News just in about Peter Walker. Who?
Peter Walker escaped from Pentridge with Ronald Ryan in 1965. He was 24 years old, considered the good-looking one. Their escape resulted in two deaths. Prison Officer George Hodson was shot dead outside Pentridge in the first few minutes. Later, on the run, Walker killed a man who knew who he was and may have threatened to tell police. Walker was convicted on two counts of manslaughter, did his time, and was released in 1984. Ryan wasn’t so fortunate and was hanged in 1967.
More than 40 year later, Walker popped up again. In 2007, he broke his silence about the circumstances around the escape. In an interview on Melbourne radio 3AW, the now 66 year old Walker confirmed what many suspected. He claimed that Ryan could not have fired the shot that killed Hodson because his rifle was jammed. How did he know?
“I know the gun had jammed because I bloody well jammed it,” Walker said. “Ronnie shouldn’t have hung.”*
What a scoop. What a terrible, heartfelt, honest thing to say.
The only problem is that it wasn’t the real Peter Walker. It was a fake Peter Walker. The real Peter Walker rang into 3AW to tell them so. And then he agreed to be interviewed the next day…
He echoed the views of the fake Peter Walker. Ryan was innocent. His gun was jammed.
At least the two Peter Walkers agreed.
But wait, there’s more. A couple of days later, the fake Peter Walker’s girlfriend contacted 3AW. She was stunned that the man she knew as Peter Walker wasn’t in fact Peter Walker. A bit of a surprise for everyone. Having written a book Playing Dead about people who take on false identities, I find this most intriguing. But just who was impersonating Peter Walker? Dunno. And why would you do that? No one seems to know.
That was 2007. Jump forward to 2013 and the real Peter Walker is arrested. Something about a drug lab. In early 2014, he faces 97 charges. Quite a lot. Later that year he attempts to leave Australia from Perth airport on a false passport but doesn’t quite make it. On 17 February 2016, he is sentenced to 7 years 4 months for drug trafficking, possession of chemicals used in drug manufacture and a few other things. He is 74 years old. And I bet he’s wishing it was the fake Peter Walker, not him.
*Garry Hughes, ‘Ronald Ryan did not kill warder’, The Australian, 21 December 2007.