The ticking clock counts the seconds passing by. It’s a constant sound that becomes my beat. It’s like a metronome, it never lies. Seconds turn to minutes and minutes turn to hours. Pretty soon I’ve lost track of time and the world slips by. The kids fight for my attention, my wife is talking to me, the chores pile up, but I reluctantly ignore them. I’m all consumed. I’m all in.
This what I signed up for. Kirra’s death and unresolved case has been edged into my mind for the last few years. The relentless ticking of the clock reminds me that time waits for no one. When you strip everything back, time is all we have. I had better cherish my time, as others aren’t so lucky.
In 2013 I was a Constable in Gympie, Qld. Fresh faced and all. When I shave I look 12, and you have to shave daily in the job or have a full beard. My beard is patchier then a Scottish summer, so clean shaven it is. It’s always interesting when you turn up to a job to give advice about relationships and marriage when you look like you belong in grade 6.
My first shift was one to remember, for me anyway. I was so nervous for the first few weeks. My FTO (field training officer) had been in the job since I was alive. He was what they call a ‘postcode’, because their registration number is 4 digits long (an indication of how long they have served as the numbers keep increasing)
He was somewhat jaded. Actually, fully jaded. The time in the job made him bitter and paranoid, which unfortunately, rubs off on who they are working with, i.e. me.
I rock up to my first shift at Gympie Police Station. My uniform ironed and my boots polished. In the locker room I met a pommy who was about 9 or so months into his first year. He asked me who my Training officer was. I told him and he was like “oh”. He then asked me who the other 2 guys starting with me have as a FTO. I told him and he replied “oh they are great.”I headed up to the duty sergeant and met everyone. The Sgt introduced me to my training officer and a few of the senior staff. One guy I will always remember. This guy was as happy as a cat in a bath and about as approachable a tiger having dinner. He was a sergeant and as a new constable I had to ask questions and take direction. When I had a question, this guy would just look at you, straight into your soul, and grumble. Then you’d walk away thinking WTAF just happened.
My FTO was a really nice bloke. I wish him all the best and mean no disrespect however he shouldn’t have been a training officer. He was so experienced and knowledgeable but hated the job and was starting to get paranoid.
We set out on the road. It was a 2pm - 10pm shift. I didn’t know Gympie at all so I was trying to get my bearings. My sense of direction is horrendous at the best of times. My partner was driving and talking and we pulled a few cars over and stuff like that. We get our first job. I can’t even tell you what it was. I was trying to take all the notes properly in my notebook. So much so that I didn’t actually listen to what they were telling me. I was too focused on what I had to do next and what questions to ask. At the end of it I was like “So what happened?” People report really trivial stuff. Just messy, dramatic, complicated, silly shit. It’s hard to know what box to put it in sometimes.
Night fell and that’s when I really noticed some of my partners odd behaviours. The radio called us. I answered and hit the light switch inside the car. My FTO slaps my hand and says “what the fuck are you doing?” He turns the light off and pulls over. He then shows me how to take job details at night and avoid being detected or watched. He demonstrated holding a massive mag light torch against the clipboard on just the right angle as to let just enough light out. Then take the job details and keep using the radio. Since we had no GPS, I proceed to use a map to navigate to the job address, all whilst using the mag light at just the right angle. Keep in mind starting out as a Cop is hard enough let alone playing these games.
This kind of thing continued and every shift was like this. We would have good times, however, his behaviour stressed me out. After two months I thought I was going to pull the pin. Working every shift in that environment really took its toll, and I was jaded already.
Back to my first shift and my first arrest. Another cop came to me and said “do you want a easy pinch? It’s a walk up.” I later learnt that ‘walk up’ pinches are usually given away because they are painful for some reason.
This one however was not. This kid walks in, I think he was around 18. He said he was ‘wanted’ about a stealing matter. We bring him Into the interview room and search his name. We confirm he’s wanted for stealing an amplifier for a car.
I started interviewing him. He told me he walked into the autobarn store and took the amplifier. He said “I don’t know why I stole it, I don’t even own a car.”
I did talk quite a lot with my FTO in this time. I learned there was a reason for his behaviour and it stem from years of distressing and confronting jobs. He had seen more then most and these were his scars.
After a few months I changed into a different team at Gympie Station, the same team Tom was in.
It was in my first year that I met Kirra McLoughlin. If you listened to our interview with ABC radio you would have heard me mention the torso (The shake out #2). Well the torso case had nothing to do with Kirra, but it’s proximity to Beenham Valley Road, and a few other factors, led us down an avenue of inquiries. I met Kirra, her kids and her boyfriend as a result of those inquiries. We basically knocked on doors to make sure people whom resided there were all still alive, as the torso remained unidentified. It’s ironically brutal that Kirra died shortly after that. When detectives identified the torso it was shocking. It was my mates dad. Police were on the right path with their inquiries and the way they solved that case is remarkable.
When I heard Kirra had died, like most of us, I was shocked and saddened. I had been to countless disturbances and domestics but this was the first time someone I had dealt with and met in the job had died, quite possibly as a result of what we had been called for in the first place.
I transferred to Maroochydore station around this time. I learnt that my FTO had left the Police on medical grounds. I do hope he gets better in civilian life and I wish him all the best. He was a friendly bloke that always had time for me, but he was clearly unwell.