- Elizabeth Josephine “Lizzie” Birdsworth (née Cameron) (Sheila Florence – episodes 1–418, featured in flashback in episode 420), an elderly, chain-smoking, alcoholic recidivist prisoner, who provided much of the series comic relief. At the series start, Lizzie had already served twenty years in prison. Working as a bush cook, she had in a drunken rage allegedly poisoned a group of sheep shearers who’d had the audacity to complain about her cooking. It was later learned someone else had added the poison to the food and Lizzie was released and awarded compensation. Unfortunately she was ill-equipped to fend for herself outside and quickly committed a series of crimes and was returned to prison. A fraud and her daughter looking for money pretended to be Lizzie’s family which Paul Reid and Kevin Burns discover. We later find out Lizzie knew all along that they weren’t her real family and she wanted to spend time with them. Marcia (Lizzie’s fake daughter) tells Lizzie that she was her daughter’s best friend at the orphanage and that Lizzie’s real daughter died in a car crash. The fake family: Marcia and Josie disappear without any explanation Lizzie was recognisable for her always present red cardigan sweater given to her early on in the show’s run by the prison’s governor, Erica Davidson. Lizzie suffered from several heart attacks and during her final time in hospital she was released to be with her real family: The Charlton’s.
- Beatrice Alice “Bea” Smith (Val Lehman – episodes 1–400), the tough and uncompromising top dog – the name given to the unofficial leader of the prisoner population – who ruled Wentworth’s H Block with an iron fist. Bea was initially imprisoned for strangling her husband’s mistress and then shot dead her cheating husband upon her release. Her teenage daughter Debbie (played by Val Lehman’s real-life daughter Cassandra) had died from a heroin overdose in 1977 while Bea was in prison, therefore Bea was renowned for her hatred of drug pushers and her hatred of prisoners who commit crimes against children which everyone followed her hatred. This characteristic, which is common in all prisons, was evident when Bea slammed the hot steam press on Lynn Warner’s hand. She and Chrissie Latham were enemies at first (as Chrissie was originally on Franky Doyle’ side in the first riot) but later, they became allies, especially against Margo Gaffney. Bea was Joan Ferguson’s first of three major enemies. Any chance of Bea’s parole was foiled after shooting and killing Nola Mckenzie in a hospital bed. Bea’s last rival for top dog was Sonia Stevens Bea was transferred to Barnhurst after the Joan Ferguson sets up for Bea to give her a bashing. There are many references after Bea’s transfer especially when Lizzie compares Bea’s top dog qualities to Minnie Donovan’s top dog qualities including the code of lagging when Minnie lagged on Sonia Stevens in a plan to soil Joan Ferguson. Bea writes a letter saying “Vinegar Tits is worse than ever” when Cass is transferred from Barnhurst Lizzie says “our best mate Bea Smith was transferred” Cass said that she heard Bea arrived. In episodes 536–537 we hear there was a Barnhurst riot and there were 8 transfers Myra ask Nora Flynn if they brought Bea. Nora tells Myra that she was killed in the riot trying to stop it, but Ann tells Meg that she “burnt” to death. Bea’s death was probably the biggest upset of the show as many viewers assumed that there was hope that Val Lehman would return to the show.
the freak is awful though!
Joan “The Freak” Ferguson (Maggie Kirkpatrick – episodes 287-692), a sadistic and corrupt lesbian prison officer known to the prisoners as “the Freak”. Infamous for the body searches she conducts using her trademark black leather gloves. She was perhaps the most corrupt and villainous guard at Wentworth and she had an arch-rival in senior guard, Meg Morris (Jackson) who saw Joan as she always had thought she was, when Meg was a prisoner herself. She also had a rivalry with prison governor Ann Reynolds. Joan spent two long stints as Acting Governor – both times she implemented a severe regime that alienated herself from both prisoners and officers alike. One of those regimes was stopped by her former superior, Erica Davidson. She also had a tendency to antagonize her fellow guards, she and Meg battled for the post of deputy governor, which Meg won, and also antagonized Meg’s predecessor as deputy, Colleen Powell; and was once soundly slapped in the face by Joyce Barry after she insulted her fiance, Mervin Pringle. Joan was arrested in the last episode. The last scene of the series was Joan’s transfer.