SHE POSED AS AN AIR HOSTESS, A PSYCHOLOGIST, BUT MOST OFTEN AS A COP. THEN SHE FELL IN LOVE WITH ONE.
Andrew Lawrence Twining, a 32-year old senior constable with Melbourne’s Victoria Police, spent his days on his motorbike and his nights home alone. A kind-faced and plump traffic officer, he looked every bit the even hand he was in the line of duty. He was the sort of cop who grew up wanting to be nothing else. He signed up soon after his eighteenth birthday. “A bloody good cop,” according to one of his partners, “one that’d have your back in a tiz.”
While Andrew was jocular and jovial, most would never guess that he was going through a rough patch due, in large part, to his divorce the previous year. His beat partner and closest friend, the lanky, stern-faced Glenn Humble, however, did know about Andrew's troubles.
Glenn, a married father-of-two, didn’t have much experience navigating the local dating scene, but he was constantly pushing his younger partner to get back on the horse. “Give it a go, man,” he urged Andrew, one cold morning in December 2005. “What have you got to lose?” Andrew caved and signed up to a dating site called RSVP.
Listing his job on his public profile probably wouldn’t fly with the Office of Police Integrity, but it did fill his inbox. He scanned through the messages, grinning. A 25-year old lawyer? A bit too young, he thought, and probably too dull. One too many dealings with prosecutors had left a bad taste in his mouth–and he was looking for someone to awaken his sterile life.
Bisexual Aquarian who drinks socially and values good looks. Andrew almost laughed when he read Jody’s bio. Her interests: swinging sex, spanking, and handcuffs. Glenn’s not gonna like this, he thought. But she lived in South Yarra, his beat, down on McFarlane Street. He’s right, though. What have I got to lose?
On a Sunday evening in 2006, Andrew prepped himself for their date at a nearby wine bar. New cologne, quarter-zip, sandy hair combed–he looked like a professor. Andrew, with a long stint in the law under his belt, wasn’t often nervous, but her racy bio had him jittery.
Jody Harris, 27 at the time, had wild black hair with bangs cut just shy of her hazel eyes. She wore a sequined dress, a four-carat solitaire diamond on her left hand and a princess-cut pink on the right. She was imposing, but once she sat down, her relaxed demeanor put Andrew at ease. “A Crown lager,” she told the waitress. “Don’t bother with a glass.”
After five minutes of conversation, it was clear to Andrew that he’d found someone spectacular. And they somehow fit together seamlessly—Jody a Ritalin-fueled, brash-talking ball of energy, Andrew, soft-spoken and stable.
“What do you do for a crust, anyway?” Jody asked, her gaze fixed on him.
“I’m a cop,” he said, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “What about yourself?”
“I’m a flight attendant for Virgin,” she answered, pausing to take a sip from the brown bottle. “Pretty much all domestic routes… Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney. Do the odd run out to Adelaide, but it’s not often… thank god!” He laughed.
Later that night, when the two stumbled through the front door of her apartment, he saw the red uniform scattered across the sofa with the luggage tags and name badge on the nightstand.
The next day, Glenn couldn’t ignore Andrew’s renewed energy.
“Good time last night?” he asked. Both were sticklers for being up front and not playing games, but the older man cautioned him to wait a while before texting her. Andrew couldn’t wait.
Before he even had the chance to tuck his phone away it buzzed.
After the two met again they were inseparable. Pleased as Andrew was that the provocative dating profile rang true, he also quickly figured she was the sort worth taking home to his parents. Over spaghetti and board games at their colonial-style home in Templestowe, she won over his parents. Over the next two weeks, restless nights turned to fancy dinners, which were often paid for by Jody. By Valentine’s Day, he was ready to spend his life with her–though he remembers her spending habits were a little dizzying at times.
“Forty bucks?” he’d exclaimed upon finding the receipt, bursting out laughing. Jody, cross-legged on the hotel bed, looked sheepish.
“That’s right, idiot… you complaining?” She snatched the receipt out of his hands: forty just on condoms.
Also noting her new Carla Zampatti sweater, he decided he wasn’t going to rock the nice new boat he found himself in. Andrew was trusting. And, for the first time in months, he felt happy.
Jody Harris—whose real name was Jody Pearson-Harding—had a thing for cops.
