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Harold James BLACKBURN


Harold James BLACKBURN 


Nickname:  Harry the Hat

Late of Robina, Qld  


Relations in ‘the job’:

“possible” relation in ‘the job‘:    ?


NSW Police Training Centre – Redfern  –  Class #  ? ? ? 


NSW Police Cadet # 0680


New South Wales Police Force


Regd. #  6414


Rank: Commenced Training at Redfern Police Academy as a Police Cadet on Monday 6 August 1947 ( aged 17 years, 3 months, 16 days ) 

Probationary Constable- appointed 21 April 1949 ( aged 19 years, 0 months, 0 days ) 

Constable – appointed ? ? ?

Constable 1st Class – appointed ? ? ? 

Detective – appointed ? ? ? ( YES )

Senior Constable – appointed ? ? ? 

Leading Senior Constable – appointed ? ? ?

Sergeant 3rd Class – appointed 3 May 1966

Sergeant 2nd Class – appointed ? ? ?

Sergeant 1st Class – appointed 1 March 1976

Inspector – appointed ? ? ? ( YES )

Chief Inspector – appointed ? ? ? 

Superintendent – appointed ? ?  1985


Final Rank: = Detective Superintendent


Stations: Superintendents Clerk – Goulburn, Scientific Investigation Service ( 19 years ),  Rockdale ( 12 Division )( Det Sgt )( 1970 ),  Parramatta ( 18 Division ), Katoomba ( 36 Division ), Balmain ( 8 Division ( Sgt 1/c – 1980 ), ?, Physical Evidence Section ( 1985 )( Supt ),


Service: From 6 August 1947    to     ? November 1988  =  41 years, 2 months, ? days Service

After Retirement, Harry worked with the War Crimes Commission.


Retirement / Leaving age: = 58 years, 6 months, ? days

Time in Retirement from Police: 34 years, 6 months, ? days


Awards:  National Medal – granted 8 June 1988 ( Det Supt )

Long Service and Good Conduct Medal – granted ? ? ?

Harold James BLACKBURN, Harold BLACKBURN, Harry the Hat

 Born:  Monday 21 April 1930 in Lithgow, NSW

Died on:  Tuesday 9 May 2023

Age: 93 years, 0 months, 18 days

Organ Donor:  No – Age prohibitive


Cause:  Natural – Old Age 

Event location:   ?

Event / Diagnosis date ?


Funeral date? ? ?

Funeral location?




Future Memorial Service:  to be held on the Gold Coast, Qld, at a time to be fixed.

Future Wake location???

Future Wake date???



Funeral Parlour: ?


Buried at?

Grave LocationSection:          Row?         Plot?

Grave GPS?,       ?


Memorial / Plaque / Monument located at?

Dedication date of Memorial / Plaque / Monument: Nil – at this time ( May 2023 )



HARRY is NOT mentioned on the Police Wall of Remembrance  *NEED MORE INFO





May they forever Rest In Peace 

Australian Police YouTube Channel

‘Is this a joke by my mates?’: The retired detective wrongly accused by NSW police

By Malcolm Brown


“What is this that is happening?” Harry Blackburn remembers thinking on the day a team of police came to arrest him at his workplace. “Is this a joke by my mates? It’s not my birthday!”

Indeed, it was not his birthday, and it was not a joke. The NSW police were there to arrest the 59-year-old retired detective superintendent and charge him with 25 serious offences, including rape, robbery and kidnapping over a period from 1969 to 1985.

Harold James BLACKBURN, Harold BLACKBURN, Harry the Hat


Without the slightest idea of what they were on about, Blackburn found himself paraded in front of the media – the reports with his picture going nationally and even overseas. Without so much as a court appearance, he was branded a serial offender who had hidden for years behind his police badge. Now he was being undone by fearless police, unafraid to deal with their own.

On the day of the arrest – July 24, 1989 – the then Assistant Police Commissioner, Tony Lauer, said: “This operation has demonstrated that the NSW Police Service is more than capable of handling an extensive and highly sensitive inquiry.”

Blackburn found himself in a cell at the NSW Police Centre. Elsewhere, a police officer reportedly said: “We should slip a gun into his cell and let him blow his brains out and save the government a great deal of time and money.”

The prospective prosecution of Harry (“Harry the Hat”) Blackburn did not in fact last long. Following a change in personnel in charge of the case, diligent police officers Detective Inspector Clive Small and Detective Sergeant Ron Shaw reviewed the evidence and realised it was full of holes.

Small, against trenchant opposition from the police hierarchy, recommended the charges be dropped. They were abandoned on October 6 that year, but not before Blackburn’s wife, Lyn, devastated by the turn of events, had suffered a miscarriage.

The resulting royal commission, conducted by Justice Jack Lee, found the investigation and gathering of evidence was so clumsy and slipshod that Harry Blackburn should never have been considered a suspect. “It destroyed his life at the time,” said Clive Steirn SC, who was to represent Blackburn.

