The Glenfield Siege remembered 50 years on

Wally and Beryl Mellish are escorted from their Glenfield home at the conclusion of the eight-day siege on July 10. Picture: John Pinfold
Wally and Beryl Mellish are escorted from their Glenfield home at the conclusion of the eight-day siege on July 10. Picture: John Pinfold

In July 1968, small-time criminal Wally Mellish held his girlfriend Beryl Muddle and her child hostage in a fibro house in Sydney's southwest. The bizarre turns of the eight-day siege captured the attention of Australians and made headlines around the world. 

If it had been written as a film script, the Glenfield Siege would not have been taken seriously.

THE SYNOPSIS: Small-time criminal Wally Mellish, 22, was living in a house in Glenfield Road with his girlfriend Beryl Muddle, 19, and her 11-week old son when police arrived to talk about local car thefts.

Mellish told them to "go to hell", fired a shot in the air and for the next eight days the house was surrounded.

Mellish forced Police Commissioner Norman Allan to arrange for his wedding to Beryl and to be best man. Allan provided the ring and the police canteen the wedding breakfast. Mellish forced police to give him an Armalite rifle and ammunition.

When the siege ended Mellish was taken by Commissioner Allan to Inglebum Army Camp to enlist for service in Vietnam but he was rejected and committed to Morisset Psychiatric Hospital. No charges were ever laid. The marriage was annulled.

Police keep a close watch on the Glenfield house on July 3, 1968.

Police keep a close watch on the Glenfield house on July 3, 1968.

DAY ONE, July 2, 1968: On a cold winter's morning local detective Ray Millington knocked on the door of the fibro cottage to talk to Mellish about car thefts. He was told to "go to hell" and a shot was fired. Riot Squad police surrounded the house. Mellish threatened to kill Beryl and the child and more shots were fired. Detective Superintendent Don Fergusson, chief of the CIB, and Long Bay Jail chaplain the Rev Clyde Paton negotiated a truce. Earlier, a detective in the house talking to Mellish was ordered out by Commissioner Allan when he phoned to talk to Wally.

DAY TWO: Commissioner Allan took personal charge and organised the wedding of the year. He got special dispensation to avoid the statutory seven-day waiting period. Rev Paton married Wally and Beryl with Allan as best man and Fergusson as a witness. Allan brought five rings so one would fit. The mobile police canteen provided a curry wedding breakfast washed down with Coca-Cola. Mellish laid down his weapons for the wedding but Allan and Fergusson honoured their promise and didn't grab him. The world began to follow the Glenfield Siege.

The Rev. Clyde Paton, who negotiated a truce with Mellish.

The Rev. Clyde Paton, who negotiated a truce with Mellish.

DAY THREE: Allan admitted to astonished pressmen that Mellish had been given an Armalite rifle and 200 rounds of ammunition because he wanted to match the firepower of the police. Allan denied he was a hostage, claiming Mellish threatened the life of his wife and child. Police also gave Mellish food and a radio. Allan said Mellish claimed to have hand grenades and this was supported by Beryl.

DAY FOUR: Police stopped serving food to Mellish but continued to provide for the child. Plans to dope Mellish's food were ruled out. Mellish would only communicate with Rev Paton. The use of tear-gas was ruled out because of the effects on the baby.

DAY FIVE: Mellish again refused food and cigarettes as police tried to wait him out. Police Association began to question handling of the siege by Commissioner Allan. Power to the house was cut and searchlights installed.

DAY SIX: As the waiting game continued, police defied orders and rained rocks on the tin roof of the house. "If we have to be awake so does he," one detective said. Riot police were openly contemptuous of Mellish reading papers in full view of the siege house. Dr Tom Lonie, superintendent of Morisset Hospital where Mellish had been a patient, spoke to him.

DAY SEVEN: Mellish reported to be twice on the verge of surrendering after telephone talks with Rev Paton but was still in the house at the end of the day. Police Association censured Commissioner Allan for handing over the Armalite rifle.

DAY EIGHT: After 174 hours, on a sunny afternoon at 3.09 pm. Wally and Beryl walked out of the house with the baby. Wally went to Ingleburn and then to Morisset in Allan's car. Police and press packed their gear and Glenfield returned to its quiet state.

THE AFTERMATH: The next day Beryl announced she was seeking to annul the wedding. Commissioner Allan, Rev Paton and Superintendent Fergusson were decorated for their bravery. Rev Paton moved into obscurity.

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald on March 31, 1991

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