Seven years earlier, she’d pulled up to the gates of Brisbane’s Roma Street police complex in a white sedan she’d rented. No decals, but it looked the part–and so did she. Four trips to a West End uniform shop, each time posing as a different officer, had netted her a full Queensland police uniform. Instead of her normally glitzy garb, she’d picked up a sky-blue shirt, jacket, cargo pants, and a peaked patrol hat. When the store clerk, laughing, told her she’d need to go to her supervisor for a name-tag, she nodded politely. On the way out she pinched one from the front-of-store mannequin.
Jody was a gifted con artist, “a human fuckin’ hyena,” as one of the cops who worked her case put it. On top of the kit she’d amassed, one bump into a street cop at Main Street had snagged her a badge. That’d get her past the buzzer, and it gave her an identity. Facing the cop manning the front desk at the Roma Street station, she wasn’t Jody anymore. She was Constable Alison White, a country cop down on admin detail from Townsville.
“Bet they keep you busy up there,” the corporal, not much older than her, scoffed. “All crocs and crims, isn’t it?”
“I mean, it’s always nice to get away,” she said with a toothy smile. “But I’m here on official business. Whereabouts for permit renewals?”
“Weapons Licensing?” he replied. “It’s down the hall on your left.”
Like the rest of her swindles, it was simple but called for a level of outright ballsiness that most people could never summon.
By the time Jody packed up and left the Roma Street station, 90 minutes later, she’d worked her way in with no less than five different detectives. All of them were straight males disarmed by her patter and polished looks, and all of them were willing to share details about cases, crooks and court matters.
Jody grew up in Tingalpa, a rough part of Brisbane; She sniffed lines, smoked pipes, and popped pills with the best of them. But this high was like nothing she had ever experienced. “If she could dupe police like that,” a different cop would later say, “the banks would prove a cinch.”
But banks didn’t capture her interest, at least not at first. Jody’s fascination was with the police. As one psychologist later involved in her case put it, she was “obsessed, thanks to a childhood disrupted by the justice system.”
Jody was born in 1978 to a violent father who once struck her in the chest with a broom handle for crying. The incident pushed her mother, Debbie, over the edge; she packed her bags and left, Jody in tow. Debbie later began a romantic relationship with Brisbane Broncos rugby star “Smokin” Joe Kilroy, a man known as much for his off-field antics as his status as a world-class fullback. In 1989, the two were caught trafficking cannabis as part of an undercover sting by Queensland police. Jody was just 11 as she watched officers take her mother away. At 12, she peered on as a judge sentenced Debbie to a six-year stretch at Boggo Road.
“Hardly the grounding for a love of the law,” the psychologist explains. With her mother gone, her life uprooted to a new city, it wasn’t long before Jody spiraled into a life of crime herself. At 14, she started with soft drugs, graffiti, and theft. But soon, she found her real love: fraud. She was dialing teachers and other authorityd figures in her life–going so far as to impersonate police by phone. Hauled before judges for dishonesty several times, she was unrepentant.
On Christmas Day, 1993, when she was just 15 and living with her grandparents in inner-city Melbourne, she rang the Russell Street station. Patched through to the 32-year-old sergeant, Brett Bardsley, she fed him a backstory that was complicated but, ultimately, convincing. Claiming to be calling for another policeman friend of hers, she sold Brett on the idea she was the 20-year-old daughter of a prestigious advertising executive. She asked him out for a drink and, “sealing the deal” with a photo of herself in a black, lacy bra, began her first fling with a man in uniform. “She was impeccably dressed and spoke well,” says Bardsley. “She seemed very mature.”
When the two celebrated her would-be 21st with Bardsley’s parents, they had no idea she was just 16. When the tabloids caught wind of the fling, the disgraced detective lost his job and moved to the UK. "I think she just had a fixation with me because I was a copper,'' Bardsley told the Herald Sun.
He was right. At the same time Jody was dating him, she had another cop in her crosshairs, one who’d go on to Parliament after leaving the force.
“Jody Harris was under a different name and she used to come around, for example, to East Melbourne and Russell Street police stations,” said Jason Wood, now Australia’s Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs. “I regarded her as a casual acquaintance. I never went out with her [...] But she was like a breath of air when every day you had people walking in having been assaulted or robbed to make reports. She was infatuated with all police members.”
Jody was brimming with confidence and hungry for a sense of control over her splintering life—and she seemed to have a vendetta against anyone in the justice system.
