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THE VICTORIA POLICE MAGAZINE
Leaders of the pack ELEVEN EXTRA HANDLERS AND DOGS ARE HITTING THE STREETS TO KEEP YOU SAFE PLUS TIPS TO STAY SAFE THIS SUMMER > AIMING FOR ZERO ROAD FATALITIES A DAY WITH THE ARSON AND EXPLOSIVES SQUAD > FAMILY VIOLENCE VICTIM'S SURVIVAL STORY AND MORE
Summer safety Find out how you can stay safe over the summer period.
Being prepared A new Counter Terrorism Command is bringing together skilled police to counter extremism.
COVER: Leading Senior Constable Adam Canteri with his dog Kaos. Photography: Andrew Henshaw Police Life is produced by the Media & Corporate Communications Department, Victoria Police, GPO Box 913, Melbourne, 3001, Fax: 9247 5982 Online police.vic.gov.au/policelife facebook.com/victoriapolice twitter.com/victoriapolice Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Arson and Explosives Police Life spends the day with the Arson and Explosives Squad.
Road to Zero Police focus on preventing deaths on Victoria’s roads.
Managing Editor Sandra Higgins Editor Maria Carnovale Journalists Janae Houghton Jane McCubbin Mandi Santic Graphic Design Fluid – fluid.com.au Subscriptions 9247 6894 ISSN 0032-2598L Crown Copyright in the state of Victoria. For permission to reprint any part of this magazine, contact the editor. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Victoria Police.
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Behind the Badge Out and About True Crime
Surviving family violence
A young woman tells her story of surviving an abusive relationship.
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHIEF COMMISSIONER As the year draws to a close, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on some of the achievements we have made during 2015. I’m pleased to have appointed a deputy commissioner overseeing a focus on capability, to ensure all staff are equipped to manage the challenges of modern policing. We have started constructing a Capability Plan, which will provide a road map towards a better-equipped, more diverse, well-trained, and healthier workforce. We have also established a dedicated CounterTerrorism Command, which is profiled in this edition of Police Life, and Australia’s first Family Violence Command. These are important steps for us and for you – the Victorian community. A key focus over the past 12 months has been community engagement and we have had the privilege of being involved in a range of initiatives and events with diverse community groups.
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
Events such as our Iftar dinners, the Women in Policing Conference and White Ribbon Day are valued opportunities and will continue to be part of our core focus in 2016. In this edition of Police Life you will find a focus on safety over the summer months. As always, we need to be conscious of the risk of fires and ensure we plan early. With many people taking a break and travelling, road safety is especially important over summer, and you will find many reminders and road safety tips throughout this edition of Police Life. I wish everyone a safe and happy summer, and as always, please make safety your priority. Graham Ashton AM Chief Commissioner Follow CCP Ashton on Twitter at @GrahamAshtonCCP
MAKING NEWS For the latest police news visit vicpolicenews.com.au
BECOME A POLICE CUSTODY OFFICER Victoria Police is expanding its workforce with the recruitment of 400 police custody officers (PCOs) to undertake prisoner and police cell management.
The first PCO squad started their training course at the Victoria Police Academy in December, will graduate in January, and receive further on-the-job training.
“We need people who can think on their feet while still following procedure and providing a high standard of care in sometimes challenging circumstances.”
The $148.6 million state government plan will see PCO positions created to free up police resources for frontline duties and community services.
PCOs will be employed as public service staff and equipped with handcuffs, batons and OC foam to undertake their duties, which may include facilitating court appearances and hospital guard duties.
The first police stations to receive PCOs will include Sunshine, Dandenong, Heidelberg, Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo from January 2016.
Eastern Region's Assistant Commissioner Rick Nugent said PCOs are a key addition to the organisation and applicants need to be mature, flexible and good communicators. “Custody officers will be a fantastic support to police and a welcome addition to stations,” he said. “The recruitment of custody officers will strengthen our operational capacity and allow police to spend more time in the community.”
AC Nugent said PCOs will have a diverse and rewarding role. “Custody officers will assist police in the supervision and transportation of people in custody,” he said. “They will also have the power to search people coming into the cells, look after their welfare by organising medical treatment, provide meals, arrange visitation and supervise them throughout the custody process.
A further 16 police stations with will receive PCOs in 2016, with the full 400 PCOs delivered over the next three years.
Visit policecareer.vic.gov.au to find out more about becoming a PCO. Image Custody officers 01 P olice custody officers are joining
Victoria Police's workforce. Editorial: Jane McCubbin Photography: Shane Bell POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
SMALL TALK VOXPOP
COLOUR IN TO WIN!
What can the public do to help prevent fires? SERGEANT GLENN SMITH Wangaratta Police Station
“Be aware of fire restrictions and danger ratings and check the Country Fire Authority website before conducting a burn-off, welding or using other machinery.” DETECTIVE SENIOR CONSTABLE MATT RIZUN Arson and Explosives Squad
Victoria Police wants creative kids to colour and share their safety message. Download your colouring-in competition picture from police.vic.gov.au/kids and get busy colouring with your crayons, pencils or paintbrush. You could win a chance to meet Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton and police officers from the Dog Squad and Mounted Branch, including the four-legged members! Entries close on Friday, 8 January, 2016.
Visit police.vic.gov.au/kids to download your colouring sheet.
FACES OF VIC POL “It’s important to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to Crime Stoppers or call Triple Zero (000) for immediate police response.” ACTING SUPERINTENDENT STEPHEN REYNOLDS Community Engagement Division
“Preventing bushfires is everyone’s responsibility. If you see something or know something, say something.”
BE PART OF THE STORY Join the Conversation Police Life loves hearing what you think about the magazine, your local police and Victoria Police in general. Write, fax or email Police Life at: Police Life GPO Box 913 Melbourne, 3001 FAX: 9247 5982 Email: email@example.com
Lachlan McKernan, 3, took Whittlesea Police Station’s Constable Elisha Basse for a ride at the Whittlesea Show in November. “He absolutely loved it and fell in love with her,” mum, Kat McKernan, said.
Const Basse has a family history of showing cattle at various agricultural shows and has provided a strong link between Victoria Police and sections of the rural community around Whittlesea. The day at the Whittlesea Show was an eventful one for Const Basse who also helped locate a lost two-year-old girl.
See more Faces of VicPol at facebook.com/victoriapolice
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
BEHIND THE BADGE
Nothing quite compares to being out on the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with that massive crowd on grand final day. I enjoy the buzz of game day and am lucky to be working while watching a game I love.
Rank: Sergeant Age: 32 Graduated: 2006 Station: Altona North Police Station
Police officers and goal umpires have shared attributes. Both jobs involve high pressure, leadership and the ability to make quick decisions.
What has been a memorable moment from your career?
Consider getting some life experience before joining. Being a police officer is a fantastic job, but it opens you up to some very interesting and not always pleasant situations. I joined at 22, after completing a university degree and I think having some experience of the world really helped.
A couple of years ago, when I was working at the Brimbank Highway Patrol Unit, I located offenders in a national park. The offenders ran off, and managed to get themselves to a nearby service station. They noticed a container truck with its doors open. They jumped in and hid there as the truck driver took off. The driver reached his destination in Epping, got out and opened the back of his truck. He was shocked to discover his two stowaways, but was quick enough to lock them straight back in and call the police.
