Updated: Mar 19
On Sunday the 10th July 1955 at 5.20pm, a bomb went off under a grey 1952 FX Holden utility on Redcliffe Parade outside Woolworths and BCC department stores. A popular local Petrie electrician, William McNeill was killed and his wife Vera severely injured and five bystanders were also injured. William had just bought 2 Casket lottery tickets while his wife Vera was at the local fish shop before they got into the utility.
The ambulance taking them to the hospital was also involved in a crash on Anzac Ave with injuries to the driver and passengers.
No one was ever arrested for the bombing and it might have been a case of mistaken identity as it was known a local policeman drove a utility the same colour as the bombed vehicle.
The local rugby league team the Redcliffe Dolphins had played against Caboolture at their home ground at the local Showgrounds, however it had finished early and the street that was normally packed with people, was not as busy as it could have been.
Daily News (Perth) 13th July 1955 page 14:
"In this shattered, charred wreck, a man died. It happened in Redcliffe, about 20 miles from Brisbane on Monday" A mysterious explosion - which police believe may have been planted bomb - killed 45 year old William McNeill and dangerously injured his 42yr old wife"
The blast blew part of the utility 100 yards."
Redcliffe Herald 14th July 1955 page 1:
"TRUCK BLASTED IN MAIN SHOPPING CENTRE, MAN KILLED SEVEN HURT."
"THE FACT THAT CABOOLTURE RUGBY LEAGUE FOOTBALL TEAM WALKED OFF THE FIELD TEN MINUTES AFTER PLAY STARTED IN THEIR GAME AGAINST REDCLIFFE ON SUNDAY JULY 10, PROBABLY SAVED DOZENS OF PEOPLE FROM INJURY OR DEATH."
"At 5.20 on a Sunday evening - the time when a utility truck blew up with a shattering blast - the footpaths are normally crowded with people returning home from the football match."
Redcliffe Parade c. 1950s:
"The mystery blast killed one person, injured seven, rocked houses and shop, broke windows, blew at least two people off their feet, cut power lines in Redcliffe Parade and completely smashed the utility. It was heard as far off as Kallangar.
The dead man was William McNeill, 48 , well known and well liked electrician of Petrie. His wife Vera was almost as badly injured as he was and was not expected to live, when she was taken to hospital, but staged a remarkable recovery.
Cause of the explosion and the type of explosive involved were still mysteries to police explosive experts on Monday night, but eye witnesses told the Herald in an exclusive interview that after the explosion they had gone over to the wrecked vehicle and had smelt the distinctive smell of gunpowder.
The eye witness, Messers Mick McGlone and Harold Bean, Yellow Cab drivers, said that a bluish grey powder was visible on the truck and on the occupants apparently from the explosion. They said that the first sight they thought the couple in the utility had been electrocuted by the wire which had fallen from above. Their stiff motionless appearance led to this conclusion."
McNeill spoke twice after the explosion, each time to say "I feel crook" His injuries were extensive and terrible, and he died in the ambulance over the Hornibrook Highway bridge.
McGlone and Bean were in cabs parked almost exactly opposite the scene of the explosion. They told the Herald that they felt a terrible concussion, their cars rocked for a few moments, they were more or less paralysed. As soon as they had got over the shock they go on to their two-way radios and asked for ambulance, police and fire engines to be sent to the spot. Both drivers were lavish in their praise of the promptness of all three services and of the men of the Southern Electric Authority who were there on the spot within minutes of the explosion.
The cab drivers said that debris was flying through the air for seconds after the explosion. Bean said that when he and McGLone got across the street to the car, both the McNeills were sitting in their seats motionless. It appeared as though Mrs McNeill had just got into the car as the explosion occurred as the door of the car was partly closed. Rubber from the rear window of the blasted utility was alight on top of an electric light pole some 120 feet from the explosion, and glass from shattered shop windows was scattered all over the footpath and roadway. Several electrical wires were glowing and looked as though they would drop on the the roadway at any minute.
Ambulance cars taking the injured to hospital were involved in a collision near Anzac Ave and McGLone was asked to go to the Ambulance Station and pick up a spare oxygen set. He did this and chased one of the ambulance to the corner of McDonnell Road and Oxley Ave, catching it after a 60 miles an hour drive.
Immediate reaction of several people was that a bomb had been placed in the utility, which did look like a grenade had been tossed into it.
The roof of the cab was hurled into the air, cut electrical light wires and landed 73 yards away in a garden behind the shopping centre. Great damage was done to the plate glass windows which were sucked out of their frames by the aftermath of the blast. Mr Cec Clarke of Clarke's Dry Cleaners said however that although a window in the shop was completely shattered, not an ornament was displaced in the living quarters above."
A large hole was torn in the awning of the Woolworth's store which also had its two main windows blown out. The glass panelled doors in the front of the shop were undamaged. The BCC Stores had a window smashed. Darragh's Pharmacy and Masters Drapery were other shops to suffer window damage.
Redcliffe Police called the Valley for technical assistance in investigations and shortly after the call, Inspector A.B. Clark and Sub Inspector A.E. Hird accompanied by detectives, came down to the scene of the explosion. On Monday morning Inspector Clark was again on the job and had with him police explosives experts from the CIB who climbed on to the roofs and awnings in search of debris from the explosion and possible clues to what cased it. At noon on Monday the utility was towed up to Brisbane for examination by members of the Police Laboratory."