Far away in Brisbane, Jody’s mother was charting a very different path. After witnessing the murder of a friend in the overcrowded jail, she committed to turning her life around–and did so, in dramatic fashion. Debbie enrolled in a Bachelor’s of Social Work. Textbooks and study notes filled her cell, which helped her win the esteem of the parole board. After Debbie walked free on a good behavior bond in 1992, she practiced, for a time, as a social worker and then turned her eye to the law. She later became the first convicted drug trafficker in the country to be admitted to the Supreme Court as counsel.
At age 19, a judge dismissed Jody as an “incorrigible thief.” Eight months after Roma Street, she found herself before the Brisbane District Court facing down 22 charges of fraud and identity theft. Grinning ear-to-ear, she asked for a further 141 accounts to be taken into account.
From an outsider’s perspective, this sort of behavior might seem mad. But it’s clear Jody still had her wits about her. After her release from the Palen Creek Correctional Centre in May 1999, she clung to a low profile for the next seven years: food stamps and minimum-wage work. The Queensland police uniform, which had stayed hidden in her closet during her time inside, stayed stashed behind the designer clothes she’d nicked.
Whatever the trigger, she pulled the uniform out in 2006. On Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway, the 27-year-old pulled behind a Lexus and began flashing her headlights. Soon she pulled alongside and, pointing to the crumbled up uniform on her dash, indicated that the driver should pull over. Alysha Searle, an underslept, overcaffeinated barista six years her junior, complied. Jody, now supposedly a South Yarra rape detective, demanded to see her license.
“I clocked you running that red light back there,” she snapped, scanning over the card as she spoke. “You’ve just got to be more careful.”
Before the girl had a chance to protest, Jody faked an incoming call. “Get out of here before I change my mind.”
It wasn’t until Searle made it home that she realized the detective still had her license. The next day she saw that roughly $3,000 had been withdrawn from her savings account—enough for a Carla Zampatti sweater, a new Gucci bag, and forty bucks’ worth of condoms.
In March, Andrew dropped his new girlfriend at Tullamarine airport. She was wearing her Virgin uniform and told him she was heading up to Sydney. They kissed goodbye and, freshly-cut keys to Andrew’s place in hand, Jody told him she’d drop round once she was back. They were only seven weeks into the relationship, but things were going well. Jody had asked him all about his charmed childhood–a topic he thought boring–and, at the same time, she spoke openly about her checkered past. More than open-minded, he found her honesty endearing.
Once Andrew peeled off and faded into the airport traffic, Jody wasted little time swapping the dress out for a pinstriped pantsuit. Instead of a Virgin Blue flight, she boarded a Qantas plane bound for Brisbane and sat in business class. The woman who landed next to seat 3C was Leah Jury, an off-duty flight attendant. “From the moment I sat down beside her I had this really bad vibe,” she’d later recount. “She was watching everything I did and just made me feel quite uncomfortable.”
Even perched at the plane’s front, Jody still didn’t fit the archetype of a jet-setting con artist. A beer in her hand and The Sopranos playing on her laptop, her demeanor was anything but slick–even less so when she barked at the woman serving her. “We’re all out of Crown, but I can get you something from economy,” the attendant said. “I don't know what they have in economy,” she snapped back. “I've only been in economy once in my life.”
By the time the doors opened and the tropical heat gushed in, Leah was clamoring to get away from the woman beside her. Little did she know that when she’d gone to the bathroom Jody had lifted the off-duty flight attendant’s ID from her handbag. With a ding, the seatbelt sign turned off and Jody turned to her victim one last time. “Would you like this magazine?” she asked. “I'm done with it.” In her hand, a copy of Women’s Weekly, dog-eared and doubled over on an article about a con artist.
No longer just a cop, Jody now began switching job titles on a near-daily basis: on Wednesday, a lawyer; on Thursday, a psychiatrist; on Friday, a flight attendant. She also began toying with disguises and wigs, both for fooling women out of their cards and for posing as them at their local bank branch. While con artists like Frank Abagnale, the real-life anti-hero who inspired Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, were calculating and methodical, Jody tended to fly by the seat of her pants, to dive into situations and rely on her wits, charm, and boldness to navigate it.
She had wherewithal, one of the key traits of a successful con artist. One time, walking the streets of Sydney’s North Shore, she saw a woman trip and smack her head against the pavement. A crowd of concerned passers-by gathered around and Jody pressed her way to the front. It wasn’t long before the two were en route to the nearest hospital—a ride which cost Anita $10,500.
