(by John Larkin and Geoffrey Barker) (1968)
Yes, Americans can joke about President Taft being eaten by wolves (particularly greedy wolves) but only in Australia could a serving Prime Minister be taken by a shark. On Sunday 17 December 1967, Prime Minister Holt went for a swim near his beach house at Cheviot, near the Heads leading from Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, into the Bass Strait, and was never seen again.
Though a shark is The Varnished Culture’s preferred theory (and after all this time, chances of finding traces are approximately nil) there are a number of other possible solutions; kelp trapping the body before sea lice demolished it; a Chinese/Russian/North Vietnamese sub; some deranged officer from the Portsea naval academy. No one knows and the disappearance continues to tantalise after almost 50 years. Mr Holt was born in 1908 so it is unlikely that he will appear, for example wandering crazed and long-haired in the Nevada Desert.
Written in taut, factual style with a refreshing lack of purple prose, this short but comprehensive account by investigative journalists from the Age covers all important aspects, including the political fallout and subsequent manoeuvring, reflecting the days of old when the Melbourne Age was a real newspaper. An important short work on a segment of history, reflecting the beginning of the end for the coalition government (1949-1972).