Now that it is over, it is hard to know where to begin. But I do remember the beginning. It is crystal clear. So perhaps I should write it all down, ask everyone to write it down just as they remember it. With Jacob’s and Scott’s diaries, we can piece together the whole story just as it happened. I wonder whether people will argue over the various accounts in years to come.
Detective Sergeant Alfred Hill (retired)
Superintendent Alfred Hill
New South Wales Police Force
16 October 2003
9 October 2002
It was cold that night. That night ,October the 19th, 2002, started like many others.
Saturday evenings. Helen had cooked a good meal, and I decided to go for my walk, some evening exercise, and a smoke. I pulled on my old leather jacket. The wind was blustering as I turned the corner into the promenade. Discarded cans rattled against the gutter, and leaves crackled under foot as I traced my steps along the beachfront to the headland. I had walked here, I don’t know, thousands of times, to that point on the headland where the path leads to a track running along the cliff face, Mackenzies Point.
The wind seemed to be rising. The waves crashed on the rocks below. This Saturday, like many other early Saturday nights, the revelers were yet to emerge. I reached that part in the protective fence where the sagging wires were a testament to hundreds of evening escapades along the cliff face. Everyone knew what had been going on here. It had been common knowledge since I was a young cop. ‘The Poofters Beat.’ Many a poofter had taken a good beating from an overzealous cop in this place. I always stopped here. I used to tell myself that this was a good distance for my walk. But I knew, I really knew, that this was not the reason.
It was here forty years ago—exactly as it turned out, although I did not realise this at the time that— I found a boot. One boot, left on a ledge which sparked a whole long and intriguing investigation, one that would have such consequences for me. One that eventually led to the Royal Commission demanding my discharge from the police force. These thoughts passed through my mind a hundred times a day, or so it seemed, but on this night as I leaned against the wire, finishing my third fag, the sight of a bundle on the path some thirty meters from where I stood woke me from my dreams.
As I climbed under the wire to investigate, a huge wave crashed against the rocks below, and the spray saturated me. A coughing fit made me look around for something to grab. The cliff face steadied me as I made my way along the narrow path. It was slippery. A flash of lightning from the southeast lit the sky, followed by the roll of thunder. Years in the police force gives you a sixth sense—I knew this was dangerous. I could see a shape, old clothes. Someone crouching? I drew nearer. Another wave roared against the rocks below. Moonlight briefly filtered through the gathering clouds, and I could see the bundle was not clothes but someone lying on the path. As I reached the body, I could see it was a young man, quite tall, fully clothed, lying on his back. I instinctively leaned forward and felt his pulse. The body was warm and his pulse strong, but he was unconscious. He was far too heavy for me to lift, and if I had tried to drag his body along the cliff face, we would both end up over the edge. The tide was rising, and the waves were becoming stronger.
Scrambling back to the road where I could get reception, I used my mobile to call the police station. Constable David Sommer was the police officer who came. And by himself too! It took him twenty minutes to get there, and I suppose I was not in my most welcoming mood, wet through and knowing that this would aggravate my arthritis. Anyway, before he could get out of the police car, he told me what he thought of me. Not too flattering either. I supposed he took exception to my calling him a “fucking idiot” when he asked me if I was sure it was a body. I mean, I was waiting for him on the road. He didn’t know I had been through the fence.
The track, now drenched with the spray from breaking waves, was more slippery than before. When we did reach the man, we found it was extremely difficult to take him to the road. Finally, I decided that if the constable took his feet, which were closer to the road, and I took his torso, we could carry him with less chance of slipping. As Dave, the constable, tells the story, I made him take his feet and go first so that if he should slip, I would still be all right. Well, that wasn’t the real reason. Dave was carrying a torch.
When we reached the road, we could see our man was a Caucasian under thirty, seemingly in good health, but strangely dressed—much too formal for a casual night out. He was wearing a navy-blue blazer, a shirt, a tie, and something I hadn’t seen for many years: gray flannel trousers. The real problem was that he was deeply unconscious. We suspected a drug overdose, although we could see no obvious marks on him. So what do you do with a druggie?
Off to St. Vincents.
I forgot to mention Constable David Sommer, or Dave, as he wished to be called, had also been soaked, so neither of us was inclined to spend more hours at the police station filling out an incident report. By mutual agreement we decided to do this in the morning even though it was Sunday and I gave him my address. He said he was to start a short surfing holiday on Tuesday and wanted to get everything finished and up to date. Very commendable. It took me back to a time when I was a young constable working at Waverly Police Station, the same station where Constable Sommer worked. Perhaps he wasn’t such a bad guy after all.