A HOME invasion. Hit in the face with an iron bar. Run over. Burgled. Smashed with a baseball bat.
Car accident in the airport tunnel. Two weeks in a “horror hospital”.
And now he’s lost his teeth.
When Paul Murphy put up posters around his neighbourhood after losing his dentures, news.com.au went in search of him and found an incredible tale of bad luck and misadventure.
Is he the world’s unluckiest man?
“About that,” Murphy said with a wry smile.
The tale of Mr Murphy’s teeth would not have happened if not for the home invasion, which was probably connected with the burglary.
But as much as life can be a string of successful, or sorry events, the surprise is Murphy has an incredibly positive attitude to life – as long as someone can help out with a new set of false teeth.
The saga of his lost dentures began last week when the 55-year-old went for a rare beer with friends.
He doesn’t go our drinking much because he can’t afford it on his pension.
But last Tuesday he did just that, in the inner city Sydney suburb of Redfern, and on the way home to his housing commission flat fell over, “too drunk”, and lost the dentures which fell from his trouser pocket.
Why were his teeth in his pocket?
“Because I’d been booked in to get them fixed last Thursday,” he said.
“Since I got struck in the face with an iron bar during a home invasion, they hadn’t been comfortable.
“I took them out frequently because they hurt my mouth.
“When I got home and realised I’d lost them, I went back and searched.
“I went back again the next morning and searched again. That’s when I decided to make up the posters.
The posters said: “Lost dentures. Upper and lower … owner far too drunk, fell over, a few too many times. I am a pensioner &desperately need my teeth. Reward offered”.
Murphy put details on the poster along the one to two kilometre route he had taken home.
At 9.53pm last Friday he received a text saying, “I think I’ve found your dentures” and he thought, “you beauty, unreal”.
Incredibly, a second pair of dentures had been lost in the area, but they were a woman’s set.
“What’s the chance of that?” Mr Murphy said, laughing.
So he resumed his campaign to find his dentures, replacing posters which had been souvenired from telephone poles during the week.
And when he sat down with news.com.au this morning, out came the amazing tale of his life.
Paul Murphy’s run of bad luck began in his teens after he strayed into drugs.
Dyslexic at a time when there was little recognition of the affliction, he had done “shockingly” at school.
He became hooked on heroin and his parents decided to place him in one of the few treatment centres in the 1970s for drug addiction, Chelmsford Private Hospital.
Murphy received 42 electric shock treatments over a 14-day stay.
Later the subject of a royal commission into its electroconvulsive or “deep sleep” therapy for patients with a range of disorders from schizophrenia and depression to anorexia and alcohol and drug addiction, Chelmsford was a scandal. Some Chelmsford patients later committed suicide or told of ruined lives.
Paul Murphy was to battle his addiction for many years, but he did get a job as a car valuer which allowed him to drive flashy vehicles, including the classic GT Falcon he sped into the airport tunnel in 1976 and smashed into another car.
It was his first issue with teeth. The crash took out his top front layer, which had to be replaced by $7000 of caps.
Then a series of speeding fines ended in his losing his licence, and his job as a car valuer.
Between 1986 and 2005, he would be in and out of jail, on heroin charges and for “bodgy loans” – he forged bank papers to steal money.
He did time in five different NSW prisons.
Taking drugs further destroyed his teeth and a jail dentist did the rest, removing teeth, after which his gums receded, necessitating upper and lower dentures.
When he came out of jail in 2005, he decided he would never take drugs again or commit any crime.
He started taking the heroin substitute, methadone, and began to turn around his life.
In 2009, he was ordered to move from his community housing premises to a Housing Commission flat.
En route to his new home, he was walking down a Redfern lane, when a convertible slowed down beside him and a teenager standing in the back of the vehicle swung a baseball bat and smashed it into his shoulder, breaking the top of his humerus bone.
When he emerged from hospital, Murphy started visiting a mentor in Oberon, west of Sydney, a Christian man.
“If you ever said I’d become friends with him,” Murphy said, “I would have said you’ve got to be crazy.”
The Oberon man taught him to become a handyman. They went to garage sales to buy second hand tools and Murphy started earning money doing odd jobs and restoring old furniture.
Then on New Year’s Day, 2011 – stone cold sober – he was on a street corner not far from his home when a motor bike rider sped through the lights and collected him, the collision breaking Murphy’s collar bone, shoulder, sternum and seven ribs.
He spent several weeks in hospital and six months rehabilitating.
Murphy used a payout from the accident to upgrade his television, buy a computer, stereo, new tools and an electric pushbike to travel to his handyman jobs.
He had just got everything together and his life was going smoothly, except for the group of four young men in his housing flats who “hassled the sh-t out of everyone, saying ‘give me a dollar’ and asking for something out of the groceries I’d just bought.”
When he came home from Oberon one Sunday last September, one of the young men asked where he had been.
When he returned from Oberon the following weekend, he found his front door smashed in and everything gone … TV, stereo, computer and tools.
Murphy decided the first thing he was going to do was invest in a steel door.
He bought one second hand, but could not afford the appropriate, expensive lock that went with it.
He worked hard on a series of odd jobs and began to gradually acquire possessions, including a second-hand laptop and more tools.
Around 10pm on November 11 last year, he was fiddling with his steel door, trying to compensate for the cheap lock and the fact he had to slam it shut.
He sprayed the lock with a solvent and was waiting for it to dry when three men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas stormed into his flat.
“They cracked me across the face with an iron bar,” he said.
“They knocked a tooth out. They wanted my laptop. They got my mobile phone and $40.”
Murphy smiled, “My laptop was down the side of the couch.”
Ever since that night, Murphy’s false teeth haven’t fit well.
“The tooth they knocked out was the tooth which anchored my bottom dentures,” he said.
“So I was booked in to get them fixed last Thursday and then I went out last Tuesday night …”
A new set of dentures would cost Paul Murphy $2650.
He hasn’t got the money.
“Having the electric bike has opened my life up,” he said.
“I supplement my pension with these jobs. There’s one old couple – they’re lovely – who get me in to do things.
“They can trust me.
“It’s a battle. On the pension you need every cent, but you do what you can.”