'Squizzy' Taylor was one of the most colourful Melbourne crime figures of the early 20th century. He modelled his criminal style on that of American bootleggers by dressing loudly and moving with authority around Victoria's racetracks and clubs:
Through it all strutted the bumptious Squizzy Taylor who needed no teaching; dressed like a toff in his best broadcloth suit, short black overcoat with fashionable matt-velvet collar, and iridescent silk shirt [...] His flashing gold teeth and enormous diamond tiepin winked the message of his success.
– Hugh Anderson, Taylor biographer
Anderson, H 1981, The rise and fall of Squizzy Taylor, larrikin crook, Pan Books, Sydney, N.S.W.
Words like 'strutted', 'bumptious' and 'toff' imply that Squizzy was over-confident, showy and trying to look more classy than he actually was.
Born Joseph Leslie Theodore Taylor on 29 June 1888, Squizzy was a small man with a big attitude. His main income came from armed robbery, the sale of illegal liquor and drugs, prostitution, race fixing and a protection racket. He also ran a lucrative jury-fixing business, which he himself made good use of throughout his criminal career.
Between 1913 and 1916, Taylor was linked to several violent crimes. These included the murder and robbery of a commercial traveller, the burglary of the Melbourne Trades Hall (where a policeman was killed), and the killing of William Haines, a driver who refused to take part in a bank hold-up. Taylor was acquitted at the trial for the murder of Haines and – thanks to his jury-fixing business – was rarely convicted after 1917, even though he remained very active in criminal circles.
Gangland shootings erupted in the 'Fitzroy Vendetta' of 1919, where rival racketeers fought for territory. Taylor was one of the main figures in these shootings, and his reputation grew from there.
In 1923, bank manager Thomas Berriman was robbed and murdered at Glenferrie railway station. Taylor faced charges of aiding and abetting the crime and was eventually sentenced to six months jail for harbouring one of the killers. When he was released, Squizzy simply continued his career of theft, but focused his crimes on racetracks.
He also began selling drugs, which eventually brought him into conflict with gangsters from Sydney. In a gunfight with one of these gangsters, Taylor was fatally wounded and died in St. Vincent's Hospital in Fitzroy on 27 October 1927.