My colleagues are extremely supportive, particularly during grand final week. What advice would you give to someone wanting to join Victoria Police?
What is the most challenging part of policing? For me, one of the most challenging things is dealing with critical incidents. Turning up to a road fatality or a suicide, you need to be prepared on how to deal with these. You donâ€™t really appreciate how difficult these things can be until you see them face-to-face in your work.
You are also an AFL goal umpire and worked at this yearâ€™s grand final. Tell us about being a goal umpire and why you enjoy doing it? I have been a goal umpire for 20 years now, and have been doing it at the highest level, the AFL, for eight seasons. This was my second grand final. Editorial: Janae Houghton Photography: Andrew Henshaw POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
IN BRIEF PROACTIVE POLICING STORIES
NATIONAL POLICE REMEMBRANCE DAY Hundreds gathered on a sunny Melbourne morning to commemorate fallen police at National Police Remembrance Day on 29 September. Starting with a march along St Kilda Road, police were joined by the public for a service at the Victoria Police Memorial. Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton addressed the crowd, as did guest speaker Protective Services Officer supervisor and Shrine Guard Andrew Campbell-Burns.
TOP TEAM AT VICTORIA POLICE
A trial of all-night public transport on weekends will begin on Friday, 1 January.
Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton recently announced the appointment of Andrew Crisp as Deputy Commissioner, Regional Operations.
The Victorian Government announced the Night Network trial will include a night bus network including 21 bus routes in Melbourne and surrounding suburbs and coach services in the major regional centres of Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Traralgon.
This follows the previous appointments of Shane Patton as Deputy Commissioner, Specialist Operations, and Wendy Steendam as Deputy Commissioner, Capability.
On top of the bus services, Night Network will add 300 train services and 250 tram services each weekend.
There are now also 14 assistant commissioners, including those in the Family Violence and Counter Terrorism commands.
Additional protective services officers and transit safety police will support the trial.
CCP Ashton said he looked forward to working with his new team.
Visit ptv.vic.gov.au/nightnetwork for more information.
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
â€œI have a fantastic team working with me. They all have varied experiences and expertise, which will help the organisation move forward into the future and make Victoria a safer place.â€?
PREVENTING GUN CRIME Victoria Police’s Crime Command has established a proactive investigation team to prevent shootings and disrupt the supply of illegal firearms. The team is part of the Purana Taskforce and investigate incidents of organised firearms trafficking and links between firearm-related burglaries and organised crime groups. Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said disrupting the supply of firearms will decrease firearm incidents across Victoria. “Victoria Police knows tackling organised crime is a huge issue and we recognise a proactive approach is needed to ensure firearms are not falling into the hands of criminals,” he said. “Identifying links between firearms thefts and organised crime groups will enable investigators to target those groups and disrupt their activities.”
TWEETING CHIEF Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton has taken to Twitter to spread safety messages to Victorians and keep the community updatedon policing and local topics. Go to twitter.com/GrahamAshtonCCP to keep up with CCP Ashton.
ODD SPOT CORNER Eight-legged bandit
Dog day at the office
A young woman recently told Police Life about the time a police officer saved her from a huntsman (the eight-legged kind).
Sunshine Police Station's Constable Andrew Rafferty turned dog catcher in September and nabbed himself two furry escapees.
Police stopped behind her car after she had pulled over on a freeway off-ramp in Narre Warren and jumped out of her car in a panic. The police officer cordoned and contained the spider before removing it, allowing her to get back into the car and continue her drive.
He managed a double arrest of the two pooches, caught dodging busy traffic in Sunshine. The pair refused to talk to police, butwere returned safely home.
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
“I was about to pull the pin, because the area was too dense, but something came over me. I let Lucas off the leash and within two minutes he found the offender hiding in a wombat hole.” Eleven additional police handlers and their dogs have been trained to track criminals and locate missing people as part of Victoria Police's Dog Squad. A man flees from his car following a high speed collision in Clarkefield leaving behind the female passenger with serious injuries. Victoria Police Dog Squad handler Leading Senior Constable Steve Gray and his dog track across a paddock and creek, finding the man under thick bush. He is unconscious with serious head injuries and, if he hadn’t been located by the dog, may have died. The injured man had stolen jewellery and cash on him. On the other side of town, Leading Senior Constable Michael Collins and his dog Flynn are first on the scene of an aggravated burglary in Footscray. The offender assaulted a man and was on the run. They track the offender, who has a knife, some distance away hiding in the yard of a house. He is quickly taken into custody without incident. Formed in 1975, the Dog Squad comprises 57 specially-trained staff who support police across the state and specialist police units such as Search and Rescue. The Dog Squad’s Acting Senior Sergeant Mark Boysen said a police dog’s ability to track people and detect narcotics, explosives or property, while getting into places a police officer cannot access, was crucial to police operations. “The dogs have assisted police in thousands of cases contributing to the arrest and location of numerous offenders,” he said. “We ensure Victoria Police continues to fight crime by attending incidents including sieges, burglaries, public demonstrations, sport or music events, searches for missing persons or fugitives and drug-related cases.” A/Sen Sgt Boysen said it was integral for police to be motivated and form a strong bond with their dogs. “Officers need to trust their dog, have good sound judgement and work well under pressure,” he said.
The Dog Squad’s Leading Senior Constable Kyle Burton said without a strong bond it would be hard to achieve results. “Every time the dog goes to work all he wants to do is impress you and make you happy. I’ve got a lot of friends, but he’s only got one and that’s me.” Ldg Sen Const Burton recalled the time his dog Lucas caught a bank robber hiding in a wombat hole. “I went to a job in a remote town where there were sightings of a bank robber who’d escaped police in New South Wales. I flew there in a helicopter and landed close to a thick swamp along a river,” he said. “I was about to pull the pin, because the area was too dense, but something came over me. I let Lucas off the leash and within two minutes he found the offender hiding in a wombat hole.”
The squad will soon move in with the Mounted Branch to its new state-of-the-art home at Attwood. The large facility provides modern kennelling and a purpose-built whelping area, which allows police to breed and develop more police dogs. A/Sen Sgt Boysen said working at the Dog Squad was very satisfying. “It’s a huge adrenaline rush to track and locate an offender with the dog. You cannot beat working with a dog and getting a great result,” he said. Ldg Sen Const Burton agreed. “It’s fantastic and extremely rewarding to have the freedom to work with the dog and be a team together, successfully catching crooks.”
Ldg Sen Const Burton said in most situations the dogs go unharmed, but Lucas had been injured before. “One time, chasing an offender, Lucas got caught in a chain wire fence. While attempting to jump over the fence, his paw got caught. Luckily I was right behind him to lift him off,” he said. A/Sen Sgt Boysen said police and the dogs go through intensive training to become highly skilled in their duties. “While we invest a lot of effort training the dog to be the best it can be, not all dogs graduate as police dogs,” he said. “They undergo obedience and socialisation assessments and are taken care of by a puppy walker for a few months. At 12 months, the puppy is joined with its handler where more training is conducted. This period is the most crucial and identifies if the dog will make it as a police dog.” Once confirmed as a police dog, the dog lives at its handlers home and they continue to train, care for and work with the dog. With the recent allocation of 11 new police and dogs, Dog Squad officers will continue to sink their teeth into fighting and preventing crime, such as tackling the drug ice and locating offenders.
