Police deny inaction on car fire bombings
Ray Whitehead's looks into the melted remains of the interior of his son's holden commodore that was firebombed Isabella Plains. Photo: Rohan Thomson
ACT Policing has defended its decision not to make public the fire bombing of a car outside a townhouse in Isabella Plains that hospitalised a Cromwell Circuit resident at 2am on Saturday.
The attack, the apparent culmination of a campaign of intimidation and harassment by a person or persons unknown, is one of a number of apparently serious incidents not made public that have been raised with ACT Policing by Fairfax Media.
ACT Policing has also stood by its low-key response to a drive-by shotgun attack in Kambah on December 27 and the fire bombing of a car in Curtin on April 4, 2010.
Ray Whitehead, a former soldier and now a public servant with the Department of Defence, said he spent six hours at The Canberra Hospital on Saturday morning being treated for smoke inhalation.
''At about 2am (on Saturday morning) the kids heard a car take off (out the front),'' he said.
''Then there was a big pop and the car (his son Christopher's VX Commodore) went up. I got a gutful of toxic smoke while I was trying to shut the horn (which was sounding because the fire had melted the relays) down. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight I wouldn't do that again.''
Mr Whitehead said his son had been involved in an altercation a few nights before and there had been previous attempts to damage the cars.
He said that on being allowed to leave hospital he was surprised to discover the incident had not been made public and there had been no attempt to call for witnesses to come forward.
An ACT Policing spokesman said the investigation was ongoing and officers were following ''several other leads at this stage''.
''In accordance with our operational priority response model, ACT Policing media team makes a determination on whether to issue a media release. A release was not issued,'' he said. ''We encourage anyone who has not yet spoken to police and may have further information to contact 131 444.''
Police have rejected Curtin nurse Anne Duffy's criticism of their handling of the fire bombing of her car on Easter Sunday, 2010.
Ms Duffy said earlier this week she believed the incident ''was swept under the carpet, (it was) something to be ignored''.
The ACT Policing spokesman said no media release was issued because officers had ''a number of active leads they were following''.
The triple-0 call was received at 5.22am, the fire brigade was on the scene at 5.26am and police arrived at 5.35am.
''Despite an initial two-month investigation, no arrest has yet been made,'' the spokesman said. Extensive doorknocks were done; phone checks made; CCTV footage checked in the area, etcetera, and a number of enquiries were made/leads followed. The complainant (Duffy) thanked the investigative officer for her assistance in the matter.
''No forensics were undertaken on the vehicle due to fire and water damage. Further, Mr Duffy (Anne Duffy's then 20-year-old son), had cleaned some of the area/vehicle, including having removed items from the vehicle, prior to police attendance and the crime scene was contaminated due to heavy civilian/ACTFB presence.
''Consultation occurred with Forensic and Data Centres regarding forensic material and Forensics advised the possibility of obtaining any evidence was negligible.''
Although more than two years have passed the case is still open, the spokesman said.
''My goodness, how easy it is to make it sound as if something was done,'' Mrs Duffy said when shown the police response. ''CCTV? There are none until you get into the Woden shopping area kilometres away. Extensive door knocks! As far as I am aware none of my neighbours were door knocked, so I'm not sure who they approached.
''Only my neighbour who assisted initially was spoken to and that was because he was already onsite.''
Mrs Duffy said the only thing she could recall her son moving before the police arrived was the garden hose. ''Or, I should say, he tried to get to it but the fire beat him back. It was impossible for him to remove anything from the car as the heat was still too intense and the metal was too hot to touch.''