A former assistant police commissioner has told a coroner he stands by his inquest into the killing of a man on a southeast Queensland farm more than 25 years ago.
Jeffrey Brooks, 24, was shot in the chest at a crayfish farm in what was initially believed to be an occupational accident
Retired detective Michael Condon said he could not say the police investigation “was 100 percent”
Brooks’ parents say the amount of evidence lost in the investigation into their son’s death is “unbelievable”
Jeffrey Brooks, 24, was shot once in the chest while working on a crayfish farm in Beenleigh in March 1996.
At the time, the lead detective investigating the death, now-retired Senior Constable Michael Condon, ruled it was a work-related accident.
A reopened inquest, being held in Brisbane, is in its fourth day of a week-long hearing and is looking into whether anyone else was involved in the shooting. including his colleagues.
It also examines the adequacy of Mr. Condon’s investigation, including the handling of exhibits.
On Thursday, Mr. Condon was questioned extensively about several aspects of his initial investigation.
He was asked if he listened to the family’s concerns and kept an “open mind” or if he had “flashes” that the case was an accident.
“Sometimes it was difficult to remain open-minded in the sense that the theory is, senior Mr Brooks [Jeffrey’s father] had, compared to the most likely scenario I had,” he said.
Mr. Condon told the court that Mr Brooks’ father Lawrence Brooks had a “very strong view” that his son could not have shot himself, which was inconsistent with his view of the “most likely” cause of death.
“From what we knew at the time … the death was caused by an accidental discharge of the firearm,” Mr. Condon.
“[Lawrence Brooks] rejected the theory I put forward.”
‘Questions’ in the survey ‘could have been investigated further’
Mr. Condon told the court the family had their own “theories and hypotheses” about what happened, but “mere suspicion is not proof” and at the time he could not act on it alone.
He admitted that this created “some tension” between him and Lawrence Brooks and he became frustrated with him during the investigation.
“He wasn’t open to other options,” he said.
The court has already heard the Brooks family lodged a complaint about Mr Condon’s investigation with the Criminal Justice Commission, a forerunner of the current Crime and Corruption Commission.
They raised questions that the gun involved in the shooting did not undergo adequate ballistics testing, the court had already heard.
Mr. Condon said the investigation was “as thorough as it could have been” but “I couldn’t say it was 100 percent”.
He said in retrospect there were some shortcomings, including the disposal of the gun, which happened shortly after an earlier investigation was unable to definitively determine whether the death was an accident.
“There are obviously a few questions that we could have explored further,” he said.
“I did what I thought was best at the time and I stand by it.”
Sir. Condon said he “welcomed this investigation” and said that if new and credible evidence were to be uncovered, the cold case team should look at it with “fresh eyes”.
“I’m right behind,” he said.
Brook’s parents ‘very very disappointed’
Outside court, Mrs. Brooks that Mr Condon’s evidence had further fueled their family’s concerns that Mr Brooks’ death “has never been properly investigated”.
“To hear that — a lead investigator saying he could have done better — leaves us really, really very disappointed,” she said.
“This is a job for him – it’s not a job for us.
“It was our son’s life that was taken.”
Mrs Brooks said the destruction of the “most important piece of evidence”, the gun, had left them “stunned”.
“There’s been so much evidence lost in this case it’s unbelievable,” she said.
The investigation continues.