A Chance Encounter
I did not know Kirra Mcloughlin well. Like Jamie, I have come to know a lot more about her since her death. From speaking with Alison, her mother, to her friends and extended family, I feel like now she, or at least her memory, and I are almost like old friends.
I only met her in person once. It was a couple of days before she died. In an ironic sort of a twist she was supporting her then partner during an interview I was conducting with him in relation to another police matter. It was DV (domestic violence) related.
One thing that stood out to me straight away was the difference between the two. Kirra seemed intelligent, she was well spoken and attractive. Her partner was not. She was somewhat loud and transparent, he was quiet and crafty. She was warm and engaging, he was cold and distant. During the interview I couldn’t shake the question of why these two were even in the same room, let alone in a relationship. But, part of policing is that you have to remain non-judgemental and work with facts. You have to almost sometimes disregard what’s on the surface and delve deeper. So as far as I was concerned Kirra was a woman, in a relationship with a man, who I was interviewing about a criminal matter, end of story.
But it wasn’t; because a couple of days later, I was at her house at Beenham Valley Road WolvI. I was searching for this man in the pitch black and freezing cold while scenes of crime officers examined the house for finger prints and other pieces of evidence that could help them determine what had gone on just a couple of hours before.
There are two things that I can remember vividly about that night. The first was getting the call on the radio. I won’t go into exactly what was said but it was along the lines of “can you come back to the station, some shit has gone down at Wolvi, we need you to help some detectives process a crime scene, possible suspect may still be on site.”
I honestly did not think much of it. This was relatively routine. I knew that by the time we got out there, chances are the suspect would be gone and there really wouldn’t be much to do or see other than stand around in the cold and wait for everyone else to do their thing.
When I got back, the vibe in the station was not what I was expecting. Normally, experienced police are very good at staying calm in pretty much any circumstance. During the briefing there was a distinct sense of urgency. Kirra’s name was mentioned and at first it did not ring a bell. As general duties police you literally interact with dozens if not hundreds of people a day. At that stage I did not put two-and-two together. I simply didn’t recognise that as I was preparing to go to Wolvi to search somewhere for someone, who had allegedly done something, Alison Russell was on her way to the Gold Coast hospital to look into the eyes of her dead daughter who had for all intents and purposes been bashed to death.
After the briefing, the drive out to Beenham Valley Road was hectic. I was driving a marked sedan; I think it was a Toyota Camry. I was following one of the detectives who was driving a silver Izuzu ute. He was hammering, I could barely keep up and when I pulled up to the house all I could smell was burning breaks, or a burning gear box or burning tyres, it all smelt the same.
The second thing I remember about that night was how cold it was. Because of how quickly we left the station in Gympie, I had forgotten to take my over coat. When I got out of the car to search the house and the property it hit me and I immediately wanted to just go and sit back in the car.
If there is one habit that I have retained from my time in police it’s my dark sense of humour. Because of how cold it was one of the scenes of crime sergeants gave me his overcoat so I could search the property without dying of hypothermia.
It had his striped epaulets attached and I remember saying to the junior officer that was with me that he had to do everything I said because I had stripes and he didn’t. it was one of those ‘you had to be there type jokes.’
We didn’t end up finding anyone, in fact given the tragedy that had unfolded, which I wasn’t aware of at that particular point in time, the house didn’t give much away at all.
I saw the red paint that was all through house, but for the majority of it I stood outside waiting for the SOCO’s (scenes of crime officers).
It was a couple of days later, when I heard the news that Kirra had died and the job was being investigated as a homicide that I actually put it all together. It was the first time in my career the true impact and gravity of what can happen in this life hit me. It was at that point I went from a fresh faced recruit like in the picture to someone who started to view the world with a lot more scepticism.
Like the interview I was in with Kirra and her partner several days before. Nothing is like what it appears on the surface.