A suspected child sex offender who stabbed a policeman before being shot dead engaged in “unusual” behaviour with the aim of ending his life, which was impossible to predict and comparable to an act of extremist terrorism, an inquest has been told.
Nick Newman, 33, was shot at least seven times by two detectives at Maroubra in Sydney’s east on January 26, 2018, after he critically injured Detective Sergeant John Breda, who had grabbed him while trying to arrest him.
Newman was still holding the blade when he fell in the beer garden of the Maroubra Junction Hotel. Told to drop it, he responded “f--- you” and attempted to cut his own throat. He died of his gunshot injuries.
A two-week inquest at the NSW Coroners Court examined the circumstances of the shooting and stabbing, including planning by police in the days beforehand and the actions of the officers involved.
On Thursday, counsel assisting Jane Needham, SC, said in closing submissions that the two officers who shot Newman pulled out their guns even before he brandished the knife, which was not justified.
Ms Needham said it is not possible to say what impact the firearms had on Newman’s decision to pull out his knife, and to do so would involve speculation.
She identified several instances of poor communication before the attempted arrest, including Sergeant Breda not informing two detectives who were driving from Penrith that he had left the meeting point in Maroubra and was going to arrest Newman with three officers instead of five.
The two Penrith officers had spoken to Newman and had information that knives had been found at his home, which Sergeant Breda was unaware of.
Ms Needham said Sergeant Breda did not read the full 30 pages of Crime Stoppers tips relating to Newman, including one which said he carried a knife, so he was unaware of the danger.
There was also a lack of communication between the three arresting officers regarding the decision of two to pull out their guns, while Sergeant Breda still believed the arrest would be performed with physical force only.
Barrister Paul Madden, who represented the two detectives who shot Newman, said his clients had been criticised for pulling out their Glock pistols too soon when in reality they should be praised because their actions prevented others from being injured.
Mr Madden said Detective Senior Constable Benjamin Anderson had been sent into the beer garden first to scope out the situation, and had described feeling that “something just didn’t add up” as he sat at a table and attempted to light a cigarette with shaking hands.
“[His] intuition kicked in,” Mr Madden said.
A short time later, the officer messaged Detective Senior Constable Tim Carey – who was waiting outside the door with Sergeant Breda – that he should come out “Glock up”.
“Their decision to draw was the correct one,” Mr Madden said, adding that his clients’ “intuition, quick thinking and professionalism” saved the life of a fellow officer.
Mark Tedeschi, QC, who represented a range of officers including Sergeant Breda and the Police Commissioner, said the evidence sets out that Newman intended to end his life through “suicide by cop” and take one or more police officers with him.
Mr Tedeschi said there was no warning of Newman’s plans – either for police, or his two friends who sat with him.
“It’s unusual, in a little bit of the same way as an act of extreme terrorism is unusual – often impossible to predict, often done without any warning to the authorities, or to family or friends,” Mr Tedeschi said.
“It was impossible for anybody to anticipate an event like this, or to plan for an event like this.”
Mr Tedeschi said Newman was a man “who could not stand the shame of what he had done and decided that he would react in this way in order to end his own life, and in effect, prevent justice being done”.
When Sergeant Breda was stabbed, a “signal one” call was broadcast, meaning all police should respond urgently because an officer’s life is in danger.
One of the officers who ran from nearby Maroubra police station was a 62-year-old probationary constable, who had fulfilled his lifelong ambition of joining the police after being ineligible years earlier because he was slightly too short.
When he arrived at the beer garden, he began applying pressure to Sergeant Breda’s abdomen while Newman, who still held a knife, attempted to struggle to his feet despite being shot multiple times.
The officer told the inquest the incident took such a toll on him that he quit the force a month later, and he still has flashbacks and nightmares about the traumatic situation.
Barrister Darien Nagle, representing the former officer, said his client’s story demonstrates the “very difficult job” police face every day, exposing themselves to mental and physical harm in service to the community.
Mr Nagle said his client – who now teaches first aid to others – should be commended.
“It is a shame that his policing career was so short after a lifelong ambition,” Mr Nagle said.
Deputy State Coroner Elizabeth Ryan will deliver her findings in January.
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