DID YOU KNOW • P olice work closely with German Shepherds when they are searching for an offender or missing person. Known as general purpose dogs, they alert their handler by barking when they locate the person. • Police also work with Labradors, known as specialist dogs, to detect drugs and explosives. They also conduct high risk searches of locations and venues for explosive materials prior to a VIP or protected person visit, or when executing warrants. All specialist dogs are passive, which means they sit at the source of an odour. • Police dogs work for about nine years before going to their handler's home where they spend their retirement. Image Dog Squad 01 L eading Senior Constable Adam Canteri
and his dog Kaos on the trail of an offender. Editorial: Mandi Santic Photography: Andrew Henshaw POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
Don’t lose your cool this summer AS THE WEATHER HEATS UP SO DOES THE POLICE PRESENCE AT BEACHES AND OTHER RECREATIONAL AREAS WHERE VICTORIANS GO TO COOL DOWN AND ENJOY THE FESTIVE SEASON.
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
“It’s not just theft that we’re responding to, but public order-related crime such as assaults, drunkenness, drug possession, property damage and thefts from motor vehicles.”
A number of operations will take place at beaches across Port Phillip Bay and other parts of the state over the coming months to deter thieves and antisocial behaviour. In the St Kilda area, Operation Sandsafe runs on and around the St Kilda foreshore, focusing on theft of personal property and public order. St Kilda Police Station’s Senior Sergeant Daniel Baulch said the operation included a combination of foot and vehicle patrols with uniform and plain clothed police. He said the majority of foreshore offences were committed between November and March. “We have a large influx of people coming into the Port Phillip area during summer. The number of people can swell by hundreds of thousands on hot days,” he said. “Targeted patrols on the beachfront provide a visible presence and allow us to deliver a message to beachgoers to be mindful of their belongings.” As well as policing along the water, Sen Sgt Baulch said police were working with local traders, cafés and restaurants. Operation Nightwatch involves police checking licensed venues at night. “Events, food and dance festivals bring a lot of people into St Kilda. There is an event every weekend in our area and they take a lot of planning to keep them running smoothly, including traffic management. “It’s not just theft that we’re responding to, but public order-related crime such as assaults, drunkenness, drug possession, property damage and thefts from motor vehicles.” Similar police operations are also held across other parts of the state, including operations on the water, where Water Police target safe boat and personal water vessel use. Image Summer policing 01 St Kilda's Acting Sergeant Eleanor
Vallas and Constable Andrew Gibney patrol the beachfront. Editorial: Maria Carnovale Photography: Craig Sillitoe 01
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
Following some simple advice can mean your summer is enjoyable and safe: ALCOHOL
• If you can’t remember how many drinks you’ve had, it’s time to slow down. • Drink slowly and drink plenty of water. • Eat substantial food before and while drinking. • Never accept a drink that you haven’t seen the bar staff pour. • Recognise when a friend has had too much to drink and encourage them to slow down. • Never leave someone who is drunk. If someone has passed out seek help immediately.
• B e careful when posting holiday plans on social media — don’t advertise that your home is vacant. • Cancel newspaper subscriptions — uncollected newspapers can tell burglars you are not home. • After Christmas, don’t pile empty boxes from expensive gifts outside your house. Break them down or cut them up to conceal inside your bin. • Set a timer for a lamp or lights to come on at night. • Arrange for a neighbour to take your bins in and out. • Put a stop on your mail or ensure it is collected regularly and not left overflowing.
DRIVING • If you plan to drink, nominate a designated driver, leave your car keys at home and make sure you have an alternate transport plan. • Never drink and drive or get into a car driven by somebody who has been drinking alcohol. • If you are travelling long distances, take regular breaks. • Drive to the conditions. • Obey the road rules and follow the speed limit.
THEFT • • • • • •
When in public, be assertive and walk with confidence. Be alert and aware of people who appear suspicious. Keep valuables hidden away when not in use. Keep bags zipped up so valuables cannot be seen. Keep bags facing away from passing traffic. Take only what valuables you need for an occasion.
ASSAULT • D o not underestimate the dangers of a single punch. A head injury can lead to death or serious brain damage if left untreated. • Stop your friends from getting into fights. • Make sure you don’t get isolated — stay with your friends and stay in well-lit, populated areas. • Walk away from dangerous or conflict situations and take your friends with you. • Make sure you have organised safe transport to and from a venue before leaving. • Don’t leave friends alone with somebody they’ve just met.
Call Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Image Beach patrol 01 Remember to keep your valuables out of sight when in public.
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
In the hottest months of the year, Victoria Police is reminding the community about the dangers of leaving children in vehicles. Safer Communities Unit’s Inspector Zorka Dunstan said the message was clear; leaving children alone in a car, even for a short period of time, can be fatal. “Always take them with you, even if you think you will only be gone for a few minutes,” she said. Leaving a young child unsupervised in a car at any time is dangerous and presents a number of health and safety risks. “On a hot day the temperature inside a parked car can reach up to 40°C hotter than it is outside,” Insp Dunstan said. “Even on a day in the mid-20s, the temperature inside a car can reach dangerous levels within minutes.
“This includes leaving a child at home, in a car, or anywhere else.” The penalty for leaving a child unattended in a car includes a $3,690 fine, imprisonment for three to six months, or both. “If you notice that a child has been left unattended in a vehicle and you are concerned about their welfare, call Triple Zero (000)," Insp Dunstan said. “Give your location, vehicle details and approximate age of the child and the condition they are in. “If the car is unlocked, open the doors and shield the windows with something like a blanket and wait for emergency services to arrive.” For more information, contact your local police station or visit kidsafevic.com.au on the internet. Visit betterhealth.vic.gov.au for tips on surviving the heat this summer.
“On a hot day the temperature inside a parked car can reach up to 40°C hotter than it is outside.”
Animals are also vulnerable when left alone in a hot car. It takes only minutes for an animal to suffer severe heat exhaustion in a car and in some circumstances die. If you find a pet left in a hot car, call Triple Zero (000). Editorial: Jessica Mirtsis and Jane McCubbin
“In Victoria it is an offence for a person responsible for a child to leave them unattended for longer than is reasonable, without making appropriate arrangements for the child’s supervision and care. POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
Uphold the Right
“Radicalisation is not specific to a geographic location or community and can occur through a range of sources, including online.”
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
EXPERIENCED POLICE AND HIGHLY TRAINED STAFF HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TOGETHER FOR A NEW COUNTER TERRORISM COMMAND.
