The Fisherman

Please note, this episode discusses crimes against children.

Was a man convicted of the murder of a nine year old boy in Tasmania in 1975 responsible for some of Australia’s most well known unsolved crimes?

Investigation by retired detective Gordon Davie uncovered that wherever James O’Neill went, children seemed to go missing. After years of investigation and interviews with O’Neill, Davie uncovered evidence linking O’Neill with crimes not only in Tasmania, but in Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia – including the abduction of the Beaumont children and the Adelaide Oval abductions, as well as the murders of two Indigenous boys in the remote Kimberly region of WA.

Is it possible that a serial killer got away with an unknown number of child murders for nearly ten years before being convicted? Or is it just a coincidence that O’Neill was in town when these kids went missing?


Ricky Smith and Bruce Wilson were murdered in Tasmania in 1975 by a man by the name of James Ryan O’Neill. He was convicted for Ricky’s murder, and spent a fair chunk of his sentence in Hayes Prison Farm, where he was allowed to look after animals, do farm work, and occasionally go fishing completely unsupervised outside of the prison walls.

A child murderer being allowed to go on a jaunty little fishing trip would probably grab anyone’s attention, but that wasn’t what fascinated retired detective Gordon Davie when he read an article about O’Neill in the newspaper. It was the fact that he had claimed to have a completely clean criminal record before murdering two boys in the mid 70s.

By now it was 1998, and Davie had long since retired. But something about O’Neill didn’t sit right to him. He wrote to O’Neill, to ask to interview him, and what followed was four years of a kind of friendship, where Davie would record hundreds of hours of conversation between the two, where they would discuss fishing, their lives, and of course, the possibility that O’Neill was responsible for dozens of other child murders across Australia.

This week, our main source was the absolutely stellar documentary The Fisherman, available on Youtube. This documentary includes interviews with James O’Neill, and also, Gordon Davie has the most ocker accent known to man, so it is definitely worth a watch.

Have a squiz at the inquest into Jimmy Taylor’s death and see if you think the evidence stacks up against O’Neill

Information about Jimmy Taylor, whose body has never been found, can be located here

Murderpedia’s always good.

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