You'll no doubt have heard about this severed head being found on Rottnest Island. Now, such a discovery would be bizarre and horrific pretty much anywhere -- except in a morgue, of course. But with Rottnest being such a quiet, relaxed, family-oriented environment, it is even more extreme.

The dim-witted nature of some of the reporting adds to the strange atmosphere. One article, for example, contains a classic line:

Given the head was found wrapped in plastic, a shark attack has been ruled out.

If that were meant to be humorous it would be a work of deadpan comedy genius. But I'm pretty sure it wasn't. The straight-faced tone, as well as the reference to the current shark menace, make it uniquely Perthesque.

Then there's the identity of the victim. The cops think he's Stephen Cookson, a racing identity with a violent past. Considering he was due to appear in court on a charge of possessing meth, it seems very likely that the murder was drug related.

It's pure Underbelly. And I'm sure the murder and events leading up to it will be dramatized in a future installment of that hugely successful series.

It just goes to show that Perth's criminal dark side can be every bit as vicious and gruesome as that of other Aussie cities -- even though such events do not occur nearly as often as they do in crime hubs like Melbourne and Sydney.

But the fact that they do happen is doubly unsettling because even though Perth is growing rapidly, with far more violence occurring than in years past, it's still got the generally carefree atmosphere that it's always had. And while Northbridge can get pretty dodgy on Friday and Saturday nights, the vice is not on display anywhere near as openly as it is in Kings Cross!

Sydney is a far more intense place than Perth. There's much less space, the pace of life is faster, and people are more stressed out and less friendly. The violence is still submerged but you can really feel it bubbling just below the surface. So while the gruesome details of homicides and other acts of violence that occur there are still shocking, they're hardly surprising.

Perth, on the other hand, is still very much a sunny, relaxed, open city. So when a ghoulish discovery like the one on Rottnest is made, it seems more than strange. It's positively surreal.

UPDATE: Swung by the Quattro apartments in East Perth. Had read that this was where Cookson was supposed to have lived. The police were still in attendance as was this TV news reporter.