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A man of many disguises

It was claimed he was one of Victoria's finest detectives. Born in Clackmannan, Scotland in 1845 John Mitchell Christie was known for his creative disguises and arrests made of Melbourne's criminals.

Born to Captain James Christie and his wife Martha, nee Reoch, he always wanted to take on a military career following in the footsteps of his grandfather, an army officer in Canada, and his father who served in India.

His brother, named after their father, was a captain and was involved in the siege of Lucknow, a prolonged defence of the British Residency in the city of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh in India during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

John Mitchell Christie. Courtesy Victoria Police Museum via Gippsland History Facebook page

It was in August 1863 that Christie set sail for Australia, preparing to work for his uncle, Hugh Reoch, a partner in Kilmany Park Station in Gippsland Victoria. Tragedy struck when Reoch drowned in the Tarra River a year later.

Two years after that, in June 1866 he joined the Melbourne detective force. He was described as a 'well-groomed, refined-looking, walking embodiment of good taste'. In 1869 he took on the important task of shadowing the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, second son of Queen Victoria and and Prince Albert, then the Duke of York, later King George V, in 1901 on their visits to Australia and New Zealand.

Christie was also a gifted athlete and became well-known in boxing and rowing circles throughout Australia.

In November 1875 he resigned from the detective force to devote more time to sport and in December won a sculling match from James Cazaly. He won the Australasian Cup for sculling the following April.

He gave back to his community by running a boxing gym and is credited with raising over £30,000 for the Police Fund. He became Inspector Christie in 1887. Some of his many disguises he used to track down criminals included: a travelling tinker, a street-sweeper, a clergyman and more often than not, a 'gentleman'.

The grave of John Mitchell Christie at Box Hill cemetery. Courtesy Findagrave

He retired in 1910 due to a hearing impairment which was caused by an assault. His wife, Emilie Ada Taylor Baker, daughter of a bookseller, who he married in 1877, predeceased him and he died in 1927 at his home Kilmany, Armadale. He is buried in Box Hill Cemetery, Victoria.


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