When Assistant Commissioner Ross Guenther swore an oath to protect the Victorian community as a young police graduate in 1985, it would have been difficult for him to imagine the new challenges confronting law enforcement today. Some 30 years later the seasoned police veteran has been appointed the first assistant commissioner of the Counter Terrorism Command, an area that will require him to draw on his vast policing experience and knowledge of the community to prevent violent extremism. The command brings together a number of existing units including highly trained people from policing and non-policing backgrounds with a range of skills and expertise in investigations, intelligence, strategic analysis, psychology and programs to counter violent extremism. AC Guenther said it was easier to tackle radicalisation and violent extremism when the organisation's counter terrorism units operated together. "I’m mindful when we talk about counter terrorism it raises concerns, but what we have done is brought together areas already focused on this issue, which increases our ability to drive change for a safer community," he said. “We’re not just about responding to incidents. “We’re about early intervention and the way to do that is through increased engagement with our community and stakeholders to promote social cohesion. "The more connected we are, the better we will understand the issues, which will lead to more informed policing strategies moving forward. “We are focused on engagement with government and community organisations to ensure an informed and coordinated approach is used.” Intelligence gathering and training for frontline officers will also be a priority for the command. “We are in the process of developing a statewide online training program for frontline officers on the behavioural indicators of radicalisation,” AC Guenther said.
“Training will focus on prevention of terrorism and violent extremism and lead to increased intelligence reports from police.”
Often these events have involved young men, who have committed acts of violence or were allegedly planning to do so.
Radicalisation is not specific to a geographic location or community and can occur through a range of sources, including online.
Not only do these incidents have an immediate impact on local neighbourhoods but they also have ongoing ramifications and leave communities fractured.
It can be difficult for law enforcement agencies to pinpoint when a person has gone from holding an extreme point of view to committing an act of violence for ideological, religious or political motivations. Some of the immediate challenges for police are foreign fighters who travel overseas and return, and the radicalisation of young people through social media. National security laws and intervention programs allow police to manage foreign fighters, while social media specialists and academics provide advice on how to counter extremist views posted online. Victoria Police has built strong frameworks around early intervention, including diversion and cautioning processes to reduce criminal activity and police training. Protecting young people online, whether it is from cyber bullying, sexual predators or violent extremists, is an ongoing focus. “Online communication has changed how we police terrorism – 15 years ago social media didn’t exist but now it’s part of our daily lives and in some cases it can be harmful,” AC Guenther said.
AC Guenther said a major pillar of the command was to promote acceptance and inclusion. “We work closely with police across the organisation to support many community programs that are already in place,” he said. “It’s important people feel comfortable to go to police with issues and are confident they will be taken seriously.” Strong community partnerships allow police to promote safety and build community resilience, diverting vulnerable people away from violent extremism. AC Guenther said while the nature of terrorism and policing has changed over time, Victoria has always embraced diversity. “We have fantastic relationships with our community, who love living here and appreciate it. “What we have to acknowledge is our environment has changed and we need to leverage that good will to stop harm and provide a safe environment for everyone.”
For AC Guenther, all of these issues highlight the complexities involved in policing terrorismrelated issues and has reaffirmed that the best defence is well-informed communities and agencies. “Investigations and arrests are only part of the solution,” he said. “We need to engage with young people and change behaviour through education. “It can’t just be left up to mums and dads, it’s not that simple. “We need positive engagement with our young people at an early point in time.” Since the national terrorism alert level was raised to high in September 2014 there have been a number of incidents that have captured the public's attention in Australia and overseas.
If you have information about possible terrorism or national security concerns call The National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400. For information on the process of radicalisation or violent extremism visit livingsafetogether.gov.au Image Counter terrorism 01 AC Guenther leads a new team. Editorial: Jane McCubbin Photography: Craig Sillitoe POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF
The Arson and Explosives Squad (AES) is preparing for what is predicted to be one of the worst fire seasons yet. Police Life spent time with the team..
“Then we look at previous fires in the area.”
It was 35 degrees on 6 October and about 350 fires broke out in Victoria, including a serious one in Lancefield that threatened a number of properties and destroyed two. Most of the fires that day were deemed suspicious, including possible causes of people recklessly using machinery in grass, and some even had indicators of arson.
"It's important we narrow down, as best we can, the time the fire was started. A few minutes can make a huge difference to the outcome of an investigation," Det Sgt Harbis said.
It was an early start to the bushfire season that had police and fire authorities concerned, but they were prepared, knowing too well how quickly fires can become catastrophic. A few weeks later, on the mild 23-degree day Police Life visited, a live map of Victoria was on display in the squad's office showing a number of fires burning across the state – a house fire, truck fire, a small grass fire in country Victoria and more. “There are a few fires around, but nothing serious,” Detective Sergeant Eric Harbis, who has been in the squad for two years, said. “In two months this map will be glowing red.” The AES investigates suspicious arsons and bushfires where there has been a fatality. It also investigates explosives, including fireworks, which have been known to spark bushfires. With the Country Fire Authority’s (CFA) Mark Ritchie working in the office as a liaison officer, the squad can rule out non-suspicious fires, allowing them to target their response to deliberately-lit ones. The team also works closely with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. Officer in charge Detective Inspector Michael Roberts said squad members were trained to understand wildfires, fire behaviour and identify the cause and origin of fires. “We need to isolate the scene and establish the cause of the fire and its point of origin to work out if a crime has been committed,” he said. “We eliminate any other possible causes of fire, such as electrical faults or lightning. 16
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
Victoria Police’s arson chemists are called in to examine the scene with investigators and are briefed by fire fighters.
Remnants of Black Saturday are on display in the office as a constant reminder of Victoria’s most devastating fires, which killed 173 people in 2009. Many of the AES members were involved in the police response or investigation and are in demand to present on their experiences and train other police agencies about the complexities of those fires. Det Insp Roberts said 280 Bushfire Arson and Explosives Liaison Officers (BAELOs) work from police stations across the state, allowing police to keep track of high-risk fire areas and local trends. “During bushfire season we monitor the risks and code red days. If we know there is one coming up we deploy people to fire areas to provide advice and protect sites,” he said. To prevent arson, Victoria Police is also running its sixth year of Operation Firesetter, where police increase patrols of high-risk areas. “Arsonists can be anyone, and it's important we determine any motives behind the fire, whether it has been started to gain profit or if it looks like the fire has been started by someone wanting attention – a thrill seeker,” Det Sgt Harbis said. “People recklessly causing a bushfire are an issue, especially during summer with the dry conditions. It’s a serious crime.” In 2013, a fire started as a result of a person using an angle grinder in grass on a code red day. Other ways of recklessly causing a bushfire include using machinery such as a welder in the open. These can send sparks into grass and accelerate quickly.
Det Sgt Harbis and Detective Senior Constable Matt Rizun look at fires occurring across the state.
HOW CAN YOU HELP? • If you see smoke or fire, call Triple Zero (000) immediately. • If you see something suspicious, contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit crimestoppers.com.au
In March 2014, Det Sgt Harbis was involved in the investigation into the Hazlewood Mine fires in the Latrobe Valley. A series of suspicious fires had been lit in the lead up to this day and were similar in nature. The AES was called to assist and a taskforce established with CFA members, regional detectives and chemists. They re-visited fire scenes, gathered statements and evidence and analysed it.
The team is called to attend a scene in Kings Park and Det Sgt Harbis prepares his kit and puts on his fire safety gear for the investigation.
One man was charged with arson and recklessly causing a bushfire and is currently before the courts. As the festive season approaches and weather heats up, Det Sgt Harbis said the squad would be cracking down on the use of illegal fireworks, which have been known to cause death and serious injuries, as well as spark bushfires. At a recent birthday party a teenager lost his eye and was left with severe facial injuries. “They are very dangerous and shouldn’t be handled or used by people not licensed to do so," Det Sgt Harbis said.
