Monday, August 08, 2005

Article - I'm in love with the postcard bandit

True life

Credit: Woman's Day (ACP)

The people behind the stories that make news

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I'm in love with the postcard bandit

Like many women in long-distance relationships, Tilly Needham travels thousands of kilometres each month to visit the man she loves. But this is no ordinary affair. Tilly's boyfriend is the infamous 'Postcard Bandit' and he'll be in prison until 2018. Here, Tilly talks about her love for a bank robber ...

Tilly Needham proves that love knows no boundaries. The 51-year-old daughter of a decorated policeman and former de facto of a senior Brisbane detective has found her soul mate in the most unlikely place of all - a prison.

Tilly, a mother of six, has lost her heart to one of Australia's most infamous criminals, armed robber Brenden Abbott, better known as the "Postcard Bandit".

For the past six years Tilly, who lives in Darwin, has travelled to Brisbane once a month to visit 43-year-old Abbott, who's spent most of the years since his 1998 recapture in solitary confinement.

Although Tilly won't reveal how or when she first met the fugitive Abbott, she admits to being instantly attracted to him, not by his looks alone, but by his "integrity, morals and standards".

"I'm not talking about the criminal element. I'm talking about him, the human being," says Tilly, who describes herself as loyal and non-judgmental. "Brenden's given me more than any man has given me in my life.

"As well as having a warm personality and good sense of humour, he's understanding, compassionate, respectful, trustful and caring ... he completes me as a woman.

"I know a lot of people will find that hard to accept, but they don't know the real Brenden.

"My late dad, Eric, would not have approved of his criminal side, but man to man, they would have got on like a house on fire," she adds.

Tilly admits the man she calls "hon" has no sugar-coated background. His earliest possible parole date from prison is 2018.

Seen by some as a latter-day Ned Kelly, Abbott's exploits were highlighted in an Australian movie called The Postcard Bandit, starring Tom Long, shown on TV last year.

Abbott, who netted millions of dollars in numerous bank raids, earned his nickname for supposedly sending taunting postcards to police while he was on the run - but Australia's most wanted man for eight years claims he never sent a single card.

Because of their infrequent visits, Tilly - who lived with a policeman for more than 15 years and has three children by him - says she tries to make their time together count.

"I can't understand it when I'm visiting Brenden and I see other inmates and their partners arguing or fighting, instead of embracing each other. The little time they have together should be real quality time - that's what Brenden and I try to achieve.

"That's when I just wish I could pack him up and take him home. I have a little tear when my flight leaves. We still have our numerous phone calls in between, which is far better than nothing at all," says articulate and well-spoken Tilly, who runs a beauty salon.

Story: Warren Gibbs

For more on this story and other amazing true life stories, see this week's issue of Woman's Day:
Miracle mum - 'I had triplets after losing three babies.'
Schapelle Corby's birthday joy - 'Thank you all for thinking of me.'

Got a story? Contact Rachel Morris on (02) 9282 8539 or e-mail ramorris@acp.com.au