Franky Houdini was a magician, escapologist and child sex fiend.
Franky Houdini was a magician, escapologist and child sex fiend.

Pedophile magician who escaped from inlet

A PEDOPHILE magician wrapped himself in chains and jumped into Trinity Inlet almost 20 years ago to the day - but unfortunately he did not drown.

Frank Kunde appeared on the Cairns Post's front page on November 1, 1999, sucking down deep breaths on the side of a speedboat with wrists and legs bound by steel handcuffs and chains.

The photo was shot moments before Kunde plunged to the ocean floor just off the Marlin Marina.

The Post declared him "Cairns's own resident escapologist" and heard of his apparent terror after the lock around his waist refused to budge during the 30-second escape effort.

The Cairns Post front page from November 1, 1999, featured a story about magician Frank Kunde – a man who would later legally change his name to Frankie Houdini and go to jail for sex crimes against children. PICTURE: CAIRNS POST
The Cairns Post front page from November 1, 1999, featured a story about magician Frank Kunde – a man who would later legally change his name to Frankie Houdini and go to jail for sex crimes against children. PICTURE: CAIRNS POST

"My body was shaking from head to toe," he said.

"I didn't panic and I finally got it off but I did manage to get a few cuts and bruises."

His survival was regrettable.

Kunde would go on to sexually abuse four girls aged between six and 15 - including videotaping himself having sex with a teenager.

The escape artist, who by now had legally changed his name to Franky Houdini, was ultimately unable to escape the law and his own demons.

His list of death-defying feats was famous across Australia.

A 20-year-old Frank Kunde hams it up for the cameras outside the Brisbane Magistrates Court where he faced charges of possessing thumbcuffs and handcuffs and illegally jumping from the Victoria Bridge.
A 20-year-old Frank Kunde hams it up for the cameras outside the Brisbane Magistrates Court where he faced charges of possessing thumbcuffs and handcuffs and illegally jumping from the Victoria Bridge.

In 1993, a 19-year-old Kunde performed an "act of love" for his girlfriend by escaping, while shackled, from a submerged packing case on the bottom of Ipswich's Bremer River.

His girlfriend waited anxiously on the riverbank amid a crowd of about 200 people.

"When I first told my family that I had decided to follow in Houdini's footsteps and become an escape artist, they told me I was crazy but I have their full support,'' Kunde said at the time.

The former street kid was arrested in 1994 in relation to an escape he performed months earlier involving jumping off Brisbane's Victoria Bridge while chained and handcuffed.

He was charged with possession of handcuffs, thumbscrews and jumping off a public structure.

Stuntman Frank Kunde is put in a neck brace after being pulled from the Brisbane River by Police in April 2001. PICTURE: TOM O’CONNOR
Stuntman Frank Kunde is put in a neck brace after being pulled from the Brisbane River by Police in April 2001. PICTURE: TOM O’CONNOR

Kunde told the Courier Mail it had been overkill for police to send eight officers to seize him.

"Two would have been fine,'' he said.

"Maybe they thought I might disappear in front of them.

"I'm so easy to catch; every police officer in Ipswich knows me but for some reason they had to send eight guys to get me almost two months after the event.

"At the jail they told me not to try any funny business by trying to escape or they'd lock me up for six months for jail-breaking.

"My argument is this: why pick on someone who's making something of themselves?

"I used to do a lot of criminal things between the age of nine and 14 and now I've got something to offer.

"Why can't they leave me alone and fight the criminals I used to be?''

The matter was dismissed after police offered up no evidence.

Frankie Houdini wound up in prison for his crimes.
Frankie Houdini wound up in prison for his crimes.

The following year, Kunde gave insight into his troubled childhood during an interview before escaping from a petrol-doused caravan that exploded when it was hit by a speeding car at Brisbane's Archerfield Speedway.

"I became an escape artist because my idol was Houdini," he said.

"I have been interested in being an escape artist since I was 14 when I saw a Tony Curtis movie on Houdini's life.

"I grew up with it.

"My father was a magician - he disappeared the day I was born."

Franky Houdini plugs some discount show bags.
Franky Houdini plugs some discount show bags.

Kunde said he chose such a dangerous occupation because he needed to make a living.

"It's something that people don't see much of in the 90s," he said.

"People think I'm crazy, but it's just a job.

"It's a living and it's entertainment.

"I like entertaining people.''

He was hospitalised with back injuries after jumping 12m into the Brisbane River from Indooroopilly Bridge in 2001 but vowed to jump again.

He was defended by Ipswich City Councillor Paul Tully.

"Frank's got a knack of staying just inside the law,'' he said, calling him a "likeable larrikin''.

Frank Kunde recovers in hospital after suffering a back injury when he humped off Indooroopilly Bridge in Brisbane. PICTURE: JAMIE HANSON
Frank Kunde recovers in hospital after suffering a back injury when he humped off Indooroopilly Bridge in Brisbane. PICTURE: JAMIE HANSON

That mask of likability - the theatrical flamboyance so intrinsic to his persona - was shattered when Kunde, now legally renamed Franky Houdini, was revealed to be a child sex fiend.

The children's entertainer was sentenced to six years' jail in 2010 after pleading guilty to a slew of sick sex crimes against underage girls.

The offences were all committed in 2007 and 2008, less than a decade after the illusionist survived his journey to the depths of Trinity Inlet.

He pleaded guilty in the Ipswich District Court to six counts of indecent treatment of a child - four against a six-year-old girl and two against a 15-year-old.

Franky Houdini rises to the surface. PICTURE: IAN COOK
Franky Houdini rises to the surface. PICTURE: IAN COOK

The court heard he took provocative photographs of the children and molested some of them after offering them modelling work.

He also made two pornographic movies with underage girls to sell on the black market and kept child pornography on his computer.

Judge Deborah Richards described his actions as "extremely seedy'' but accepted that he was "quite remorseful''.

The 36-year-old had been due for parole in 2014 until former attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie stepped in to have him declared a serious violent offender.

It proved too much for the sick criminal.

Kunde smiles for the cameras while being taken away in a neck brace. PICTURE: TOM O’CONNOR
Kunde smiles for the cameras while being taken away in a neck brace. PICTURE: TOM O’CONNOR

Houdini was found dead in his Wolston Correctional Centre cell after he could not be accounted for during headcount in June 2016.

Queensland coroner Terry Ryan released his report into the pedophile's death last year, finding greater communication around prisoner mental health would have been unlikely to have stopped Houdini from committing suicide.

He wrote the escape artist had an extensive mental health history including a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, and was treated by several psychologists and psychiatrists during his prison term.

Franky Houdini’s wretched life met a wretched end in a Wolston jail cell. PICTURE: IAN COOK
Franky Houdini’s wretched life met a wretched end in a Wolston jail cell. PICTURE: IAN COOK

"It is likely that (Houdini) chose to end his own life in the context of the stress associated with a probable length period of incarceration beyond his original release date and an ongoing mental illness," Mr Ryan wrote.

If you or someone you know needs support, help can be found at Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Franky Houdini chained around the neck, wrists and ankles as he jumps off the Rye Pier in Victoria in 2001. PICTURE: IAN COOK
Franky Houdini chained around the neck, wrists and ankles as he jumps off the Rye Pier in Victoria in 2001. PICTURE: IAN COOK


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