By HARRY CLARKE | EXCLUSIVE
OFFICERS involved in the immediate response to the fatal police shooting in Wieambilla last December have honoured the two young constables killed with the unveiling of a memorial garden during a tearful, sombre and reflective ceremony in Miles which was attended by the family of one of the victims.
Tara Police Constables Matthew Arnold and Rachel McCrow, and civilian Alan Dare, were gunned down in a terrorist attack by radicalised Christian extremists during a routine welfare check at a secluded property at Wieambilla on December 12 last year.
Three weeks after Alan Dare was posthumously awarded the Queensland Police Bravery Medal, Constables Arnold and McCrow were commemorated with the unveiling of a “Green Therapy” garden constructed outside the Miles Police Station, where McCrow had served a brief stint before taking up her first permanent posting as a constable in Tara.
“Green Therapy is a recognised, proven psychological healer and a source of enjoyment for many,” said Miles Senior Constable Scott Pogan, who oversaw the memorial garden project.
“For me, a garden offers moments of reflection, the chance to think, a moment to slow and enjoy something simple. Our garden, our permanent memorial for Matt and Rachel, is a small gesture from our staff here at Miles, our Blue and real families.
“Our garden is right at the front of the station, the front door of our business, and offers the opportunity for family, friends, community and police to view our memorial, to take a moment and to think of the sacrifices made by our friends and family.
“Matt and Rachel are forever held as members of the Miles police family.”
Miles police, alongside colleagues from Chinchilla and Dalby, were first on the scene of the terrifying shooting at Wieamabilla after Constables McCrow and Arnold were gunned down and Chinchilla Constables Randall Kirk and Keely Brough had to run for their lives into surrounding bushland.
Snr Con Pogan told the Caller that dealing with the trauma of that day and the loss of their colleagues, was “a work in progress”.
“Five months down the track we’re still thinking about it and processing, and that’s what this (garden) is about for me, just a bit of processing and for something that’s a lasting thing for us,” he said.
“It was a terrible thing to go through and the lowest points are where you build that strength, and we’ve all probably come together stronger and better and more unified, I guess, in what we do.”
Constable Arnold’s family attended the ceremony in Miles and officially unveiled the memorial garden, which comprises an Illawara flame tree flanked by two sandstone blocks emblazoned with commemorative plaques for the police victims.
“I selected the Illawarra Flame Tree as each December the flame tree bursts with glowing foliage and flowers – a very fitting symbol,” Snr Con Pogan said.
“I also like to think that Matt and Rach would have grown just like our tree – maybe reaching illustrious heights, or maybe settling into a quiet country station and setting down roots there.
“I hope this is a fitting memorial garden that brings us all some peace.”
Also in attendance at the ceremony were Queensland Ambulance Service paramedics and State Emergency Service volunteers involved in the Wieambilla response, as well as QPS Assistant Commissioner Charryse Pond.
Queensland Police Union Vice President Shane Prior gifted artist impression portraits of Constables McCrow and Arnold to officer Matthew Minz, who was the Acting Sergeant of the Tara Police Station during December last year.
“I just want say a deeply felt thanks to Scott and the Miles Police Station, and everyone else involved in this project, for all the time, hard work and love that they’ve put into to it,” Officer Minz said.
“It just shows exactly how much Matt and Rach meant to them. I can’t thank them enough.”