It was the crime that shocked and horrified Australia and left law enforcement reeling as it investigates whether the ambush and killing of police officers at Wieambilla in Queensland could have been avoided.
There have been demands for answers after four unsuspecting police officers were ambushed with a hail of bullets on December 12, 2022 – fired by brothers Gareth and Nathaniel Train and Gareth’s wife Tracey – while conducting a welfare check on a remote property.
Two officers, Constable Rachel McCrow and Constable Matthew Arnold, were killed in the gunfire, while the other two barely escaped with their lives.
Alan Dare, a neighbour who visited the property to help after hearing the commotion, was also killed.
Amid the group’s gathering and stockpiling of firearms and surveillance equipment, they had flown under the police radar, with the attending officers lulled into a false sense of security due to who the Trains were, according to head of Strategic Policing and Law Enforcement Dr John Coyne.
“They were targeting someone who had no substantive criminal history, it would appear. They were teachers in the education area. Even if you delve that little bit deeper, you’d assume they’d gone through working with vulnerable people checks,” Dr Coyne said on Under Investigation with Liz Hayes.
“There’s a whole heap of things here that you’d turn around and say that this was a low-risk activity.”
Former Detective chief inspector with the NSW Homicide Squad Gary Jubelin said he would have been “comfortable” sending his officers out on a job like that, considering the information which was available to police.
“It’s a fairly straight forward job, and they wouldn’t have had the sense of what’s coming round the corner,” he said on the program.
It was later revealed the Trains had been descending into a Christian fundamentalist and conspiracy theory-obsessed mindset for years and believed that the police officers were agents of a “Luciferian agenda”.
“They came to kill us and we killed them,” Gareth Train said in a video uploaded after the trio had killed the police officers.
“If you don’t defend yourself against these devils and demons, you’re a coward.”
The group were anti-vaxxers and believed the Covid-19 pandemic was an attempt at population control by the government and a sign of the impending apocalypse.
Despite the fact the group were educators, a career which did not raise alarm bells with police, their belief in conspiracy theories was an indicator that something was out of place with the group.
“We’d like to think that [conspiracy theorists are] someone who’s uneducated or of a particular type, but this really came at our fear centres of this could be anyone,” psychologist Tamara Cavenett said.
“What we do know is someone who believes one conspiracy will believe another, and they were adding hate filled and more and more concerning conspiracy theories into the mix.”
However, just because the Trains had outlandish beliefs, it wasn’t necessarily a predictor of the violent crimes they would later commit, according to Ms Cavenett.
“We have no clear predictor of who will and who won’t [descend into violence],” she said.
“You can look at individuals and you can look at a history of violence, and that will predict the future of violence … but we know that just believing in any set of beliefs, any set of ideologies is not a predictor at all.”
The event is a warning sign to law enforcement that this type of terrorism could pose a mortal threat to Australians, with the possibility of similar attacks in the future, said Dr Coyne.
“It’s a national security threat. I think right-wing extremism, conspiracy theories and sovereign citizens represent a direct threat to social cohesion in Australian communities and continue to do so,” he said.
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