Gold Stealing Detection Unit

Gold Stealing Detection Unit
Agency overview
Formed 1907
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdiction* State of Western Australia, Australia
Map of Gold Stealing Detection Unit's jurisdiction.
Size 2,645,615 km2
Governing body Government of Western Australia
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters Egan Street,
Kalgoorlie, WA
* Divisional agency: Division of the country, over which the agency has usual operational jurisdiction.

The Gold Stealing Detection Unit (GSDU), or Gold Stealing Detective Squad (GSDS),[1] is a special unit of the Western Australian Police, based in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. It investigates criminal activity and allegations at all stages of the gold production process in the state.[2]

The unit consists of a very small number of detectives but is the oldest specialist police service in Western Australia.[3]


The squad was formed in 1907, at a time when gold theft was rife in the region.[4] It was formed after Detective Sergeant Kavanagh,[3] in charge of the Kalgoorlie police, submitted a report in 1906 on the seriousness of gold theft in the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. A Royal Commission[5] determined in February 1907,[3] that his allegations were justified and a special police service was formed in late 1907.[6]

Previous to this, the Chamber of Mines operated a special service called The Bureau for investigatory services. The Chamber continued to financially support the GSDS.[6] The unit is based now, as it was then, at Egan Street in Kalgoorlie.

Walsh and Pitman

In April 1926, Inspector John Walsh [7] and Sergeant Alexander Pitman of the GSDS were murdered while investigating gold theft.[8] Their bodies were dumped down the Belle of Kalgoorlie mine shaft at Miller's Find, Binduli, near Kalgoorlie.[9][10] The murders and the subsequent press reporting about the limited resources available to the GSDS at the time had a similar effect of the 1907 reporting of issues. The lengthy investigation, eventual capture, and execution of the murderers, William Coulter and Phillip Trefene, was of considerable interest to the Perth press at the time.[11]

Walsh's and Pitman's funeral in Perth on 17 May 1926 was a procession watched by thousands, and attended by a large number of police officers.[12] The memorial to the two policemen was originally of low interest; however, in the year of the state's centenary it was unveiled by the Governor.[13] The memorial was originally erected outside the police building in James Street, Perth,[14] [15] moved for a time to the WA Police Headquarters, and is now located in the WA Police Academy at Joondalup.

Recent history

The squad was part of the Western Australian Police Department until 31 May 1995, when the latter became the Western Australia Police Service.[16]

On 2 October 2007, the unit celebrated its centenary in Kalgoorlie Town Hall.[17][18]

As 75% of all gold mined in Australia hails from Western Australia,[3] gold mining is an important industry in the state and it is a requirement for anybody to work in the industry to obtain a GSDU clearance certificate.[19] In 2008, 256 tonnes of gold were mined in Western Australia, being worth A$12.06 billion to the state.[20]

Current functions

The GSDU provides the only regular police service to many of the isolated mines in Western Australia.[21]

The functions of the GSDU continue many of the 1907 GSDS functions.. Including by providing clearance certificates for prosepctive mine workers, inspections, advice and education, and its main role for 100 years, prosecution of gold theft.

The GSDU currently consists of six detectives, funded entirely by the WA Chamber of Mines.[22]

Recent Operations

The GSDU arrested six men in October 2004 Norseman and charged them with offences ranging from stealing to possessing unlicensed firearms.[23]

In January 2009, GSDU charged six men with theft of safety equipment at mines.[24]

Harking back to the means by which gold stealers operated before the first world war with treatment plants, in December 2013, the GSDU were investigating a processing plant in Kalgoorlie.[25]

See also


  1. known commonly as the Gold Stealing Detection Squad or GSDS in the 1920s
  2. Specialised state and territory agencies against organised crime – Western Australia Australian Institute of Criminology, accessed: 25 June 2009
  3. 1 2 3 4 Gold Squad' celebrates its 100th birthday Government Media Office – Ministerial Media Statements, accessed: 25 June 2009
  4. Centenary of the Gold Squad, published: 3 October 2007, accessed: 25 June 2009
  5. Western Australia. Royal Commission to Inquire into and Report upon an Alleged Prevalance of Gold Stealing (2013), Royal Commission to Inquire into and Report upon an Alleged Prevalence of Gold Stealing, 1906-7, Carlisle, Western Australia Hesperian Press, ISBN 978-0-85905-560-4
  6. 1 2 Agency Detail State records Office of WA, accessed: 25 June 2009
  8. Purdue, Brian.(2001) The gold stealers : the murders of Inspector John Walsh & Sergeant Alexander Pitman, near Kalgoorlie in April 1926 Carlisle, W.A. : Hesperian Press ISBN 0-85905-271-0
  9. "Another Gold Rush - Leases Pegged at Binduli". The West Australian. Perth, WA. 26 October 1910. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  10. "Horrifying Murder at Kalgoorlie". Sunday Times. Perth, WA. 16 May 1926. p. 1. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  11. William Coulter – trial and sentence for murder of Pitman and Walsh Daily News (Perth, W.A.), 15 Sept. 1926
  12. The Bullion Van, accessed: 25 June 2009
  13. Police news, Jan. 1927, p.1-3; May 1927, p.5; Mar. 1928, p.5; Nov. 1928, p.3; Dec. 1929, p.1-8: memorial unveiled on 8 Dec. 1929 by the Governor, lengthy descriptions and photographs.
  14. "WALSH-PITMAN MEMORIAL.". Western Argus (Kalgoorlie, WA : 1916 - 1938). Kalgoorlie, WA: National Library of Australia. 24 September 1929. p. 23. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  15. the liswa photograph is of when it was in James Street
  16. WESTERN AUSTRALIA POLICE SERVICE State records Office of WA, accessed: 25 June 2009
  17. The Chambers of Minerals & Energy newsletter published: 12 October 2007, accessed: 25 June 2009
  18. 100 year anniversary celebrates gold squad in 'Prospect, western Australia's International Resources Development magazine' – December 2007 – February 2008, page 10
  19. The requirements for entry onto West Australian Mine sites Barminco website, accessed: 25 June 2009
  20. Gold stealing in Western Australia Western Australian police website, accessed: 25 June 2009
  21. About the Gold Stealing Detection Unit's (GSDU) services Western Australian police website, accessed: 25 June 2009
  22. Fighting crime together Google book review, author: Jenny Fleming, Jennifer Dawn Wood, page: 74, publisher: , accessed: 25 June 2009
  23. WA police crack gold stealing ring, published: 11 October 2004, accessed: 25 June 2009
  24. Gold squad charge six men over mines theft WAtoday, published: 30 January 2009, accessed: 25 June 2009

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