Like Abagnale, Jody was often caught red-handed, but she had a knack for getting away with it. Once pressed by a bank teller for her date of birth, she’d steered into the skid. “I don’t know,” she barked, acting as if the question, rather than the answer, were dim-witted. “It’s on my license, right there.” The teller, taken aback, handed over the cash.
Another time, in Melbourne, she’d tried to withdraw money from an account that had been flagged for fraud. The teller hesitated, reading the system alert aloud to her. “Fraud has been done on this account,” she said, eyes fixed firmly in Jody’s direction. “Do not give any over-the-counter-transactions without contacting Sunshine branch.” She gave Jody a once over: designer dress, jewelry, and high heels. “It’s obvious that you’re a trustworthy-looking person,” she said, according to Jody, before handing over the cash.
With Jody’s level of confidence comes recklessness. It was only a matter of time before the law caught up to her. Blasting through Sydney’s western suburbs in a rental car at twice the speed limit, she’d been flagged by a couple highway cops. Squaring up to the officers, she shot them a steely glance as she handed over a different woman's licence; one who looked almost nothing like her. “Send a copy to my address,” she’d said dismissively. Soon after, she was back on the road. The owner had had a hard time working out why her licence had been disqualified.
With this sort of salesmanship, Jody had little trouble convincing her new beau she could afford to fund her lavish lifestyle, which, by this point, had become theirs. “I’m a world-class bargain hunter,” she explain, even after he watched her drop north of six grand on a single outing: $500 on hair extensions, $1650 on a bichoodle pup, and $4000 on a diamond TAG Heuer watch in a single outing. Andrew, still every bit the savvy constable, would prod his friends at the station periodically. “She’s a trolley dolley, mate,” said one of his more straight-shooting mates at the station. “Even they get paid better than us, remember.”
Melbourne isn’t a city short on date spots but, by the end of autumn 2006, Jody and Andrew had just about run out of ideas. They’d even got matching tattoos: her name on his right butt cheek, his on her wrist. They snacked on oysters at the $310 per-person, 55th-floor Vue de Monde. Andrew got down on one knee and asked Jody for her hand in marriage. She accepted and, soon after, Andrew was pressing Glenn Humble for honeymoon tips.
“What do you reckon about Greece in November?”
As it happened, Andrew was taking his parents to Greece on vacation, which could double as a kind of honeymoon scouting trip. After months of pulling night shifts, he’d earned the right to a European getaway with his parents. For once, it was Jody’s turn to drop Andrew off at the airport.
As she did, and on the heels of their engagement and her very real elation, Jody would have had to confront the uncomfortable reality that she was in an emotional bind she’d never found herself in before. Keys to his place, easy access to his credit card, even a joint bank account, and yet Jody had never once taken a dime from her now-fiancé. The truth was, she had made the most basic error, as she would later attest: She had fallen for the goofy constable who made her laugh, who accepted and seemed to see through her flaws—or those she revealed to him—and who loved her. She had built a house of cards predicated on the notion that she would be long gone and emotionally uninvested when it toppled down.
As she dropped him off at the airport, the realization that she didn’t want it to end would have hung overhead like an axe.
Of the three state police forces Jody ran afoul of, it was, coincidentally, the one Andrew worked for that first realized that there was a serial con woman on the loose. Perhaps spurred toward a destructive path by the precarious emotional situation she now found herself in, with her new fiancé overseas, Jody began to work the city like never before.
One Melbourne jewelry store owner, who felt a friendly connection with the businesswoman who’d dropped $600 at her shop, agreed to go for coffee at a Moonee Ponds milk bar. It turned out to be an expensive mistake, costing her $76,780 after Jody stole her ID and drained her bank account.
For months, reports of an increase in identity theft had been filtering through to the Victorian Police (VICPOL). You’d have been hard-pressed to guess the cases were linked, much less the work of one woman. The incidents were spread both north and south of the Yarra River, not to mention way east in the small farming town of Warragul. But when a flurry of thefts occurred over a one-week period, all with a matching M.O, it was impossible not to see the connection. So Senior Sergeant Glenn Davies, the head of VICPOL’s robbery division, Taskforce Embona, put a call through to one of his rising stars.