On the other side of town, Detective Leading Senior Constable Brigitte Reiche examines a building fire in North Balwyn for signs of arson with Metropolitan Fire Brigade fire investigator Philip Grey.
Watch the Arson & Explosives Squad identify the cause of a fire at http://bit.ly/vparsonsquad
Image Fire investigation 01 Det Ldg Sen Const Reiche and MFB's fire investigator Philip Grey identify the cause of a fire.
Det Sgt Harbis and the CFA’s liaison officer Mark Richie talk about projected bushfire risks for summer.
Editorial: Maria Carnovale Photography: Clay Burke POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
R O V I SURV COURTNEY WIRTH ENDURED MORE THAN THREE HOURS LOCKED IN A CAR WITH HER FORMER PARTNER AS HE BEAT HER. ONE YEAR LATER SHE IS PROVING SHE IS A SURVIVOR OF FAMILY VIOLENCE AND WANTS TO TELL HER STORY.
Ms Wirth, 22, was just 20 when she started dating her former partner. He was quite charming at the beginning, but as the relationship progressed he became controlling. “He seemed like a normal guy,” Ms Wirth said. “But then he started to get really controlling. I would say I was going to be out with friends and he would ring me and demand to know who was in the background. Then he would just start showing up at places he knew I was going to be.” The couple was only together for seven months and Ms Wirth knew something wasn’t right. She tried to leave him a couple of times, but he threatened self-harm. “I was only 20 years old, I thought if he was to commit suicide or hurt himself, that that would be on me. He knew how to manipulate me,” she said. Things came to a head on 14 September last year. Ms Wirth was at her boyfriend’s house and they had an argument over something small. He threw her on the ground and kicked her. She then had to go to work, so he drove her there and took her mobile phone away.
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
He picked her up after her shift and Ms Wirth thought he would be remorseful. But that wasn’t the case. As soon as she got in the car he started verbally abusing her. It wasn’t long before it turned physical. “He was driving around and around through an industrial area and had locked all the doors. He would pick a place to stop, punch me or kick me and he just kept yelling at me,” she said. “This had been going on for a couple of hours and I just knew I had to do something or he was going to kill me. He had me pinned down on his lap and I noticed a crack in his windscreen. As we came up to a main road, I kicked the windscreen as hard as I could, breaking it, and screamed.” He drove back into the factories, pulled over and started to strangle her. A heavily pregnant woman saw the windscreen smash and heard the screams. She followed the car, pulled up beside it and Ms Wirth made a run for it. She managed to get in the woman's car, as he grabbed hold of the door. The brave mother-to-be held tight onto Ms Wirth, while ringing Triple Zero (000) with her other hand. Then the police arrived.
“She was like a guardian angel, what an amazing lady,” Ms Wirth said. “I try not to think about what might have happened if she didn’t stop to help.” Fitzroy Police Station’s Acting Sergeant Nick MacDonald was working at Boronia Police Station at the time and was first on the scene. “I took Courtney back to the police station and we spent a lot of time with her. She was in shock and very reluctant to make a statement and press charges initially,” A/Sgt MacDonald said. “I was able to guide her through the whole process and there were times when she thought about withdrawing the charges, which is very common with family violence victims, but she saw it through.” Ms Wirth said the police response was fantastic.
“Nick was amazing. He was on my side from the beginning. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing, but Nick was there to point out that what had happened was wrong, it wasn’t my fault and it was against the law.” Ms Wirth followed through with the charges and even read her victim impact statement to the court, in front of her attacker. “Seeing Courtney read out her statement in court was one of the most inspiring things I have seen,” A/Sgt MacDonald said. “It is very satisfying to see her now, to see how far she has come.” The offender was sentenced to five months in prison. Ms Wirth refuses to see herself as a victim and plans to speak out on the issue of family violence.
“To me, a victim is someone who is weak and might crumble, I’d rather see myself as a survivor. “I encourage anyone in a situation like mine to go the police. If you are being abused by your partner, it is not right. Try not to justify it in your mind that it is your fault, because it is not. “The police are fantastic, they believe you and they want to help you.” A/Sgt MacDonald said a positive police response was a turning point. “When police respond well and show support for people involved in family violence situations, it can often be what gives them the strength to go forward.”
Image Surviving violence 01 A/Sgt MacDonald with Ms Wirth. Editorial: Janae Houghton Photography: Andrew Henshaw
Statistics show that the December and January months see high rates of reported family violence incidents. If you, or someone you know, need support and assistance, the following services are available: • In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000) • Men's Referral Service, a free, anonymous and confidential phone service for men on 1300 766 491 or at mrs.org.au • 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit the 24-hour online counselling service at 1800respect.org.au/get-help • In Touch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence - intouch.asn.au or on 1800 755 988 • Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre - 1800 015 188, 24 hours, seven days a week
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
“People often ask me if I really believe a zero target is possible and the answer is simply, yes."
Road Policing Assistant Commissioner Doug Fryer warns motorists that police could be anywhere at any time over the festive season, as Victoria Police continues its campaign for a Road to Zero. In 1970, 1061 people lost their lives on Victoria’s roads. AC Fryer said back then, it would have been unimaginable that more than 35 years later the number would reduce to about 250 deaths per year. “People often ask me if I really believe a zero target is possible and the answer is simply, yes. No one in the 1970s would have thought it was possible to reduce the number to what we have, and that is with double the population and four times as many cars on the roads," AC Fryer said.
The six high-risk PSAs are Melbourne, Greater Dandenong, Casey, Geelong, Brimbank and Whittlesea. While police continue to be disappointed with people drink driving, not wearing seat belts, being distracted with mobile phones and speeding, AC Fryer has been shocked at the number of drivers being caught under the influence of illegal drugs. Government funding for 10 new drug and booze buses has seen police drug test 100,000 people in the past year. “Of those 100,000 drug tests, the strike rate was one in 15 caught with drugs in their system, while they were driving,” AC Fryer said. “This is extremely disappointing and a real concern for all road users. But drug drivers should know that we now have the power to demand a blood test of anyone involved in a fatality or serious injury collision.”
“But, 250 is still too many people and I want us to put a face to every life lost on our roads.
AC Fryer said Victoria Police worked on the Safer Systems approach to road policing.
“Our initial aim is to reduce the number of deaths by 20 per cent in 2020.”
“We know that if we combine safer vehicles, speeds, roads and road users that we will be able to reduce trauma and fatalities on our roads.”
“Initial investigation approaches concentrated on vehicle speed, driver fatigue, and driver error and all of these were eliminated,” Ldg Sen Const Mehegan said. “From what we could see, the collision did not seem to be the fault of the bus driver.” Twelve hours after the collision, skid resistance tests were carried out and produced significant variations within a small test area of the road. The test results fell well below the recommended road surface friction levels. Friction on the road is what should stop vehicles from skidding on it. At the time, many investigators were being asked in court if road friction could be affected by heat and velocity. “I was being asked this question in court and then this case led me to do the study,” she said. After thousands of road testings, in various locations and weather conditions, Ldg Sen Const Mehegan developed a formula that can successfully prove that a road’s friction has been altered, therefore making it dangerous. “All road collision reconstructionists within Victoria Police now use this formula, which is a great,” Ldg Sen Const Mehegan said.