Inspector Clark told a Herald reporter as he climbed into the car which was loaded with boxes of debris for examination. "Its got us tricked up to now. We know if was a high explosive of some sort but what it was and how it was set off we haven't been able to find out yet."
Battle by Mrs McNeill for life was a startling feature of the occurrence since men who treated her after she had been removed from the wreckage gave her very little chance of living the night, so badly was she injured. Hospital reports early this week gave her as improving. These people were treated for injuries besides Mr and Mrs McNeill. All were treated by Redcliffe Ambulance and by a local doctor but were not taken to hospital.
Theodore Psaros 56, married of Inverell NSW, for severe lacerations on the right side of the head, involving the ear, lacerations of the forearms and other injuries peppered around the body.
Deanna Psaros 18, for punctured woulds on the right thigh and hand and severe shock.
Mick Androcess 54, of the Greek Club Brisbane, severe lacerations to the right leg and an injury to the back.
These people were passengers in the car which was immediately behind the utility when the explosion occurred. They had been into a cafe for a meal and had noticed when they came out that the rear tyre of their vehicle was flat.
Mystery people treated by the ambulance were a boy of 12 who suffered glass cuts from broken windows and a woman about 23years old who received similar injuries. Both these left the ambulance after treatment with our giving their names.
The ambulance also had to treat its own men, bearers Edward Ebborn. Thomas Hatwell and honorary bearer Richard Ruegg for injuries received when the two cars collided.
The Herald received many appreciative messages from people who had noted the prompt answers given to calls by the four services involved in attending to the scene of the explosion."
Another grey utility parked on Redcliffe Parade in the mid 1950's:
The Central Queensland Herald - Thursday 14th July 1955 - Page 13
Mystery Explosion Kills One. Injures Five
"BRISBANE, July 10. A man was fatally injured and his wife seriously hurt when a mysterious explosion wrecked their parked utility in Marine Parade, Redcliffe, at 5.20 this afternoon. Flying glass and metal splinters injured four other people standing near a car parked behind the utility. A team of CIB Scientific Bureau detectives examined the wrecked utility tonight and will continue their examination tomorrow morning in an attempt to discover the cause of the explosion. A police guard was maintained over the wrecked car all night. The dead man was William McNeill, of Anzac Avenue Petrie. He died in the Redcliffe ambulance on the way to hospital. Another Redcliffe ambulance took his wife to the General Hospital where doctors admitted her in a dangerously ill condition. A Redcliffe doctor treated the other injured at his surgery. They are Theodore Psaros, 56, of Andrew Street, Inverell. Injury to left side of the head, punctured wound In the forearm; his wife, Betty, abrasions to the right arm; their daughter, Deana, 12, severe punctured wounds to the hand and thigh; M. Amdrouces, 54, widower, of Greek Club, Charlotte Street, Brisbane, punctured wound to the right leg and back injury. The Psaros family and their: friend, Amdrouees, were standing around their black car while Psaros changed a flat tyre. A boy who didn't give his name was standing on the footpath near the utility when it exploded. The explosion blew him across the footpath against a shop front but he escaped with only slight cuts and bruises. The explosion blew in the display windows on six Shops on either side of the utility. The hood of the utility was thrown 100 ft in the air over the buildings and landed in a back street 100 yds away. Flying glass and metal splinters spattered passing cars and flew In a radius of 100 yds of the wrecked utility. Police believe the explosion originated under the driver's seat. The explosion shredded the clothes of McNeill and his wife. The hood cut through a 300 volt power line and brought it down on to the roadway, blacking out a half-mile of Marine Parade street lights and shops. The Redcliffe ambulance rushed a car to the scene when they heard the explosion at their station half a mile away. They found McNeill slumped over the driving wheel and his wife sitting beside him. The explosion tore a larger hole In the bitumen surface below the utility. Ambulance men removed McNeill and his wife only 10 minutes before the utility burst into flames. Detectives are investigating the possibility of a bomb deliberately planted having caused the explosion. Damage to shops Is estimated at almost £2000."
Courier Mail July 11th 1955:
Research by Catherine Mahoney at the State Archives and in the 1955 Inquest files , mention before they got in the ute to drive home, William bought 2 Golden Casket tickets while his wife was in the fish shop.
They were in a 1952 Cavalier Grey FX Holden Utility, while local Constable Hay drove a 1954 French Grey FJ Holden utility. Both cars would have looked very similar from the sides and rear with slight difference on the front grill.
William McNeill was born in Shotts, Lanarkshire, Scotland on 8th November 1907 and was 47 years of age when he passed on 10th July 1955.
William's service number for the Australia Military record is Q227938, he enlisted in Gatton, Queensland, and his next of kin was his wife Vera McNeill.
William McNeill and Vera Evelyn Sherrin married in 1931 in North Sydney NSW.
Vera Evelyn Sherrin was born in Redcliffe on 6th May 1908, and was also 47yrs at the time of the incident. She passed away on 19th Sept 1995 aged 87 years. Beloved sister of Hilda Worden, Aunt of Richard Worden and Frank Sherrin and dear friend of Elaine Vincent.
Courier Mail Coverage of the Inquest Oct, Nov and Dec 1955
Four months later on 1st December 1955, Karl Kast equipped with a revolver, more than 100 rounds of .38 calibre ammunition, a box of detonators and a satchel of home-made piping bomb’ murdered two prominent doctors at their practices on Wickham Terrace, Brisbane.