“I’m not going to lie, Bertoncello,” the chief had said, “This’ll be a hell of a case to crack.” But Senior Detective Paul Bertoncello, an outside-the-box thinker, had the bright idea of getting the media involved. He knew exactly who to call. The Embona detective dialed the Herald Sun news desk and was patched through to crime editor Paul Anderson. "It's like chasing a phantom," Bertoncello complained to the reporter, explaining how the woman he was pursuing went about her cons. "She's using different names and has proved very hard to track down. We find out about a new name every week or so. She regularly changes her appearance – she might have blonde hair one time, then red the next, then dark hair. Usually she's heavily made up with lots of large, flashy jewelry."
Anderson knew a scoop when he saw one. The next day, the story ran on the front page of the Sun; commuters would have been hard-pressed to miss its bold red headline: “FIVE STAR STING – Phantom conwoman lives life of luxury.”
Jody–who couldn’t silence the same outsized ego that had once asked the court to add charges to a rap sheet she thought underrepresented her crimes–couldn’t suppress a well of pride. Here she was, a former small-time scamster, with her exploits plastered on the cover of one of the nation’s biggest papers.
Less than a week after the story ran in the Sun, and with Andrew still at the start of his Mediterranean sojourn, Jody rang the Embona taskforce and taunted them—an act so ridiculous it’s hard to read anything into it other than a longing to end her charade without having to bite the bullet and tell Andrew herself. “McFarlane Street,” she said, volunteering her South Yarra address. A quick database search revealed an apartment registered under the name of Jodie Kardinis-Harris.
The officers barreled out of the Prahran station. Ten minutes was all it took to get to Jody’s flat and, by that time, the crew had snagged a search warrant off a District Court judge. But when they busted down the door of the apartment, Jody was nowhere to be found. She was on the way to Brisbane, a 19-hour drive. Seemingly deliberately, she’d left behind a Virgin Blue outfit, police uniforms, badges, and even photos of herself. As Glenn Davies told his crew in no uncertain terms that these weren’t just clues. They were a middle-finger salute to the Embona taskforce.
On the drive back to the station, the chief could barely conceal his outrage. “She’s fucking teasing us, Bertoncello,” spat Davies. “Get ahold of that journo again and make sure he runs those bloody photos.”
Midway through breakfast with his wife and kids, Glenn Humble nearly bowled over in surprise upon seeing his friend’s new fiancée’s face on TV. Dashing to the phone, he dialed the Embona crew to let them know everything he knew their phantom. “This is grand,” Bertoncello told him over the phone. Humble agreed the net was closing in on Jody, but it was hard to share Bertoncello’s enthusiasm. Not when next on his to-do list was breaking the news to Andrew, who was still on vacation in Greece.
As Glenn summoned the words to tell Andrew, calls came flooding into police tip-off lines as the women Jody had preyed on divulged details of previously unreported frauds. One woman, Donna Duncan, had been taken for as much as $56,000. Soon, anyone named Jody had a pall of ambiguity hanging over their heads.
Need to talk ASAP, mate. Jody isn’t who you think she is, he wrote.
Andrew got the news by email. “What the hell?” he exclaimed, scanning the subject line twice before opening it. He could barely believe what he was reading, but a quick internet search confirmed that Jody was, indeed, national news.
Queasy, Andrew continued reading Humble’s email.
[Fraud Squad detective] David Lewis has suggested that I change the lock on your house as we both believe she may well drive to Melbourne. She will probably not fly as all airlines and banks are now aware of her picture.
David Lewis has asked me to ask you if you are missing any police badges, specifically hat badges or plaques. [...] He also wants to know about any markers that could be used to identify her. Scars, birthmarks, tattoos etc.
Knowing tattoos would make it easier. Apparently she has the word ‘karma’ tattooed on her lower back – can you confirm this?
Andrew was crushed. He “hadn’t the slightest inkling,” he would later report, that the relationship was “anything short of perfect.” Now he was learning the woman he’d committed to building a life with didn’t exist. He slumped back on the bed and slowly waded through every word of every article he could find: Jody Harris, lawyer; Jody Harris, surgeon; Jody Harris, seafood entrepreneur. A seafood entrepreneur?
He felt some sense of relief upon seeing the joint account hadn’t been touched. Before calling the bank, he dialed in for Embona and was forwarded on to a sympathetic Bertoncello. “I can’t imagine how you’re feeling, mate,” he said. “Your head must be spinning.”
That was putting it lightly. As the hours ticked through, that initial shock dulled down into a confused mix of resentment and hesitation–he was angry, hurt, but also deeply conflicted. Love wasn’t something you could just turn off, and the fact remained that Andrew had fallen in love with Jody.