Zero That being said, Victorians are heading into the biggest danger period of the year for road fatalities, the festive season.
AC Fryer makes no apologies for flooding the state’s roads with police over this time.
“While police in every region, all over the state will be out breath testing, drug testing and speed detecting, there are six high-risk police service areas (PSA) that will receive greater resources from the State Highway Patrol, as well as more booze and drug buses during this period,” he said. “This is due to the high volume of road deaths and serious injury collisions that occur in these areas.”
Victoria Police is also always looking at new research and technology to improve its road policing investigations into serious collisions.
Major Collision Investigation Unit’s reconstructionist Leading Senior Constable Jenelle Mehegan recently completed a PHD that proved friction on a road surface can be affected by vehicle velocity and temperature.
“It is extremely important to point out that only one per cent of serious collisions have a cause other than a driver. So it is very rare that we need to use the formula, but a fantastic investigative tool to be certain, that road friction has or hasn’t played a part.”
Her studies came about after working on a triple fatal investigation in 2009. A bus collided with an oncoming car on a country road. The detectives immediately looked at whether the bus driver was responsible for the three deaths.
Image Road safety 01 A C Fryer (left) leads the charge towards
zero fatalities on Victoria's roads. Editorial: Janae Houghton Photography: Clay Burke POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
Living - withPAIN
ANOTHER DRIVER’S MOMENT OF DISTRACTION HAS HAD LIFELONG RAMIFICATIONS FOR 27-YEAR-OLD NIKEA SHORT, BUT HER DETERMINATION, AND THE SUPPORT OF A POLICE OFFICER WHO ATTENDED THE CRASH, IS HELPING HER WORK THROUGH THE PAIN. When a truck slammed into Nikea Short’s car at 80 kilometres per hour during peak hour on her way to work, she immediately got out to check the damage. The back of her car was crushed and the impact had pushed her car into three others. “I was taking photos of the car and getting driver details. I was a mess, shaking in anger at the truck driver, he didn’t show any remorse and was quite aggressive,” Ms Short said. As the adrenaline wore off, on came the pain and reality of the situation. Ms Short was unable to move. Ambulance officers placed her on a spinal board and she was taken to hospital suffering severe muscular and nerve damage to her neck and shoulders and lacerations to her hip and thigh.
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
The pain didn’t ease for Ms Short and it seemed to worsen. She endured months of visits to specialists before being diagnosed a year later with severe chronic pain with central sensitisation, leaving her unable to work and experiencing constant intense pain. Coupled with post-traumatic stress from the collision, Ms Short’s recovery was not looking good. Senior Constable Peter Romanis was one of the first police on the scene of the collision on Kings Way, Melbourne, in September 2013. He was on his way to a planned operation in the eastern suburbs when he came across the incident. He began to manage the scene and investigate the collision, while checking on Ms Short. “I went to see her in the hospital afterwards because I knew she didn’t have any family closeby to be with her,” Sen Const Romanis said.
Over a few months, Sen Const Romanis and Ms Short kept each other updated on the progress of the investigation and her recovery. “This was a relatively routine incident that I went to, but it’s had a lifelong impact on her. The impact we can have by following up with a person who is suffering is huge, even just a phone call can have a big effect,” he said. “Just walking to the mailbox is an effort for her. I know she’s been to dark places. I just kept trying to keep her positive. She became isolated and I wanted to help her find a supportive group and look at what she could do. “She’s a very courageous person. “I think about how I’d like my family to be treated if they were involved.
More than 5000 serious injuries occur on Victorian roads every year. Of those, about 1100 result in permanent injuries such as loss of mobility, loss of eyesight and acquired brain injuries.
“I don’t think I would be here if not for Peter. He’d ring to check on me, especially in the early days.” “Being able to see a change in someone and know that you’ve had a positive impact on them is great.”
Ms Short’s time these days mainly consists of medical appointments and rehabilitation. Her father has moved in with her to help with even the simplest of tasks.
Two and a half years later, and after numerous “It has completely ruined my life, my missed court appearances, the truck driver was convicted of driving in a dangerous manner, expectations, my hopes and dreams,” she said. which resulted in jail time. “Sounds, smells and crowded areas all remind me of what has happened. Nothing gets rid Ms Short was determined to confront of the pain, it doesn’t subside for me. him in court. “It was very empowering to read my victim impact statement at court,” she said. “It was emotional and confronting, but also relieving to make him see for himself what he had done. “He looked at me and I asked him how he would feel if it was his child suffering like me. I think that really hit home and made him realise what he had done.”
Images Long recovery 01 M s Short catches up
with Sen Const Romanis. 02 M s Short recently returned to the
scene of the collision for the first time with support from Sen Const Romanis.
“I don’t think I would be here if not for Peter. He’d ring to check on me, especially in the early days. He has gone over and beyond for my family and I. “It really makes me happy to see Peter. He’s more like a dear friend to me now.”
Editorial: Maria Carnovale Photography: Clay Burke POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
OUT & ABOUT
WANGARATTA POLICE STATION 6:45am
Senior Constable Imogene Gillespie issues police equipment at the station.
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
Constable Rebecca Baxter and Sen Const Edwards on patrol in the Ovens River precinct.
Const Baxter talks to Stefan Vincec who is enjoying the school holidays.
Wangaratta police are always busy responding to the challenges of policing a fluctuating tourist population and regional hub that services people living in the town centre, rural district and highlands. Located in the north east of the state, Wangaratta attracts a steady stream of tourists looking to enjoy recreational activities or commuters travelling across the Victorian/ New South Wales border. The constant activity keeps police busy with the divisional headquarters based in the heart of the action. During the summer months, local police ramp up emergency management and road policing operations, while continuing to address ongoing issues like family violence and drugs. Eastern Region Division 4’s local area commander Inspector David Ryan said when it is warm the population swells along the river, in the highlands and other camping areas. “The volume of people in the state park is amazing and presents a lot of policing challenges,” he said. “Some of the camping grounds can be difficult to get to on extreme weather days, particularly if a fire sweeps through. “Emergency management becomes a huge part of our lives as we’re constantly monitoring our weather alerts and are in contact with other agencies and locals as different situations arise. “We live in a dry area and it is critical for us to e aware of what is occurring around our river flats, grassland and cropping land.”
Wangaratta police work closely with the Country Fire Authority and State Emergency Service during the high risk fire period focusing on bushfire arson prevention and detection with police patrolling known bushfire hotspots as part of Operation Firesetter. Searching for and rescuing missing or lost bush walkers is also a regular occurrence with highly skilled police trained to navigate the many state forests and alpine districts. Insp Ryan described Wangaratta as a mecca for recreation. “We have snowfields, high country and a mix of people coming to the region creating pressure points for police throughout the year,” he said. Road trauma spikes, particularly when favourable weather conditions attract offroad motorcyclists and four-wheel drivers. “As soon as the weather changes we get reports of off-road incidents, but we also have a lot of single vehicle collisions on straight roads. We really go from one extreme to another,” Insp Ryan said. Wangaratta’s Highway Patrol monitors the large volume of motorists travelling along the Hume Freeway between Melbourne and Sydney and other major roads in their jurisdiction including the Murray Valley Highway and Great Alpine Road. Leading Senior Constable Gavin Frew said the big contributors to collisions were speed, alcohol, drugs, distraction and fatigue. “We are here to detect all offences but it’s not just our input that is going to make a difference, road safety is the whole community’s concern.” The highway patrol has also uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of drugs such as ice when stopping motorists for traffic offences.
