About 150,000 bodies passed through Glebe morgue  including murder victims and celebrities such as Michael Hutchence.
About 150,000 bodies passed through Glebe morgue including murder victims and celebrities such as Michael Hutchence.

Glebe morgue: Last look at ‘Sydney’s dark, horrible history’

In a large room once used to refrigerate hundreds of bodies, the remains of Australia's busiest morgue which housed the recently deceased for nearly 50 years, have been abandoned.

Steel racks, each numbered to identify corpses, have been left behind in the "cool room" at Sydney's old Glebe morgue.

A warning sign reading 'Do Not Enter Alone' is still plastered to the door of the small "deep freeze" room at the back, for bodies requiring longer storage.

In the main post-mortem room next door, 14 autopsy tables are clean and cold - a gruesome reminder of the work previously carried out.

"I've seen every table being utilised," former NSW crime scene investigator Stephen Horn said.

"Sometimes the pathologist may have had a number of post mortems to do that day - they would have one body on a table they were working on and then bring in another one to work on when they finished the first one."

The autopsy tables inside Glebe morgue. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
The autopsy tables inside Glebe morgue. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

About 150,000 bodies passed through the morgue before the building on Parramatta Rd, which also housed the State Coroners Court on the level above, shut in 2018.

They included murder victims, suspicious deaths, celebrities such as Michael Hutchence and those retrieved from tragic disasters including the 1977 Granville train crash and the 35 lives lost in the 1989 Kempsey bus accident.

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But soon the morgue will meet its own demise.

Demolition of the old coroners complex is expected to start in the next few months to make way for a new NSW Ambulance superstation.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the old morgue and coroners court "reeked of sadness" where loved ones visited in the "most horrendous of circumstances".

"It's 50 years of everything that's been dark and horrible in Sydney's history but it's also been the place where staff dutifully, for many years, tried to find the answers for people and did it with a real commitment of trying to give family members a sense of closure," he said.

"It's a complete transformation to think that what will now happen is there will be lifesaving paramedics ensuring that hopefully as many as possible don't end up in a similar situation."

The Glebe morgue where bodies were housed. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
The Glebe morgue where bodies were housed. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

The Sunday Telegraph was given an exclusive tour of the now-empty NSW Coroners Court and morgue before demolition teams begin moving in.

The oaths are still stuck to the tables in the two Coroners Court while downstairs in the mortuary, the shelves of the Bone Room - which once housed 250 sets of human remains whose origin was unknown - are now empty.

Former NSW homicide detective Gary Jubelin can recall the "feeling of death" at the two-level complex.

The former Coroners Court and morgue will be demolished.
The former Coroners Court and morgue will be demolished.

He spent years inside the morgue, using eucalyptus oil to mask the odours as he stood next to pathologists examining bodies.

"When you went there, you felt there's nothing happy that comes out of this place," Mr Jubelin said.

"At the Coroners Court there was always sadness - you could just feel the heaviness of the court where people are trying to find out what's happened to their loved ones.

"Then you've got all the bodies underneath. There's emotion right throughout the whole building."

NSW Coronial services manager Don McLennan, who worked at Glebe but was now based at the new complex at Lidcombe, said former State Coroner John Abernethy described the morgue well.

"He said 'the soul had gone but you've just got the bodies left'," Mr McLennan said.

 

Originally published as Glebe morgue: Last look at 'Sydney's dark, horrible history'

The now-empty Glebe morgue. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
The now-empty Glebe morgue. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
The autopsy room and viewing area. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
The autopsy room and viewing area. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
The science lab. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
The science lab. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
A Coroners Court courtroom. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
A Coroners Court courtroom. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

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