By HARRY CLARKE
THE potential need for country police to be fitted with bulletproof vests and armed with rifles will be among the issues considered at a coronial inquest into the shooting attack on police at Wieambilla last December which left six people dead.
As well as three previously respected community members’ descent into religiously motivated, murderous terrorism, the inquest will examine what measures could be taken to help prevent similar incidents from happening, and unfolding the way the Wieambilla shooting did, in the future.
A pre-inquest hearing in Brisbane heard 152 witness statements, 325 exhibits and six years worth of phone data were among the materials compiled by Queensland Police Service’s Ethical Standards Command during six months of investigation.
Ruth O’Gorman KC, counsel assisting state coroner Terry Ryan, said the mammoth investigation of the shooting would likely continue until the end of this year, preventing the full inquest from being carried out until 2024.
Tara police constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold, and civilian Alan Dare, were shot dead in what police say was an ambush by radicalised Christian extremists Gareth, Nathaniel and Stacey Train on their isolated property at Wieambilla, north of Tara, on the afternoon of December 12 last year.
The three killers were gunned down that night by Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) police.
The fallen officers, alongside two other constables from Chinchilla, visited the property in response to a missing person report relating to Nathaniel Train.
The report had been issued by NSW police, who contacted Queensland police relating to Train’s location at the Wieambilla property.
The coroner’s court heard Constables McCrow and Arnold were killed mere minutes after they “jumped the fence” into the Trains’ property about 4.30pm.
Chinchilla Constable Randall Kirk was wounded during a shootout with the assailants as he ran for safety.
His colleague, Chinchilla Constable Keely Brough, hid in bushland for two hours before she was rescued by the local police who first responded.
Alan Dare, a volunteer rural fire fighter who lived opposite the Trains, was shot immediately after arriving at the front gate with another neighbour to investigate smoke coming from the property.
O’Gorman said police bodyworn camera footage, aerial footage from police helicopters, and data from the Trains’ mobile phones and computer equipment would be among the materials examined during the inquest.
Experts to be called will include a counter terrorist expert to provide a psychological examination of Gareth, Nathaniel and Stacey Train.
In a series of questions posed in court, O’Gorman detailed some of the issues that the inquest would explore.
“What did NSW police know about Gareth, Stacey and Nathaniel Train at that time and what did they communicate to the QPS?,” she said.
“Why is it that all four police officers attended that day?
“What happened between the time they jumped the fence and when shots were fired at them?
“Is it possible to know who fired the shots that caused their deaths?
“What was it that prompted Mr Dare to attend the property? What did he know of what had transpired before he arrived?
“Were the four officers sufficiently armed and trained to respond to the incident?
“Why was it that each of Gareth, Stacey and Nathaniel fired shots at police on that day? How did they get to that point? What or who motivated or influenced them?”
O’Gorman said how police approach “liaising with the families of people involved in critical incidents as they unfold and in the immediate aftermath” would also receive consideration at the inquest.
No dates for further inquest sittings, nor the time frame for the full inquest have been set.