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Russell 'Mad Dog' Cox due for release -

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Russell 'Mad Dog' Cox due for release

Reporter: Tracy Bowden

MAXINE McKEW: Well, first tonight, an insight into the life and crimes of one of Australia's most
controversial fugitives.

Soon after 9:00am tomorrow morning, Russell 'Mad Dog' Cox will emerge a free man from Grafton Jail
in northern New South Wales.

His escapades in the 1970s and 1980s made him a hero in the underworld, but put him at the top of
the police wanted list.

Cox's reputation with his peers soared when he escaped from the notorious Katingal, the maximum
security arm of Long Bay Jail, which was eventually shut down after a long public campaign.

There's also surprising support for Russell Cox from a prison officer he could easily have killed
during an attempted jailbreak almost 30 years ago.

Tracy Bowden reports.

STEVE BARRETT, JOURNALIST: Russell Cox was one of the biggest stories in Australia.

He was public enemy No.

1 for many years.

TRACY BOWDEN: He was born Melville Peter Schnitzerling - a more likely moniker for a bank clerk
than a bank robber, but he became a household name as Russell 'Mad Dog' Cox.

BERNIE MATTHEWS: The media and police officers dubbed him 'Mad Dog' which was a misnomer.

He wasn't mad.

The guys that knew him in Katingal and Grafton dubbed him 'The Fox' because he was a cunning bloke.

He had his wits about him.

He was a pretty smart man.


I just consider him to be a dangerous criminal.

TRACY BOWDEN: In 1975 while serving a sentence for armed robbery, Russell Cox and two other inmates
launched a daring escape bid at Sydney's Long Bay Jail.

The offenders fired shots, taking prison officers hostage inside the gatehouse.

One of those officers, Steve Tandy, describes it as the most terrifying event in his long career.

SUPERINTENDENT STEVE TANDY, NSW CORRECTIVE SERVICES: I was then forced to the floor in the gate
office area.

A gun was eventually put at the back of my head.

I was ordered to face the ground.

TRACY BOWDEN: And what thoughts were going through your mind?

SUPERINTENDENT STEVE TANDY: Ah, well, I was of the opinion that myself or other colleagues would be

TRACY BOWDEN: That escape attempt failed, but it ensured Superintendent Steve Tandy, then 25, was
unlikely to forget Russell Cox.

SUPERINTENDENT STEVE TANDY: It's always in your mind, but I don't have - let's use the phrase, I
don't have nightmares or think about it too often.

But it's there, yes, how easy your life could have been snuffed out.

TRACY BOWDEN: Russell Cox was sentenced to life imprisonment over that incident and ended up in
Katingal, designed to house the worst of the worst in New South Wales.

BERNIE MATTHEWS: It was like living in an atomic bomb shelter or living in a submarine.

The longest distance you could walk in a straight line was 19 paces.

There was no fresh air - all the air was pumped in.

There was no natural light.

TRACY BOWDEN: Bernie Matthews is now a journalist, but during the 1970s he served time for armed
robbery and prison escapes and was in Katingal with Russell Cox.

BERNIE MATTHEWS: He wasn't a standover man.

He wasn't one of these guys that wanted to make a reputation, you know, from belting other people
or being violent.

He was, to put it quite succinctly, he was a bank robber, he came to jail and he tried to escape.

TRACY BOWDEN: In 1977, Russell Cox became the only prisoner ever to escape from Katingal after
using a smuggled-in hacksaw blade to saw through bars in the jail's exercise area.

STEVE BARRETT: At that stage the Government was boasting that nobody would penetrate the system.

Nobody could get in and nobody could get out.

Russell Cox did that and that's what made him stand out from the other criminals.

TRACY BOWDEN: Veteran crime report Steve Barrett spent many hours writing about the hunt for
Russell Cox.

STEVE BARRETT: As a reporter, covering police rounds, whether it be television, print or radio,
Russell Cox, for many, many years, was the Number 1 story - "Where is he?"

TRACY BOWDEN: Not only did Russell Cox escape from Katingal, he was on the run for almost 11 years.

BERNIE MATTHEWS: The general, I think, situation, was good luck to him.

Good luck to him, you know, that he was able to last that long.

TRACY BOWDEN: That certainly wasn't a view shared by former detective Kevin Parsons.

He was the head of the NSW Armed Hold-up Squad as it continued its efforts to close in on Russell

KEVIN PARSONS: But the difficulty arose to a high degree that he was known to alter his appearance
on regular occasions, and even though photographs were obtained of him, I think most of the
photographs altered in a number of different ways because of the way that he changed his

STEVE BARRETT: He became sort of, like, a detective's prize, if you like.

"Who is the detective that's going to nail Russell Cox?"

NEWS FILE (1988): The two prize catches, criminals Cox and Denning were taken into custody just
before 2 o'clock this afternoon.

TRACY BOWDEN: Russell Cox was finally recaptured during an attempted payroll van robbery in
Melbourne in 1988.

He was captured with partner-in-crime, Raymond Denning.

KEVIN PARSONS: There was a great deal of satisfaction because of the number of hours that had been
spent on trying to locate him and apprehend him.

TRACY BOWDEN: According to Steve Barrett, it was one of Russell Cox's own - fellow criminal Raymond
Denning - who ultimately led police to the fugitive.

STEVE BARRETT: Raymond Denning flipped and turned police informer.

From there, some sort of deal was worked and Denning was released and then he teamed up again with
Russell Cox, which, not long after that, led to the spectacular arrest in Melbourne.

TRACY BOWDEN: Now Russell Cox is about to be released on parole with his minimum life sentence of
29 years and 4 months expiring today.

One of those who supports parole is a man who has every right to despise the criminal, prison
superintendent Steve Tandy.

SUPERINTENDENT STEVE TANDY: Initially, or I suppose for a few years thereafter, he wasn't on my
Christmas card list, but after a while, you know, you think what good is continuing the, you know,
the dislike or whichever way you like to put it.

I've seen him three or four times over the six-monthly periods we review them and there is
certainly no animosity left in me, anyway, and I certainly don't think he harbours any grudge
towards me.

TRACY BOWDEN: In making its decision, the Parole Board heard evidence that Russell Cox had been a
keen participant in prison programs to deter young offenders from a life of crime.

According to the Board - "However, in the case of the inmate Russell Cox, there is powerful
evidence that he is intent on leading a normal, lawful, community life."

But not everyone is convinced.

What do you forecast?

Can a leopard change its spots?

KEVIN PARSONS: I don't know about calling him a leopard.

I think he's just the one colour.

TRACY BOWDEN: Which would be?


TRACY BOWDEN: Russell Cox is due to be released from Grafton jail tomorrow morning and plans to
live in Queensland.

STEVE BARRETT: Russell Cox has got two chances.

He has one chance to make it on the outside.

If he blows that chance, the only other chance he has in life is to die in prison.

It's as simple as that.

TRACY BOWDEN: Do you think he's dangerous?


If I had any doubts about him re-offending, I would have opposed release to parole - simple as

I just think he's had enough and he deserves a go.

MAXINE McKEW: Tracy Bowden reporting there.