Retired copper Trevor Carroll talks about policing in the Great Lakes

A young general duties officer, Trevor Carrol outside the Forster Police Station with twin sons, Marc and Luke in 1985.
A young general duties officer, Trevor Carrol outside the Forster Police Station with twin sons, Marc and Luke in 1985.

When former detective Trevor Carroll moved to Forster Police Station back in the 1980s he was surprised it wasn't the sleepy innocent coastal community he had anticipated.

Following a stint as a general duties officer at the highly charged Cabramatta, in Sydney's outer west, Trevor was looking forward to a more sedate posting.

For the three years Trevor was stationed at Cabramatta he attended motor vehicle accidents, domestics and break and enters on an almost daily basis, interspersed with vehicle pursuits, an armed siege and a massive brawl.

"My time there culminated with the Milperra mass murder," Trevor told the Great Lakes Advocate.

Moving to Forster Trevor worked much of the time as the sole police officer, looking after two towns and four villages.

It was not unusual to not only be the enforcer of infractions, but also its victim.

Trevor Carroll

"The mundane jobs encountered in the country were no different from many at Cabramatta, and many events were drenched in sorrow, excitement and mirth.

"It was not unusual to not only be the enforcer of infractions, but also its victim."

During those first five years at Forster Trevor was again thrown into the fray, attending wild brawls and riots, while the police station's constant visitor was death.

Death arrived in many formats including vehicle accidents, suicide, child death and the odd murder or attempt thereof, he said.

That period in general duties ended with a transfer of a few metres into the detectives' office until early retirement.

The roles of general duties officer and detective, the complex nature of policing, dealing with simple investigations and the more perplexing have been put together in his self published book The Cops, not just a job.

"My descriptions of these events reveal the real underbelly of this small coastal town, exposing a dark side to the town's blissful existence.

"Dramatic events such as the attempted murder of a young mother and the subsequent suicide of the offender, the savage sexual assault on another young mother by four hoodlums and a further sexual assault of a young woman by two men where a number of hurdles we encountered.

"This utopian life came to a crashing end with a simple arrest, which turned, into a fight for survival where the offender was shot.

My book gives a small and varied sample of a copper's life with tales of the many real events that unfolded during a 20 plus year career.

"All cherry picked to provide the reader with a broad grasp of the work that many of our police are confronted with each and every day."

Trevor's book will be launched at the Cape Hawke Surf Life Saving Club from 6pm, Thursday, June 27.

Here's an excerpt from Trevor's book.

27. Never let go.

Late on Friday the 15th of October 1999, I was alone in the CI office at Forster. My new work partner, Pete, was enjoying a rest day. Detective Hoolihan of Parramatta Detectives called to forewarn me that an escapee, Mark Frame formerly of her Majesty's Prison at Parramatta was hiding in my area. The information was quite basic. Mark Frame, a low risk prisoner had escaped while receiving treatment at a hospital a month earlier, and today Hoolihan was clued in that Frame was in a caravan park at Forster. I ran up a profile on Frame and had Hoolihan fax a photo.

My COPS search on Frame revealed that he had been in custody for property offences, with some history of violence and weapons. Armed with my profile and an unrecognisable image of our escapee I made the rounds of the local caravan parks without success.

On Monday after my weekend off, my work mate Peter was brought up to date on Frame. We had enough on our plate with our active drug supply job - Operation Mexia - taking much of our time where an immediate response was needed to react to our telephone intercepts.

Former Forster police officer, now author, Trevor Carroll.

Former Forster police officer, now author, Trevor Carroll.

Pete and I started the day with a further search of Frame's profile, creating a full dossier including his cartoons (known tattoos). A decent photo of our man still evaded us.

We did another futile run around the local caravan parks before widening our search to the surrounding towns and villages. One had promise. A caravan park on the banks of the Wallamba River indicated that they had a guest of a similar description, but different name. This bloke had a wife and two kids with him, something that didn't fit our profile. Still, we couldn't eliminate him until we were sure. He and his family were last seen boarding the local bus into town to shop. This caravan park was well known to us as a harbour for people who sought absolute privacy, many of whom were crooks and villains.

