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Naked City exposes gritty underworld

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Crime reporter John Silvester has stories, plenty of them. His yarns are gritty, just like Australia’s underworld and its cast of infamous characters.

Crime reporter John Silvester has stories, plenty of them.

His yarns are gritty, just like Australia's underworld and its cast of characters.

For more than 40 years, Silvester has got close to some of the country's most notorious crooks and crimes.

And after digging deep into his box of VHS tapes, micro cassettes and cassettes, The Age crime writer and columnist is lifting the lid on eight wild tales, in a new podcast, Naked City.

"You've got to develop some form of a black sense of humour," Silvester says about crime reporting, the places it takes you and the things you see.

"Otherwise it's overwhelming."

Silvester then breaks into conversation about asking a murderer why he'd stabbed his victim more than 100 times.

The killer told Silvester he'd intended to count how many times he's knifed his victim, but his mind had drifted onto who would win the football on Saturday.

"He said, 'Well, I sort of lost count.'"

So, each time he'd go back to zero.

But Silvester's career has also shown him "the best of human nature" too.

He chimes in with another story, this time about Black Saturday and a Channel Nine news chopper and a hero set loose from a long line, dangling from the helicopter.

"Because of the thermals and heat rushing up from the fire they nearly lost the helicopter, so they had to cut him free.

"So he's down there almost certain to die with a group of people and horses."

From high above the flames, the Channel Nine chopper managed to send down directions to help guide the group to safety.

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During a miraculous escape, flames closing in on the escapees set one of the horse's manes on fire.

"So we talk to this amazing hero, who when he was down there believed he was gonna die."

In the Naked City series, Silvester has frank and detail-rich discussions with streetwise criminals and the cops who outwitted and caught them.

A recent episode details how the original Hell's Angels amphetamine recipe arrived in Australia, and a US hitman who flew in not long after.

"The aim of the game is not just to have a reporter dredging through a particular case of story but actually to add some real value to it."

With the benefit of police retirements and years gone by, Silvester says the podcast serves up rare insights into eight gripping cases.

Naked City also reveals how policing has changed.

"In those days, police would do a reconstruction at the murder scene when a suspected confessed. So you've got these unbelievably frank confessions at the scene from offenders."

Silvester reminisces about an armed robber, who was captured and waiting for a "bashing" from police.

When the beating never comes, the atmosphere changes.

"You can actually hear in the background the noise of beer cans being opened. They're all sitting there having a beer before this bloke goes away for 15 years. And he talks about armed robberies and how fantastic they are and how exciting they are.

"It's pretty compelling stuff."

In the moody intro of each episode, Silvester tells listeners he has "the best job in journalism".

But it was "a fluke" he ended up on the crime beat.

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"I actually thought I'd probably end up looking at politics."

It was a challenge to whittle down his back catalogue to just eight cases, Silvester says.

Mark 'Chopper' Reid pictured during a music video shoot in 2013.

He remembers speaking with Mark 'Chopper' Read.

"I asked him, 'Why do you think do you think people are interested in this?'"

"Posh people love gangsters," Read shot back.

New episodes of Naked City are released every Wednesday, and can be found on iTunes or your favourite podcast platform.

Source: 9News

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