In July 1968, the outer western Sydney suburb of Glenfield made headlines around the world when it became the site of an unusual armed siege.
It all began on 2 July when the local Liverpool police came to the house of 23-year old Wally Mellish to enquire after some stolen car parts and to deliver an arrest warrant for car theft. Mellish, a Glenfield local and a petty criminal, had just taken out a lease on a small cottage on Glenfield Road where he was living with his 20-year old girlfriend Beryl Muddle and her infant son.
Rather than answer the door to the local constabulary, he fired one of the guns from his ample stash and barricaded himself inside the house, taking Beryl and her son as hostages. Mellish was in possession of a sawn-off 12-gauge shotgun, a .303 rifle, a silencer-equipped pistol and a box of hand grenades.
Police set up a roadblock 50 metres down the road in anticipation of a ‘Hollywood style spectacle’. But the game changed when the coppers found out that Mellish had a woman and child in the house with him. The police commissioner Norm Allen intervened and put CIB Chief Superintendent Don Fergussson in command of the operation.
Hostage negotiation was in its infancy at this time, so bungles ensued. Relatives, including Mellish’s 15-year-old sister and Beryl’s sister, came and went, delivering food and supplies for the baby. Others who entered the house were Allen, Fergusson and the Long Bay Chaplain Clyde Patton.
Norm Allen entered the house on a number of occasions to personally negotiate with Mellish. He arranged for Mellish and Beryl to be married in return for a surrender, waiving the usual seven-day lead-time for a marriage license. Along with CIB Chief Superintendent Don Fergussson, Allen was a witness to their marriage; he was also best man. He provided the couple with a $20 ring and hosted a wedding dinner of braised steak and mushrooms for Beryl, and curry and rice for Mellish, with rice puddings ‘for afters’.
Later Allen supplied Mellish with another weapon, an Armalite rifle, and 200 rounds of ammunition which he delivered to the house wrapped in a pink baby’s bunny rug. He also brought Mellish a transistor radio. These offerings were in exchange for the withdrawal of the original arrest warrant, and an assurance that no charges would be laid for shooting at the police.
The deadlines for surrender came and went, and Mellish took to the airwaves to make his demands. Talkback radio was a relatively new phenomenon at this time, having only been introduced to Sydney in 1967, and Mellish capitalised on its dramatic potential with his insistence on talking live on-air to his favourite radio announcers. When he was ready to leave the house, for example, Mellish called Garvin Rutherford at 2SM to let him know.
After eight days of making front page news and keeping listeners glued to the radio, Wally Mellish surrendered at 3.09pm on 9 July 1968. He was talked down by the Long Bay Chaplain. No one was injured in the incident, although Beryl was a little peeved.
Mellish surrendered on the agreement that he would be sent to the army barracks at Holdsworthy because he wanted to join the army and fight in Vietnam. Instead he sent to Morisset Hospital.
The siege dominated the front page news for over two weeks: during the siege, and for days after when Beryl gave an exclusive to journalist Ron Saw.
Two feature films have since been made about the incident: Shotgun Wedding in 1993 and Mr Reliable in 1996.