The one-year anniversary of the tragic death of four Victorian Police Officers was marked yesterday.
It followed the recent sentencing of Mohinder Singh, the truck driver who was under the influence of drugs and severely sleep deprived when he veered across the lanes of the Eastern Freeway at Kew, mowing down the officers who had pulled over a speeding driver.
Sentenced to 22 years, Singh, 48, was ordered to spend at least 18 years and six months behind bars over the crash that killed Constables Glen Humphris and Joshua Prestney, Senior Constable Kevin King and Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor.
Often seen as being on the outer ring of the community they serve, it is easy to regard our policemen and women as something other than people like you and me, doing a difficult and oftentimes thankless job. So, when newly appointed Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent visited Mildura late last year to meet with local police to discuss a range of issues, he unexpectedly opened up about one of the most devastating days of his police career.
DC Nugent recalled the day when the four constables were killed when the truck ploughed into them as they stood on the edge of the freeway near the Chandler Highway at Kew about 5.40pm. The group included a female senior constable, a male senior constable and two male constables, one of whom had only recently joined the force.
It was the single deadliest incident in Victoria Police history.
It was DC Nugent who led the funeral cortege for Constable Glen Humphris, and he told the ‘Weekly he vividly recalls when he received news of the incident.
“I couldn’t comprehend what had happened at first. We get alerts on our phones of significant incidents that occur,” he said.
“The first alert said: “Police collision Eastern Freeway − possible three deceased’.”
“I thought that can’t be right, because we don’t travel in threes − we usually travel in pairs.
“Then I received another alert and it said: “Confirm four.”
The deaths were the result of a terrible ‘perfect storm of events’ that came together when the driver of a speeding Porshe, later identified as Richard Pusey, was intercepted by police.
“Had it not been for COVID-19,” DC Nugent revealed, “Those members killed would have been working on the booze buses and wouldn’t have been there.”
“The buses were shut down because of COVID and therefore they were put into cars and one of the officers involved in the initial intercept called for back-up support to help process the situation. That is how there came to be four officers in attendance.”
DC Nugent said it was an honour to escort Constable Humphris from Melbourne across the border into NSW.
“I had flown to NSW to met his mother and father north of Sydney in the days following his death,” he said.
But, he said, the drive escorting Constable Humpris’ body was something he will never forget.
“As we drove up the Hume Highway we passed a divisional van from a local police station with its lights on at eight in the morning. It was drizzling and cold and there were two police members at attention beside the van as we drove past with the hearse.
“I was being driven by a colleague and as I looked ahead I saw a bridge over the highway through the fog and asked: ‘Is that people standing up there?’
It was. Fellow police lined up over the bridge to pay their respects to a fallen colleague.
“This continued all the way up to Albury,” Deputy Commissioner Nugent recalls.
It was, he said, the most moving of tributes to a young policeman whose life had been cut tragically short.