License article

Bomber mechanic: When I go, I'll go big

A town was fearful of Glenn Sanders in the days before his death.

Glenn Sanders had been telling residents of the town of Derrinallum, 100 kilometres west of Geelong, he was being followed by police and government agencies.

He had taken to storing his mobile phone in a lead case, claiming his house was bugged and fearing personal information had been stolen from his computer.

And in the past few months, the 48-year-old mechanic thought some of Derrinallum's 300 residents were plotting against him.

Some locals believed the conspiracy theories were just part of Sanders' off-beat humour, while others privately worried he was slipping into madness following the death of his wife 18 months ago.

But on the day that Sanders detonated a series of massive explosions at his family farm, his paranoia of surveillance was justified. Police had been monitoring the property from a vantage point on Mount Elephant, an extinct volcano reputedly known by local Aboriginal tribes as Djerrinallum or Hill of Fire.

Sanders had threatened a close friend a day earlier on April 10, which was reported to police in Ballarat. The Special Operations Group was notified within hours because of Sanders' increasingly erratic behaviour and fondness for blowing up anything from rabbit warrens to dead cattle.

When police finally entered the property at dusk on Friday evening, Sanders was ready and apparently resigned to his fate.

He had made a final visit to his ailing mother, who is battling cancer in Ballarat Hospital. He told locals his mum was unlikely to return to the farm, which had been in family hands for three generations.

Geoff and Diane Henderson from the Derrinallum garage spoke to him on Friday morning, saying he appeared normal – almost serene – reminding them of the "old Glenn".

Sanders had also alluded to suicide on several occasions. And it would be an elaborate event rather than a discreet exit.

Last month, the owner of a takeaway shop in the neighbouring town of Lismore asked if he was concerned about safety when riding his Harley Davidson without a helmet.

Sanders replied: "No, when I go, I'll go big."

His words came true about 1.30am last Saturday, when a seven-hour siege ended in a series of blasts that obliterated Sanders and injured two members of the Special Operations Group.

According to police sources, at least one of the bombs was fitted with several ignition devices, which meant it could be detonated even if Sanders had been overpowered by police. By coincidence or design, a five-metre high rocket and two vehicles that belonged to his wife were unscathed.

Police continue to scour the wreckage over the Easter weekend, amid fears that several shipping containers buried on the property could be booby-trapped.

Acting Superintendent Paul Ross said the police investigation was yet to determine if Sanders had deliberately caused the explosion or unwittingly tripped an ignition device. He said it was also unknown if the eccentric mechanic intended to harm police.

Superintendent Ross confirmed Sanders was being treated for an unspecified mental illness.

The coroner is expected to examine why Sanders possessed such significant quantities of explosives, when his licence was revoked by police last year.

The man known as "Colonel" was friends with most of Derrinallum's 300 residents until his behaviour became increasingly erratic following his wife's death.

As he grappled with grief and loneliness, Sanders would often drink bourbon and lemonade by her grave in the Derrinallum Cemetery. Police have also confirmed they are investigating reports that he had worn an explosives vest during regular trips to town.

Two men, who described themselves as mates, swear that Sanders had shown them a black girdle stuffed with what appeared to be sticks of gelignite.

Owner of the local post office, Larry Howard, conceded the town was slow to recognise Sanders' decline.

"The signs were definitely there, but because we all knew and liked Glenn, we just hoped he'd get through it," he said.

Rob Jamieson, a fourth-generation farmer at the historic Stony Point property in Darlington, gave Sanders a part-time job in the late 1980s. He was employed to repair and service farm machinery, but would also restore old cars and motorbikes.

Rob's son Clive Jamieson said the pair developed a father-son type relationship because of their shared interests.

"Even though they came from completely different walks of life, dad and Glenn had a very special rapport because of their passion for cars," he said.

Jamieson, who has known Sanders since the pair were at primary school in the late 1970s, said reports that he was "bomb crazy" were unfair.

"He wasn't a mad idiot who had a fetish for blowing things up. He used explosives like it was one of the tools in his toolbox. He was very skilled at it."

Jamieson's family wants to remember Sanders as the "very kind, polite and friendly person" they knew at Stony Point.

"We don't want Glenn's life to be defined by his final actions."

For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit