ONE of two police officers killed after being ambushed by a drunken gunmen at Crescent Head in 1995 may have survived if he had been issued with an $18 speedloader the Industrial Relations Court has been told.
NSW WorkCover Authority is proceeding with eight summonses against the Crown over alleged Occupational, Health and Safety Act breaches by the NSW Police Service stemming from the shooting deaths of Kempsey policemen, Senior Constables Robert Spears and Peter Addison.
The matter, being heard by Justice Hungerford, began in Sydney on Monday and is expected to take three weeks to complete.
Senior Constables Addison and Spears, both Port Macquarie residents, were shot by John McGowan on July 9, 1995 when they went to investigate a domestic violence complaint.
In the preceding Coronial Inquest, Coroner Derrick Hand found the two officers had been ‘massively outgunned’, lacked bulletproof vests and were hampered by poor radio communications.
WorkCover alleges the breaches of the Act contributed to the deaths of the policemen and specifically refers to inadequate equipment and training and the alleged failure to provide self-loading firearms.
When the officers arrived at the home of McGowan he was armed .223 calibre Ruger Rifle.
Constable Spears was shot dead in McGowan’s first salvo before Const. Addison managed to enter a house across the road to use a phone for help, when he was told there was not one he left the house only to be shot dead himself.
McGowan then shot himself.
WorkCover alleges the Crown failed to ensure the health and safety of Const. Addison and Spears by not providing them with a speedloader or a self-loader weapon such as a the 9mm Glock pistol, which holds 17 rounds, now used by the service.
WorkCover’s Barrister Steven Crawshaw told the court a speedloader, a round device used to load all six bullets into the then standard police weapon, a .38 Smith and Wesson, would have let Const. Addison reload more efficiently under pressure.
Police Service Barrister, Peter Hastings, QC, told the court Const. Addison did not appear to be reloading at the time he was killed so the issue was irrelevant.
The officers were issued with speed strip reloaders that enable rounds to be loaded two at a time.
The court heard Const. Addison had fired all six rounds from his revolver and investigators found his unused speed strip lying near his body.
WorkCover has also alleged that the police service failed to provide the two officers with training addressing in a practical way the tactics to be employed in a high-risk situation such as they were faced with and the systems the police service had in place to ensure training was deficient.