Wangaratta’s Crime Investigation Unit has worked hard to curb the use of ice in the community running a series of highly successful operations targeting drug traffickers in the area. Operation Juliet saw police lay 700 trafficking charges and arrest more than 30 people last year and has been followed by Operation Mellows, which targeted emerging drug traffickers looking to fill the gap. The tasking unit and uniform police support these operations, giving junior police the opportunity to gain experience on dedicated patrols, plain clothes operations and warrants. Senior Constable Sarah Edwards has worked in the tasking unit for the past few months and spent an extended period of time at the Family Violence Unit. “A lot of our work is directed at preventing family violence, providing referrals and tailoring orders to help victims and children,” she said. “We have seen the number of recidivist call outs drop significantly since the unit was introduced two years ago.” She said it was great to be part of a team dedicated to its community. “From a policing perspective the people are fantastic,” Sen Const Edwards said. “You also never know what’s going to happen next, one minute you are driving along the country side and the next you are called to a family violence incident or car rollover on the Hume.”
Left Country life Sen Const Edwards and Const Baxter with local farmer Julia Kalish. Editorial: Jane McCubbin Photography: Shane Bell
The Family Violence Unit and police regularly work with staff at Wangaratta Court House.
Sen Const Edwards and Senior Sergeant Garry Barton visit the CFA for an update on fire activity in the area.
Leading Senior Constable Steve Williams checks for speeding cars.
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
F CRIM E S O
CRI M N
PROCEEDS L A
S The Criminal Proceeds Squad looks to balance the ledger with offenders who have profited from their crimes while helping secure financial justice for victims.
“Complex cases call for a sophisticated response and that is what we offer. We use a mix of traditional investigation methods, as well as a range of powers we have under the Confiscation Act.”
Some years ago, two teenage brothers were sexually abused by a family friend they called the grandfather.
One of its biggest focuses is cracking down on drug traffickers and their cash and assets.
The abuse happened in the victims’ house, while other family members were home. During the police investigation it was discovered the offender owned a home in Glen Waverley, but once charged, he immediately transferred that property into his wife’s name. The Criminal Proceeds Squad was called in and immediately put a restraining order on the house. The wife was entitled to 50 per cent, leaving $300,000 to be restrained, so the victims could take civil action against the offender. This allowed the victims to seek a claim and both were awarded an undisclosed sum. Criminal Proceeds Squad boss Detective Inspector John Piazza said confiscating cash and assets from offenders was just one of the many jobs the squad’s detectives performed. “It is a great result when we see victims get some financial recompense straight from the offenders,” Det Insp Piazza said. “While we don’t directly hand over the money to the victim, we restrain property, which gives them an opportunity to seek compensation themselves. It is heartening to know our hard work is helping them in some way.” He said the squad also investigated complex organised crime groups that work together for the purpose of making money through criminal means.
The squad focuses on victim compensation, automatic forfeiture and unexplained wealth.
Recently, a couple came to the squad’s attention, after it was reported they appeared to be living beyond their means. A search warrant was executed at their rural 12 acre property and police found a large water tank that had been turned into an underground room with a big high-tech hydroponic set up. Inside were 1103 cannabis plants, weighing 35.9 kilograms. The couple were arrested and charged with cultivating and trafficking cannabis. Meanwhile, Criminal Proceeds Squad detectives looked into their asset holdings and it was discovered they owned eight properties in Victoria and interstate. The properties were valued at more than $2.5 million. “Interestingly, the couple had attempted to legitimise their earnings through a fictitious horse trading business,” Det Insp Piazza said. “They had even paid tax on a portion of their earnings.” After associated costs were deducted, $300,000 went back to the state coffers. One of the more complicated investigations the squad has been involved in was called Operation Airybuss. An initial investigation into a 31-year-old man cultivating and trafficking drugs turned up so much more.
“While we don’t directly hand over the money to the victim, we restrain property which gives them an opportunity to seek compensation themselves.” 26
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
During a raid, police found various illicit drugs, including cocaine, methylamphetamine and prescription drugs, a long list of names, addresses and orders for drugs, including Australia Post tracking numbers. The drug orders were also sent overseas, through an underground website. Profit from the drug sales for a four-month period was almost $20,000. The man ordered a variety of drugs from the site using bitcoin and then on-sold the drugs for a profit. He concealed the drugs by placing them in DVD covers and sending them via express post. Analysis of his computer found three separate bitcoin wallets. At the time of the seizure by Victoria Police, the value of that bitcoin was $3.92 million and has increased substantially since then. The man faced court and was given a five-year prison sentence. Det Insp Piazza said complicated investigations like Operation Airybuss saw his team working with specialist crime squads such as E-Crime and other law enforcement agencies. “We work really closely with the Office of Public Prosecutions and the Asset Confiscation Office, we have a really strong partnership with these agencies and work with them on a daily basis.” Depriving offenders of their ill-gotten gains has historically been the job of Criminal Proceeds Squad detectives, but over the past 18 months the squad has also been training investigators across the state. “Teaching frontline police to engage with this type of work will ultimately improve community safety by disrupting local serious crime, as well as improving our response to victims,” he said.
Image Crime map
Detectives often use mapping to link offenders with their crimes and proceeds gained. Editorial: Janae Houghton
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
Riad Barbour tauntingly waves at a CCTV camera moments before carrying out a brutal murder.
The office furniture is in disarray and there is blood splatter on the walls and floor.
He waits patiently outside a Deer Park post office and retail store until its employees have left for the day, before calmly stepping out of his car and into the warm evening air.
Homicide Squad Detective Sergeant Sol Solomon is called to the scene.
In his hands are a knife and a baton, testament to his terrible intentions.
“It was evident to us that a fierce struggle had taken place there,” Det Sgt Solomon said.
He pulls on a black jacket, concealing the weapons under it before ringing the back doorbell.
“The cause of death was established as a knife wound to the side of the neck, which had severed major blood vessels.
It is 7.44pm on 6 December, 2011 and Meadow Heights mum Ly Nguyen receives a concerning phone call.
“More than $12,000 was missing from the safe and it was clear that robbery was the strong motive for what had occurred.”
The alarm at her family’s post office business has not been switched on, an unusual occurrence.
When investigators examine the scene, their hopes are initially dashed when they discover that the killer has ripped out the store’s CCTV hard drive in a bid to cover his tracks.
The security company has tried to call the post office but cannot get through. Mrs Nguyen is confused. Her husband Dzung had been closing the store for the day when she last saw him shortly after 6pm. She tries to call her husband but he does not answer. Worried, Mrs Nguyen gathers together her two teenage children and the trio hurry to the post office to investigate. When they arrive, they stumble upon a horrific scene. The back door is wide open and 48-year-old Dzung is lying in a pool of blood in the rear office. The father-of-two has been bashed, his throat slashed and there are multiple stab wounds across his body.
A bloody knife rests on an office counter.
