Superintendent Alan Bourke says good-bye to his office at Gympie Police Headquarters
Superintendent Alan Bourke says good-bye to his office at Gympie Police Headquarters Renee Pilcher

Top cop Bourke retires

IT was a very relaxed Alan Bourke who finished up yesterday as Gympie District’s top cop.

Asking his staff to hold all telephone calls during his last interview with The Gympie Times, yesterday morning, the ex-superintendent and Gympie District officer, now known as “Mr” Bourke, added with a laugh: “Tell them I’ll call them back tomorrow.”

It is a sense of humour that he says is the survival secret for people in his former line of work.

“I’ll miss the mateship, but I won’t miss the seedy side,” he said.

And the former Sunshine Coast CIB chief says there was plenty about his 32-and-a-half years service that he would rather not have to carry around with him.

But who could forget Sian Kingi, the 12-year-old Noosa schoolgirl whose life was taken by two of the most evil murderers in Queensland history?

It was a ruthless and sadistic killing which chilled everyone who heard about it and permanently affected just about everyone who had anything to do with the investigation or the subsequent trials.

No-one can bring back an innocent life, but it was Alan Bourke’s painstaking backroom police work, combined with information from two people who were not even direct witnesses, which ultimately secured the convictions of Barry John Watts and Valmae Faye Beck.

Their imprisonment lifted a burden of fear from young people and their parents throughout Queensland, but especially in the Gympie and Sunshine Coast areas.

That only happened because of information from the public.

A couple bathing at Castaways Beach noticed a man acting suspiciously around vehicles in the car park.

When he left in a white vehicle, they did their best to make a quick note of the registration number.

There were about 3000 vehicles of that type registered in Queensland, so the number was critical.

Even though one letter was wrong on the note, Alan Bourke kept up with all the information coming in and, when interstate police reported concerns about a couple in a similar car with a similar Queensland registration, the case became more open, ultimately leading to Watts confessing, in a recorded conversation with another detainee.

And who would not have episodes of sleeplessness remembering the Oliver and Leedie murders, the surnames of two girls, aged nine and 10, who were beaten to death and raped in the sand dunes near Coolum?

“That was horrific as a crime scene,” he said yesterday.

The murderer went to the beach afterwards, probably to wash in the ocean, before walking down the beach to where he was living.

“Fortunately for us, he dropped his wallet at the scene.

“Someone handed it in, we did a check and found that he had a history of violent sex offences.

“We solved it in 24 hours.

“Things like that you never forget, no matter how hard you try to.

“That’s why I try to bring some good humour to the job. It helps,” he said.

“You really feel sorry for the victims and the families, but the only thing you can do to lighten that is to get the offender.”

Perhaps it was those horrific experiences which inspired the former Gympie District Officer to develop his approach to what he calls “pro-active policing” – strategies to prevent crimes in the first place rather that solving them later, when it is already too late for the victims and those who love and miss them.

It also probably helped lead him to another important approach to policing – the development of close co-operative relationships with the community, both directly and through the news media.

“We’re only as good as the information we get,” he said

“That’s why it’s good to have a positive press and a newspaper that co-operates in getting the message out to the community.

“We don’t expect never to get a clip over the ear if the clip over the ear is deserved.

“But media coverage gets the information out there and that helps us get information in.”

The Bourke legacy is a safer Gympie than when he came here as District Officer eight years ago, with significant reductions in most crimes.

Gympie Times

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