Postcard Bandit's ex is selling his paintings for $40,000
THE former partner of "Postcard Bandit" Brenden Abbott is selling two original paintings given to her during a 17-and-a-half-year prison romance that ended bitterly when the convicted bank robber was on the cusp of parole.
Tilly Needham who until recently lived in Cooroy walked away from the relationship after Abbott flew "off the handle" during a phone conversation with her mid 2015.
The paintings - portraits of Gough Whitlam and Mike Tyson priced at $40,000 - are exceptional art works, the product of a natural talent Abbott discovered during his lengthy incarceration for bank robberies thought to have netted him millions of dollars in Queensland alone.
Abbott gained nationwide notoriety for two escapes, the first from Fremantle Prison in 1989 that saw him on the run as Australia's most wanted person for five-and-a-half years and then from the Sir David Longland Correctional Centre in Brisbane in 1997, when he enjoyed six months of freedom before being recaptured at a Darwin laundromat.
Despite popular misconception, Abbott never sent postcards to police taunting them while he was on the run.
In fact the story was a concoction of Western Australian police based on photos they found during their pursuit.
On July 22 last year the Queensland Parole Board rejected an application for parole, at which stage Abbott planned to live after his release with Tilly in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
The two original paintings were given to Tilly as a gift.
Still upset about the end of their relationship, she no longer wants them.
Despite a couple of rough patches Tilly put down to the amount of time Abbott spent in maximum security, she said the relationship had been a good one until the end.
"I don't see it as different to a relationship outside except for the constraints of concrete walls and razor wire," she said.
"Our time was limited but I tried to say to him we spent more time together and spoke more than couples outside."
That time proved costly, an estimated $80,000 over the course of the relationship.
It involved monthly flights down to Brisbane from the Northern Territory when she was living there and weekly return trips by car from Rockhampton after she shifted to Queensland. There were also the suits and shoes for Abbott's infrequent court appearances and accommodation to be by his side.
"It was that close to him getting parole and I made the mistake of questioning him," Tilly said.
"He absolutely flew off the handle. I hung up. After all those years I didn't deserve that. I never heard back."
The deciding factor for her was his failure to contact her for her 60th birthday or to send a card.
"If he was that insensitive and uncaring, I didn't have much to look forward to," Tilly said.
"He was always critical of the way my children treated me. Then he turned and did the same.
"People say I've wasted 17-and-a-half years for nothing. I don't think that.
"This is just the way my life was mapped out. People have been critical but I still have no regrets. Though it is still difficult to come to terms with it ending so close to him getting parole.
"It was what we were working towards."
Tilly describes Abbott's art work as "magnificent" and of a high standard.
He began taking art classes in prison, doing small works.
"He's done quite a few others, but they are like hen's teeth (to buy)," Tilly said.
Abbott's portraits include his lawyer Chris Nyst, tennis star Pat Rafter, cricketer Steve Waugh with one of his children, and the late stockbroker Rene Rivkin.
His most recent work, Little Boy Blue, was of Kevin Rudd.
Abbott remains in jail, having been transferred between Arthur Gorrie, Brisbane Correctional Centre and Woodford Prison.
Tilly says Abbott tightly controlled his emotions during the first 10 years of their relationship before becoming more relaxed.
"He always contacted me," she said. "Unfortunately that won't happen any more."
She said in the past 18 months there were indications of a darkness in Abbott's character.