Bertoncello asked Andrew to write down any information about Jody that might be helpful. Pen and paper in hand, he cast his mind back to the Silverlake and began parsing what he knew to be true from what was likely not. She had opened up with surprising candor about her mother, her troubled childhood and her odd brush with the law. On the other hand, she’d obviously never told him about Brett Bardsley, Jason Wood or Roma Street. He had visited her grandmother in Brisbane at one point, and the memory of that lovely afternoon drifted back to him. Was Jody the woman he knew, or was she a complete fabrication? Reeling from the reality of his situation, there was no way to be sure.
The hardest part was yet to come. It was one thing to write down what he knew about the woman he had spent the happiest months with, but quite another to actively participate in bringing her to justice. Bertoncello and the team agreed that, since the mutual bank account had been left untouched, Andrew should try to make contact. “Good luck mate,” Bertoncello had said on their second call. “You’re doing the right thing.”
Fighting a sickly feeling, Andrew made his decision. He was going to take a leading role in helping the police catch his fiancee.
He sighed, pressed send and–like always–Jody replied within minutes.
He hesitated. He’d been duped, but he was still processing it all. Despite the anger welling in his chest, as he read her words, how could he not feel a deep pang of longing? Andrew took a deep breath, steadied his nerves and dialed.
He didn’t sleep that night. Catching crooks was his job, but now he was maneuvering to catch his fiancée in a sting. By the time the sun rose, Greek time, he and Jody had made a teary pact to meet in Sydney in a week.
He promised her he would come alone.
Cremorne, a richer part of Sydney’s Lower North Shore, fits right in with Jody’s bumptious brand. A stone’s throw from both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, it’s nonetheless a quiet, leafy place of BMWs, California-style bungalows, and white-picket fences. There isn’t even a police station.
A great place, in other words, for a con artist and her cop fiancé to hide out. With Andrew due back from Europe in two days’ time, Jody had arranged to meet with Daniel Raice, a leasing agent, at his Rose Bay office in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Logically, it made sense to keep a low profile, but the seasoned swindler’s recent success had been emboldening. One swiped Amex later, she paraded up and down the busy Oxford Street with nothing but a pair of sunglasses to mask her identity. While the New South Wales (NSW) police force was knocking on doors and chatting to hotel managers, she wasn’t hiding in any of the usual spots. Instead, she was halfway through a drink, miles away, at the packed Paddington Inn. With Andrew due to join her, there was hope it might all work out. Trust would be hard to rebuild, but Andrew was worth it.
Dressed in a new outfit and slightly slurring her words, Jody hopped in a taxi and barged into Raice’s Rose Bay office. At first, he didn’t notice that he was talking to Australia’s most wanted crook–in fact, neither did most of the other workers in the quiet, second-floor workspace. So, with her head buried in the paperwork Raice had just handed her, Jody didn’t actually see when it clicked for Suzanne, a grey-haired office manager. She managed not to gasp aloud but, as she slipped into a backroom and dialed the police, several of her co-workers caught on that something was afoot.
When Suzanne re-emerged, all eyes were on her, and she tried to keep her cool. “Have you got any sort of ID I can photocopy?” she asked, her voice quivering only slightly. Daniel and the others watched on in dead silence. “I need it for a registry check.” Jody’s gaze hardened. Both women knew what she was playing at–at this point, so did everyone in the room.
“My husband’s got it in the car, actually,” Jody replied without skipping a beat. “I’ve just got to duck outside.” A thin veneer of civility, just enough to excuse her bolt to the door.
Sirens soon broke the suburban silence. Not the Embona boys, who were far away in Melbourne, but the Rose Bay locals. Spotted by a local hiding outside a nearby McDonalds, Jody dashed off and the patrol officers missed her by a hair’s breadth. In the end, they’d find an abandoned car rented under the name of Jody Harris, but not the woman herself, who’d slipped down a back alley and escaped on foot.
“Well that certainly was never in the job description,” Suzanne quipped to Daniel and her colleagues. For an older woman, she’d held her ground well and enjoyed the new-found reputation of office daredevil. She walked into work the next day feeling like a hero and wasn’t surprised at all when her first call of the day was an officer from VICPOL – in fact, she made double sure that everyone could pick up on their conversation. “I told her everything,” says Suzanne. “How I picked up on her [Jody]. I was even joking about all the diamonds on her fingers. I was on the phone to her for 10 minutes, then she suddenly hung up on me.”
