasted no time in getting down to hard work in the lucky country, Joe found there was easier money. In the double standards of the day, the oldest profession flourished, but ladies ‘on the game’ preferred to work in decent accommodation and needed protection from males who would skim their takings. The young man had found his niche and his warm generous nature earned him the regard of the ladies who, under his care, enjoyed a degree of security not always available.

Joe’s business prospered, he married, and over the years acquired many properties, some he owned outright, others rented. Accounts of the number he controlled ranged from 14 to more than 20.

But his kindness had to go beyond looking after ‘his girls’. Police were then expected to eradicate such businesses and had to at least put on a show with raids from time to time. Joe’s generosity had to extend to the police too, lest the raids become too frequent or heavy-handed.

That was soon to be the least of worries. By the mid-sixties, others were keen to join in the lucrative trade. Ironically, the new threat came from Joe’s former homeland. Other men from Malta were jealous of Joe’s prosperity, noting his lifestyle and enjoyment of the trappings of success. They believed he should share this with his countrymen. 

But while others had yielded to the demands of standover gang, Joe was of a different mind. He had put years into growing his business, had accepted including a network of police and even a leading ‘conservative’ politician in the spoils. Enough was enough!

The standover men were determined. Noting his routine, returning home from his rounds in his white utility at 3 am, in a darkened Brighton Boulevarde, with one man watching, another slid under the vehicle, attached gelignite and batteries to the tail shaft under the driver’s seat, wired it to the ignition, and slipped away.

Joe Borg had only occupied the house in Brighton Boulevarde for a few weeks and was painting the front room with a friend, Ben Zammit. Needing more paint, he went to his utility to drive off. A massive bomb blast ripped the vehicle apart. His friend dragged him from the burning vehicle but, with massive injuries, Joe died in the ambulance.

The standover men had won.

We thank Waverley’s Local Studies Librarian, Kimberly McDowell-Steward for assistance with this article and acknowledge the use of daily newspapers, the Herald, the Telegraph and the Daily Mirror of that time.

Archives director Christine Yeates will reveal Crimes and Misdemeanours from the Sydney Archives at the Waverley Historical Society’s next meeting on Monday, July 14 at 4 pm on the 1st floor at Club Bondi Junction, the popular RSL Club in Gray Street.