At around 4pm, Pete and I were finishing up for the day with the usual sisyphean tasks. Pete called the Wallamba River Caravan Park and found that our possible escapee had not returned.

We decided to finish our day with quick drive to the Wallamba River Caravan Park at Darawank to capture our escapee, or eliminate the possibility of the bloke there of being an escapee.

The GDs were given a heads up of our intentions, just in case we needed a truck to cart a prisoner. With only a half hour left of our shift I drove our unmarked sedan towards the caravan park. Just after I turned into Aquatic Road I spotted a man, a woman and two kids walking away from us toward the caravan park. The adults were struggling with shopping bags as they loped along the gravel verge of the bitumen access road. Both sides of the road were thickly forested as far as the eye could see. Beneath the trees the ground was littered with dense scrub. If a bloke wanted to disappear in a hurry, this was ideal.

We pulled up behind them, but they were oblivious to us and maintained their pace, all eight legs going nineteen to the dozen. The two adults and both kids never looked back. I'm sure they knew what was behind them. Pete and I got out and they appeared to gain pace.

"Excuse me, we are from the Police, I would like to speak to you for a minute," I called.

Trevor and Geoff Hall assisting with the investigation of a serious offence at Hallidays Point in the early 90s.

Trevor and Geoff Hall assisting with the investigation of a serious offence at Hallidays Point in the early 90s.

The guy stopped and gave his shopping bags to the woman who still had not looked back. As the man walked slowly towards us, his eyes flashed from side to side without so much as a swivel to his head. He was showing the usual signs of a person who would be soon making like a rabbit.

The woman didn't hang about, taking off at a rapid clip bearing the weight of the additional groceries with ease. She and the kids didn't want to know what was going on with Dad.

The bloke came up to us and Pete and I moved to either side and corralling him to the front passenger side wheel.

"Mate, you look similar to somebody we need to speak with, we just need to confirm your identity," I said calmly.

Pete and I were on guard, not so close to enable him to land a punch, but close enough to pounce if he bolted. We had him facing the car's bonnet with Pete on his left and me his right. After asking for some form of ID, he slowly removed a wallet from his front jeans pocket and removed documents, all bearing the name, Peter Rankin.

These documents couldn't be disputed; however none carried an image of Peter Rankin. Our bad photo of Frame was of a similar likeness to this guy - for that matter it was similar to half the male population.

My suspicions were piqued, but, if we were going to arrest him, we needed to be certain. An educated guess would not cut it. I pulled out Frame's profile and handed it to Pete who started to compare this guy's tattoos with those on Frame's profile.

As I checked his documents, spreading them on the car's bonnet, I also checked him out. He was short, probably 170cm tall, thin build wearing jeans and a short-sleeved shirt that was not tucked in. He wore his hair short, but it was untidy, he needed a haircut. What stood out were his sunken cheeks and dark hollow eyes, sure signs of a druggie.

We chatted idly as we worked through his papers and cartoons. Pete asked him to remove his shirt for a better look at his entire collection of body art.

"Okay, you are the person we are looking for. You are under arrest for escaping lawful custody," Pete said calmly.

Moving closer, I lightly took hold of his right arm.

"Place both your hands on the bonnet of the car," I ordered.

Before he had his arms on the bonnet, my skittish meter hit the roof.

"Knife, knife, knife," Pete screamed.

Frame was on the move, not away but swinging towards me. Still unable to see a knife my body instinctively reacted to Pete's warning by backing further away from Frame and sucking in my gut, making for a smaller target.

His sudden movement and the speed in which he swung his body and arm caught me by surprise. It was only a millisecond before a fist clenching a knife arced straight towards my stomach and swished past. I didn't feel it connect as it went by, with all the excitement I wasn't sure if it had or not.

Frame swung past me and his momentum put him onto the ground in amongst some light scrub, immediately behind where he had been standing. At first he was face down, but flipped over onto his back facing us with Pete and me on either side of him; his arm and knife were stretched out moving in an arc and lunging at us. .........

Trevor has changed the names of some characters in the book to protect their identity.

Trevor briefed Great Lakes Advocate journalists every Monday.

Trevor briefed Great Lakes Advocate journalists every Monday.

Trevor's book is available for sale from Tulls Newsagency, Wharf Street, Forster.