Harry James Blackburn was born in Lithgow on April 21, 1930, one of three children of a coal miner, James Blackburn, and Eileen (nee Hovey). He went to school in Lithgow and in 1947, as soon as he had turned 17, he joined the NSW Police Force, taking advantage of the fact the police commissioner was a Catholic, this being a time of reported conflict in the force between Catholics and Masons.

Harold James BLACKBURN, Harold BLACKBURN, Harry the Hat

Blackburn began duties as a superintendent’s clerk in Goulburn, then joined the Scientific Investigation Service, where he worked for 19 years, playing rugby union for the Goulburn Waratahs. He married Norma, with whom he had children, Tracy and John. In 1970, he moved to Rockdale as a detective sergeant, followed by postings to Parramatta and Katoomba.

His marriage ended in divorce, and he married Ada. This marriage also ended in divorce. He moved on professionally and went back to police scientific work as an inspector. In 1982 he met Lyn Foster, 22 years his junior, who was a civilian employee in the NSW Police Department.

In 1985, he was promoted to superintendent and put in charge of the Physical Evidence Section, requiring him among other things to handle gun amnesties announced by the government. He was also awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. In 1987 he married Lyn.

But unknown to Blackburn, there were storm clouds gathering. There had been some savage rapes and robberies over the years, the offender usually wearing a mask and sneaking up to couples cuddling up in cars at night in lover’s lane trysts.

Harold James BLACKBURN, Harold BLACKBURN, Harry the Hat

The first series had started in October 1969 and continued until August 1970. The second, known as the “Sutherland” series, lasted from August to December 1985. Police had obtained descriptions of one of the assailants. One happened to vaguely represent Blackburn, who then became the subject of covert police attention.

On July 14, 1988, the couple were blessed by a daughter, Holly. Blackburn retired in November that year and went to work with the War Crimes Commission. On July 24, 1989, when Lyn was three months pregnant with their second child, police swooped, and the family’s whole world was turned upside down.

The charges were laid, and Blackburn was granted bail. On August 6, Lyn had her miscarriage. On October 6, he and his wife were informed that all charges had been withdrawn. Blackburn decided not to resume with the War Crimes Commission. “The wind had been knocked out of his sails,” Lyn said.

Harold James BLACKBURN, Harold BLACKBURN, Harry the Hat

The royal commission was held under Justice Lee, Chester Porter QC as counsel assisting, and Blackburn being ably represented by Kevin Murray QC, with Steirn as his junior. The deficiencies in the investigation soon came to light.

In December that year, Maureen, wife of Blackburn’s son, John, suffered a miscarriage. The family decided not to tell Harry just then. In April 1990, Blackburn complained that four departmental charges had been laid against him, including such things as misuse of petrol and an incident where he had thrown a jug of water over somebody, Blackburn being known to be occasionally temperamental.

He said the charges were just an attempt to discredit him, and they went nowhere. On June 29, 1990, Justice Lee handed down his report. In July, Blackburn launched proceedings against the NSW government for wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution and defamation, seeking unspecified damages.

His experience had given him a new perspective on justice, how prone the system was to misbehaviour. He was to give evidence that while sitting in his cell at the police centre on July 25, 1989, he had overheard a detective telling a prisoner that if he did not plead guilty to nine charges, he would charge him with another four.

Blackburn with his wife and child retired to Robina on the Gold Coast, and in November 1990 Blackburn got his licence as a private inquiry agent, putting a picture of a hat as his motif on his business card.

His litigation continued, a psychiatrist diagnosing him with “reactive depression”. The position of Inspector-General of the NSW Police Force was created and filled by a Canadian, Don Wilson, whose task was to “clean-up” management of the NSW Police Force, which Justice Lee had described as “lamentable”.

There would never be another bungle like Blackburn, Wilson said. The NSW government settled with Blackburn in November 1991; the agreement ratified in the Supreme Court. Blackburn, with substantial damages in his favour, did do some minor investigate work. Otherwise, he contented himself with golf, normally six days a week, looked after his wife and daughter Holly, and jogged along the beach.

Lyn went back to study and became a child psychologist. Holly did a Bachelor of International Business degree and went to work in the tertiary sector. Harry Blackburn celebrated his 93rd birthday in April, and was in good spirits’, his wife said, but then there was a sudden downturn over the following two weeks.

He died on May 9. He is survived by his widow; his three children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service is to be held on the Gold Coast at a time to be fixed.

Harry Blackburn obituary: The wrongly accused retired NSW police superintendent



Harry Blackburn – The Blackburn Case



Story behind the Nickname:

Harry The Hat;  ?



Nothing further, than what is recorded above, is known about this person at the time of publication and further information and photos would be appreciated.




30 May 2023



One thought on “Harold James BLACKBURN

  • John Crowley

    As the old saying goes – “Guilty until proven innocent”. R.I.P. Harry.


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