Of course, it wasn’t a Victorian officer on the other end of the line–it was Jody.
"I felt like such a fool."
After news of the run-in at Rose Bay made it back to NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney, the state’s top cop knew he was hot on Jody Harris’ tail. Over the course of the last two weeks, he’d overseen Sydney’s end of the sting, and, as the date drew nearer, he instructed the city’s Police Area Command (PAC) to liaise daily with everyone: Glenn Davies, the Embona taskforce, Andrew Twining, and even Glenn Humble.
Andrew couldn’t help feeling a pang of disgust as he typed it out, queuing for the first leg home from Athens. An intensely private man, it was doubly humiliating that he was required to forward the text on to a private number jointly held by the NSW, Victorian, and Queensland authorities.
Andrew, free for so long from his prior haze of depression, felt that cloud settling over his mind once more—he was fatigued and forgetful. He hadn’t had the heart to break the news to his parents. As the pilot announced they were beginning their descent into Melbourne, he dreaded the coming conversation.
On the drive home from Tullamarine, both listened on, ashen-faced, stumped for words until they reached Andrew’s driveway. They were as heart-broken as he was--maybe more.
“Where to now?” his father had finally asked him, a creaky tinge to his voice that Andrew didn’t recognize.
“Sydney,” he replied. “By road.”
They’d helped him to load up his maroon Holden Statesman; though, truth be told, there wasn’t much to pack. With less than 48 hours to the sting, Andrew was soon blasting his way out through the Victorian outback.
On the morning of 5 July, Commissioner Moroney signed off on a message that went out from Sydney City PAC to a group of over 20 senior officers and battle-hardened undercovers, including several of the Embona boys.
Details confirmed: 0300 hours. 06/06/06. Scruffy Murphy’s. Chinatown.
Andrew, being a traffic cop, never checked his phone when he was at the wheel, but as he wound his way into Sydney’s Inner West he knew what the ping meant. Likewise, the details were already shared with all local police units east of the Blue Mountains. That didn’t stop the Rose Bay police division from trying its luck again with 14 hours left on the clock. Acting on a tip-off that Jody was likely holed up in the glitzy Avillion Hotel, Detective Senior Sergeant Despa Fitzgerald burst into reception. There, she learned that a stolen ID had been used to book a room. “We looked at the CCTV and, sure enough, it was Jody,” she said. “She’d left about 20 minutes earlier.”
Night settled over Sydney’s Chinatown. The pinch point, an Irish pub on the main thoroughfare, was crawling with undercovers from midnight onwards. Look closely enough at about a third of the pub patrons, pedestrians, and taxi drivers that filled the joint that night, and you might be able to make out the handguns bulging from under their clothing. Andrew thought it ironic. “Sort of the opposite of Jody’s dress-up game,” he’d joked to Glenn earlier.
As the hours passed and the streets thinned out, anticipation built. Back in Prahran, listening to events unfold, the Melbourne detectives could feel the tension building. Down at the street level, that feeling was tenfold–especially for Andrew, sitting alone in his Statesman at the corner of George and Goulburn. The clock struck three.
Let’s go, baby. We’ll drive through the night.
Andrew’s fingers were trembling as he tapped out the message to Jody. He hated what he was doing, but it was too late. He glanced out the window toward the Avillion, and he wondered if she was still there. Just then a yellow cab parked up next to him, and out jumped Jody. That same wild, untamed hair, that same piercing hazel gaze he’d fallen for. But it wasn’t the same. How could it be? Looking into her eyes now, he could see how she’d bulldozed her way through dozens of victims, bank tellers, and cops. She was grinning, genuinely glad to see him. It struck him now as a selfish grin.
She hopped in the car. Andrew tried to force a weak smile but, unable to carry through, broke eye contact. “She knew right that minute,” he would recall. Her animal instinct had kicked in.
Jody leapt out of the car but didn’t make it far. She was swarmed on every side. For optics’ sake, Andrew was also pinned and handcuffed, and the two were dragged into the back of a squad car. Jody was well aware that Andrew had been the only one to successfully con her.
A world-class fabulist, the closest Jody ever came to the truth was–surprisingly enough–in the hours that followed her arrest. When a bag of credit cards, recovered from the Avillion, was dumped on the desk in front of her, she displayed a “near-photographic” memory, according to one of the cops who interviewed her. Much to the team’s astonishment, she took great pride in reeling off card digits, as well as recounting the tales of how she acquired them.
