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Objects of Intrigue: Cherry, the Dog Who Knew Too Much

Cherry the dog (photograph by the author)

They say every dog shall have its day, and that’s certainly the case for a Pekingese named Cherry, immortalized in the Sydney Justice and Police Museum’s permanent collection for providing key evidence in Australia’s first major child-kidnapping and murder case. 

It was the crime that shocked the nation. On July 7, 1960, at 8:30 am, eight-year-old Graeme Thorne was abducted on his way to school. A £25,000 ransom was demanded by telephone; the kidnapper targeted the boy because his father, Basil Thorne, had just won the Opera House Lottery.

Graeme’s body was later found on a vacant lot in Seaforth, wrapped in a traveling rug; his hands and feet were bound with string and cause of death was determined to be a blow to the head and/or asphyxiation.

Forensic evidence led police to the house of Stephen Bradley, a Hungarian immigrant. Hairs from a Pekingese found on the rug wrapped around the child’s body matched tufts found in Bradley’s vacuum cleaner bag and were traced to his dog, Cherry. This moulting mutt proved the lynchpin of the case, providing sufficient evidence to charge Bradley, who had fled for England and abandoned his pet in a vet’s kennel at Rushcutters Bay. The animal was discovered there by police.

During the ensuing trial, Cherry was hit by a car — an accidental death by all accounts — and the canine corpse was sent to a taxidermist before being introduced as evidence. Bradley was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, dying in Goulburn Gaol in 1968.

Cherry isn’t the only taxidermied dog now on display at the Sydney Justice and Police Museum. Find out more on the Atlas Obscura page for the site, which includes information on Tess the Alsatian, the first canine to perform official duties as part of the Sydney Police Dog Unit formed in 1932.

Cherry discovered by police (courtesy Sydney Justice and Police Museum archive)


Cherry the dog (photograph by Stilgherrian/Flickr)


Objects of Intrigue is a feature highlighting extraordinary objects from the world’s great museums, private collections, historic libraries, and overlooked archives. See more incredible objects here >