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
“It meant that all the recordings were lost to us," Det Sgt Solomon said. Or so they thought. “While we were waiting for forensics to be carried out, we suddenly noticed that we could see ourselves on the security monitor moving around the store,” he said.
“Mr Nguyen fought for his life over an agonising four minutes and 46 seconds before being left to die on the floor.”
"When investigators examine the scene, their hopes are initially dashed when they discover that the killer has ripped out the store’s CCTV hard drive in a bid to cover his tracks."
“We realised then that the CCTV system was still functioning.”
The 32-year-old is promptly arrested.
When detectives play back the footage, it tells a shocking tale.
Forensic officers find Barbour’s fingerprints on cigarette cartons inside the post office.
The CCTV has captured the entire sickening crime from the moment the unsuspecting postmaster opens the door to his killer. The footage shows the murderer cooly chatting to his victim who was packing up for the day.
They also find blood stains on the driver’s seat belt of his car and receipts for cigarettes purchased from the post office. “Barbour’s milk bar business was struggling,” Det Sgt Solomon said.
When the man’s back is turned, he suddenly launches into a ferocious attack, assaulting him with a baton, before pulling out the knife and repeatedly stabbing him, then slashing his throat.
“He was in debt and was not making enough of a profit to repay what he owed.
“It was painful to watch,” Det Sgt Solomon said.
“He thought that he would get away with it by removing the CCTV and was so confident that he even waved at the CCTV camera as he walked into the post office.
“Mr Nguyen fought for his life over an agonising four minutes and 46 seconds before being left to die on the floor. “Once he was dead, the killer calmly opened the safe and helped himself to the cash and cigarettes before removing the hard drive and driving off.” Investigators send an urgent alert to all police officers with the image of their suspect. They soon get a match. A Bacchus Marsh police officer identifies the suspect as a local milk bar manager, Riad Barbour. Post office staff also recognise Barbour. They tell police the man was in the store trying to convince Dzung to sell him wholesale cigarettes on credit the day before the murder.
“He saw robbery and murder as a way out of his financial problems.
“He never expected that his every move would later be used to catch him.” Faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, Barbour pled guilty to murder and theft and is serving a minimum prison sentence of 18 years. Despite the successful result, the chilling case is one that has remained in the minds of investigators. “As a homicide detective, I’ve seen a lot of horrific things,” Det Sgt Solomon said. “But watching the tiny post office owner struggle for five minutes with his hulking killer is something I won’t forget in a hurry.”
Editorial: Belle Nolan Photography: Jeremy Reddington Shutterstock.com POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
BADGE AND BEYOND
02 Images Police service 01 B ill and Eric Cooke celebrate their 90-year milestone and police service accolade. 02 T he brothers served in the Royal Australian Air Force during WWII.
BROTHERS IN ARMS It has been a year of milestones for retired Victoria Police Detective Sergeant Eric Cooke and Inspector Bill Cooke. The identical twins were the proud recipients of the National Police Service Medal (NPSM) and celebrated their 90th birthday in October.
“They never found her and I always wondered what happened. It was unfinished business,” he said.
With a combined 53 years of service both agreed they were very proud to receive the distinguished award recognising ethical and diligent service.
Eric’s son is retired Chief Inspector Ron Cooke and his grandson is Frankston Police Station’s Sergeant Brett Cooke.
“I really enjoyed my 26 years on the job, it was something I wanted to do and I worked with a lot of good blokes,” Bill said. The brothers share many parallels in their careers including their time as apprentice coopers at Carlton and United Breweries and service in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. They later joined Victoria Police after losing their coopers apprenticeships due to a company restructure and worked together as young police officers in the Russell Street bicycle squad. “There are a lot of funny stories, my wife used to say I should write a book,” Bill said.
Eric said he had many memories from his time as a detective but the case of a 12-year-old Moorabbin girl who went missing from her home always stuck with him.
POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
In retirement, Eric keeps busy with his family, which has grown from four children to 11 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren.
Bill worked for more than eight years as a funeral director.
SERVICE HISTORY ERIC COOKE 1957–62 Appointed constable and
worked at Russell Street. 1962–69 Appointed detective senior
constable and worked at Russell Street and Oakleigh Criminal Investigation Bureaus (CIB). 1969–84 Appointed sergeant and worked at Brighton, also worked at St Kilda, Moorabbin and Hampton CIBs. 1984 Retired. WILLIAM 'BILL' COOKE 1956–61 Appointed constable and
Harry (Hal) Basham, aged 96, is the oldest police officer at Victoria’s Retired Police Association. He was awarded the National Police Service Medal and Victoria Police Service Medal this year. Mr Basham worked at Russell Street, Yarra Junction, Healesville, Warburton, police stations and more. He was an officer for 42 years and was presented with his medals in front of family and friends this year. Editorial: Jane McCubbin Photography: Andrew Henshaw
worked at Russell Street and Town Hall Traffic Duty. 1961–66 Appointed senior constable at Town Hall Traffic Duty. 1966–74 Appointed sergeant at Town Hall Traffic Duty and later worked at Russell Street and Mentone. 1974–77 Appointed senior sergeant at Russell Street and worked at Bourke Street West and U District in Highett. 1977 Appointed inspector at Russell Street and Z District in Frankston. 1982 Retired.
Remembering Tim More than 18 years ago Senior Constable Tim Lewczuk was killed as he pulled over a car on the Western Ring Road in Sunshine. The bridge where the incident happened has now been named in his honour. His proud parents spoke to Police Life. It was 8.20pm on Saturday, 10 May, 1997 when Senior Constable Tim Lewczuk and his partner were performing routine patrols. They intercepted a vehicle for speeding on a bridge on the Western Ring Road in Sunshine. The officers parked behind the car and Sen Const Lewczuk went out to investigate. While questioning the driver, a third vehicle crashed into the parked police car, throwing Sen Const Lewczuk over the first car and 15 meters to the highway below. He tragically died at the scene.
Earlier this year, the bridge was renamed the Tim Lewczuk Bridge, a great honour for his family. Parents Dot and Richard Lewczuk were thrilled with the memorial. “It made all of our family very proud,” Mrs Lewczuk said. “It is such a nice thing for us, it is like he is still out there watching over us and he will always be remembered.” Sen Const Lewczuk graduated from the Victoria Police Academy in 1989, as a 23-year-old. At the time of his death, he was working at the now defunct Newport Community Policing Squad. Throughout his career he was also stationed at Flemington, Brunswick, St Albans, Moonee Ponds District Support group and the I-District Surveillance Unit.
“He really did enjoy being a policeman,” Mrs Lewczuk said. "He could be tough, but he also had a very caring and gentle nature and was dedicated to the job." Since losing their son, Mr and Mrs Lewczuk and their son Scott have become close to many of Sen Const Lewczuk’s former colleagues. “They are like family to us,” Mr Lewczuk said. “Tim and I both enjoyed playing golf together, in fact we had played the day he died, and Tim was president of the St Albans Golf Club.” Mr Lewczuk has been a member of the golf club for many years and enjoys it. They are also Blue Ribbon Foundation West Gate branch members.
Photo Proud family 01 Dot and Richard Lewczuk are proud to have a bridge named in honour of their son. 02 Sen Const Lewczuk. Editorial: Janae Houghton Photography: Andrew Henshaw POLICE LIFE | SUMMER 2016
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