“I’d pickpocketed this girl, Jackie Young, and walked into the bank the next day,” she said, dark eyes lighting up as she spoke. “I didn't even know she was sitting at the front desk. And I went past her to the teller and on the way out looked down and I saw Jackie Young. She works at the bank there, where I took the money from. Her own staff didn't realize. They're a smart bunch in Melbourne, along with their fuckin' police."
Also on the table were wigs, disguises, police badges and over 100 different ID cards. There were even three American drivers’ licenses–though Jodie never got around to explaining what she was planning with those.
Jody never bothered applying for bail. When her day in court rolled around in September, she chose not to appear in person or by video-link from her cell. Her barrister entered guilty pleas to 43 of the 141 charges on her behalf, enough for the court to call it a day. The barrister added that her client intended to admit to another 80 counts.
Over time, the judge would hear from nearly three dozen victims and tally Jody’s six-month take at $170,000—likely a fraction of her true total. Slapped with a four-year sentence and a $175,000 fine, Jody knew from her first day at the Emu Plains detention facility that she’d never really step free from there. Instead, she would get a free ride in a Corrections van either north to Queensland or south to Victoria to face fresh charges.
On Andrew’s return to Melbourne, an unblemished record did little to protect him. He was suspended, pending an internal investigation, and when a search of his flat turned up an unregistered handgun, a .38 revolver, he was forced to argue in the county court that it must have belonged to Jody. On his computer, detectives also found a document titled “Deceptions of the Heart,” an outpouring of grief about Jody’s trickery. Hearing his story, a sympathetic jury acquitted him of misdoing and soon after he was cleared to return to work. Even so, Andrew steered clear of the station for months.
Minimum-security was a jarring adjustment for a bon vivant like Jody Harris. An appeal against the length of her sentence was soon knocked back, with a judge telling her she “displayed a continuing attitude of disobedience to the law.” So with no chance of a commutation, Jody figured she might as well apply for transfer down to Melbourne. Nearly a year into her sentence, she penned a letter to Andrew, who was by now back patrolling the streets of South Yarra:
I adore you Andrew. I am changing daily to be the woman you deserve and will always have in your beautiful life [...] I am so happy to move down there to see you, mainly, but also I can start (serving) my sentence concurrent with the one I am doing here in NSW.
A little cunning, you could say, but her words grow awkward and artless thereafter:
I know you're probably doing it hard down there, but when you can please, please send me some money for my shoes.
She never did hear back from Andrew, who was working things out with different counsellors. But her pleas were enough to win over Corrective Services NSW, who palmed her off to the Melbourne Magistrates Court for arraignment in 2008. At that point, hardly the model prisoner, she chose to front court in a T-shirt with the phrase “Doin’ Time.” Another 96 charges, another $160,000, and another no-nonsense magistrate, Peter Mealy, who asked whether she intended to plead guilty to all counts. “All of them,” she snapped back.
In his testimony before the Melbourne sentencing hearing, Andrew was clear-eyed about what had happened.
“I was in love with a person who misrepresented who she was entirely,” he said, “in regards to her employment, her honesty, her criminal background, her criminality, her history of impersonating police and associating herself with police.” Over her years in the Victorian system, he declined to drop by to visit, and Jody never sent him another letter.
By the time Jody made it home to Queensland, her tour of Australia’s penal institutions had started to eat into her thirties and it seems something had changed about her by then. Intent to work the right side of the law for once, and once more following in the footsteps of Frank Abignale, Jody began running counter-fraud tutorials for both VICPOL and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), teaching the cops to ferret out talented con artists like her. She also expressed remorse for her actions for the first time since her arrest at Scruffy Murphy’s. The presiding judge, a far softer touch than the first two, afforded her sympathy for her upbringing, and she also nodded along as she heard of the recycling programs Jody had begun running in prison, her peer support work, and how she’d embarked on a Master of Koori studies to more deeply explore Australia’s Aboriginal communities. "Your cooperation and change in attitude are to be commended, encouraged, and rewarded," the judge said before signing off on a 12 month suspended sentence--a slap on the wrist, legally speaking.
Finally released from the clutches of the Australian judicial system, Jody stepped outside of the Brisbane District Court, and on to Roma Street, no less, where she had conned a whole police station.
It is up to her to decide who she is going to be.
SANDY MILNE is a freelance journalist based in Perth, Australia. He has written for The Guardian, SBS, and WIRED magazine.
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