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Public Enemies Russell ‘Mad Dog’ Cox, Ray Denning and the Golden Age of Armed Robbery

Unlike today when it is a struggle to find an ATM, let alone an actual bank, the period of the late 1960’s to the end of 1990’s saw Bank branches sprout on almost every high street corner. Hence it is not surprising that it became the ‘Golden Age of Armed Robbery’; prospective armed robbers could undertake intense reconnaissance, and be assured of a healthy reward for their efforts. Amongst these professional criminals, Russell Cox and Ray Denning were considered to be Australia’s No.1 and No. 2 public adversaries. Their diverse but intertwined lives are chronicled in great detail in Mark Dapin’s well research book ‘Public Enemies’.

Although quite different characters both started life similarly; their fathers were habitual criminals who spent most of their time when not incarcerated, getting drunk.  There was little upon which to model a wholesome life. Spending their formative years in barbarous children’s homes and brutal juvenile reform institutions, which were places not about rehabilitation but ruthless punishment and sexual abuse, they were disadvantaged from the start.

Here the main subjects of the book forged networks which stood them in good stead throughout their criminal careers; it’s not surprising that theirs was a life of crime and violence.  Although Mark Dapin has some degree of sympathy towards these men and others like them, he makes it clear that he doesn’t want to glamourize their violent actions, as there are many innocent victims whose suffering ripples through their families to this day.

Cox’s and Denning’s daring escapes from what were considered impenetrable prisons, has the making of a ‘Boys’ Own Adventure’. After one such bid for freedom, Denning managed to locate Cox in eight days; something which the police could not do in almost eleven years. The author contextualizes their story by introducing their associates, common enemies and even their victims.

This gripping, entertaining but confrontational book leaves the reader wondering who were the felons; the police who verballed suspects and weren’t averse to using vicious force or those who were actually doing time for breaking the law.

Author Mark Dapin
Publisher Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760295356
Distributor Allen & Unwin
Released August 2020