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Memento : Issue 31
18 NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA Uncovering a killer’s past Records from the National Archives have shed new light on an infamous Queensland murder case. Young crime reporter Ken Blanch was present at the scene of the ‘W ickham Terrace outrage’ in 1955, when former German ship deserter Karl Kast killed two doctors and injured several others, before turning the gun on himself. In the pages of wartime files, Ken Blanch recently discovered stories of a suspected Nazi spy ring, underground escape tunnels and allegations of malingering, which he has included in his book about the murders, The Rampage of Killer Kast. In 10 minutes of the afternoon of 1 December 1955, former German ship deserter, World War II internee and naturalised Australian citizen, Siegfried Karl Kast, rampaged through two medical buildings on Brisbane’s Wickham Terrace. He was armed with a .38 calibre revolver and a satchel of self-made bombs. He wounded Dr Michael Gallagher with three pistol shots; killed orthopaedic specialist Dr Arthur Meehan; fatally shot Brisbane’s leading authority on hand surgery, Dr Andrew Murray; mangled the left hand of racehorse trainer Edward ‘George’ Boland with a home-made bomb; and threatened to kill eminent orthopaedic surgeon John Lahz. Finally, Kast bombed Dr Lahz’s surgery and shot himself fatally in the head. With the horrific crime’s 50th anniversary approaching, I revisited the case I had reported on as a young journalist for the Brisbane Telegraph. Documents from the Queensland State Archives told only part of the story. The inquest deposition contained details about the crime itself. However, ‘murder files’, including police reports and trial transcripts, are closed for a period of 65 years. To find information about the origins and life of the killer, I turned to the National Archives of Australia. As Karl Kast had come to Australia illegally from Germany in 1939, it seemed likely that there would be Commonwealth files about him. I found information in abundance: no fewer than 11 files on Kast were listed on the RecordSearch database. Two of them were in the Brisbane office; the others were held in Canberra and Melbourne and could be digitised. Through the holdings of the National Archives, I was able to get behind the folklore and rumours and uncover the real psychological identity of Karl Kast. He came NAA:BP242/1,Q27877