Never a Dull Moment


tags: Homicide, NSW Police, Police Pursuit, Robbery, Death,

discussion: 0 comments

By Mick McGann

From the September 2017 issue of the APJ.

For someone who’d never fired a shot in anger before, I found myself standing there with my revolver out and pointed at another human being. I had him in my sights and was ready to take the shot. It wouldn’t likely be fatal as the car door was protecting the main part of his body, but it would have brought him down. In the fashion of Ned Kelly’s capture at Glenrowan, his legs were exposed below the metal and that was my first shot.

It was Friday, 17 November 1978, about three in the afternoon. I was 22 years of age having been in the NSW Police since the age of 17. I had started as a cadet and worked my way into plain clothes. After being on the ‘A List’ (working with the detectives) for some time I had passed the verbal exam known as the Bullring where I had been put through my paces by very senior and experienced detectives. Having survived that, in September I was sent to 21 Special Squad, the training ground for young detectives, then based on the second floor of the Remington Building in Liverpool Street, Sydney. I was so junior that I had taken to wearing a white shoulder holster for my .38 because I thought it was cool; very Dirty Harry, but of course hugely impractical because I had to wear a coat all the time to cover it.

From those veterans I learned a very useful phrase early in my career which has stayed with me ever since: hasten slowly. Unfortunately, that good advice seemed to fly out the window on that day in November 1978 when, in that split second, I decided to be judge, jury and executioner of someone I mistakenly thought had done something wrong. Real life is rarely the same as in the movies. The scary thing for me, coming from a good family and a Catholic background was that I rationalised my intended actions so easily. It shows you just how easy it is to kill someone—anyone—when you think you have to.

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