Gloucester’s role in Strike Force Durkin, the major police operation launched to capture Australia’s most wanted man, Malcolm Naden, officially wound up on the weekend.
On Friday, local Rural Fire Service representatives were presented with a plaque from the NSW Police Force along with a series of framed photographs capturing key images from the four month long police operation based at the RFS headquarters in Tate Street in Gloucester.
Superintendent Paul Fehon, the forward commander for Strike Force Durkin, has been heading up the local operation since mid-December when an officer was shot at Nowendoc during the search.
Supt Fehon said at that time the NSW Police Commissioner made a commitment that the person responsible for injuring the officer would be captured and placed before the justice system.
He said as a result a forward command post was established, initially at Nowendoc, and then at Gloucester.
“The people of Nowendoc provided their hospitality and support as we built a city to meet our needs at Nowendoc.”
He said the fact that this occurred over the Christmas and New Year period created an additional strain, disrupting normal arrangements for both police personel and those providing support.
Supt Fehon said for the first five weeks of the operation at Nowendoc police operated in extremely adverse weather conditions, and were sleeping on stretcher beds and in sleeping bags with few home comforts while taking part in daily operations over a vast area.
He said a decision was made to relocate the command post to Gloucester as the investigation was set to continue for some time. He said the local community was able to provide accommodation and meals, and other essential services like vehicle maintenance facilities.
The Rural Fire Service headquarters provided police with a secure site, a heliport and importantly a training room that was converted to an operations centre which linked to the onsite police command bus.
Supt Fehon said while Strike Force Durkin was in operation tourism had been impacted “by the fact there a dangerous, armed person was roaming nearby communities.”
He said relocating the operation to Gloucester was a chance for the NSW Police to help support local businesses and tourism operators while they focused on their objective of capturing Australia’s most wanted man.
“On March 22 we are able to achieve that objective in a safe manner”.
“We are now in a stage of finalizing our involvement in the Nowendoc and Gloucester communities.”
“It is important that we thank those communities and the people in surrounding districts for their tolerance and acceptance of our operation over the past four months.
“We appreciate the courtesy and confidentiality that most respected and we’re pleased that the Gloucester and Nowendoc areas can return to their peaceful existence, and I hope that tourism will return to its previous levels or more.”
Supt Fehon said the support of the Rural Fire Service, and the RFS Welfare Group (who made some 10,000 sandwiches for the duration of the operation) had been invaluable during the course of the operation.
He said the police force’s rural crime investigators also played a pivotal role in the operation, actnig as a conduit to local rural communities.
“They greatly assisted in the provision of information from the community.”
Superintendent Fehon said the Manning Great Lakes Command played a large part in Strike Force Durkin, and local officer John Broadley, who was seconded to the task force, provided invaluable local knowledge and expertise.