The Murder of Bronia Armstrong

A corrupt police force. A violent murder staged to look like a suicide. A wrongful conviction. And a suicide in custody. It’s not a Netflix series, it’s the new episode of Murder in the Land of Oz, and this week your girls are solving a mystery. Reg Brown was convicted for the 1947 murder of his typist, Bronia Armstrong. But was he really guilty, or were the notoriously corrupt Queensland Police feeling lazy that day and just decided to arrest the first bloke on the scene? For sixty years the conviction was unquestioned until Reg’s granddaughters decided to dig a little deeper and find out what really happened to the grandfather they never knew.

In this episode, we blow a little dust off the photo album and take a look back into Brisbane’s past, from the post-war era right up to the seedy underbelly of the Fitzgerald Inquiry years. A lot has changed in this big country town, and an awful lot has stayed the same.

Bronia Armstrong was nineteen years old when she was found murdered in Room 5 of the Brisbane Associated Friendly Society’s doctor’s surgery, in the Wallace Bishop arcade in Brisbane’s CBD. Police quickly zeroed in on her boss, Reg Brown, who had suspicious injuries on his hands. The police concocted an elaborate fantasy, wherein Reg was the older, sexually frustrated boss who controlled Bronia, and was driven mad with lust and forced to kill her. Brown was convicted for her murder and committed suicide in custody nine days later.

There was no physical evidence. No forensics. No blood typing was done, despite blood from both the crime scene and the perpetrator being available. No one saw Brown and Bronia alone in the rooms together. There was no evidence that they had any relationship beyond fairly chummy boss and employee.

...but there’s also no evidence pointing to anyone else. Brown was allegedly attacked the night before, by two men and a woman, who bashed him and bit his fingers but didn’t rob him. There were no witnesses to this alleged attack, despite there being multiple people on the street at the time. So if the attack didn't occur... how did he get the injury on his hands?

For sixty years, the conviction has gone untested, until Brown’s granddaughters wrote a book, Lingering Doubts, questioning their grandfather’s guilt. In the book, they uncover a wildly flawed police investigation, exacerbated by the key roles of police officers that would later be fingered by the Fitzgerald Inquiry played in the investigation.



Our info this week was mostly taken from Lingering Doubts, by Deb Drummond and Jan Teunis, Reg Brown’s granddaughters. You can find the book here

Articles from the time can be accessed from here

The Fitzgerald Inquiry can be read in full here

Matthew Condon’s books can be found in the true crime section of literally every bookshop in Queensland, they’re very popular.