Gun-toting teacher's COVID border breach a focus of coroner's probe into fatal Queensland police shootings at Wieambilla
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A teacher's COVID-19 border breach with a carload of weapons months before he took part in killing two police officers and a neighbour is forming a key part of the coroner's investigation into the murders, police have confirmed.
Queensland Police Service (QPS) Ethical Standards Command and the coroner are investigating the killings by Nathaniel Train, his ex-wife Stacey and his brother Gareth on December 12, 2022.
The trio died in a lengthy shootout after they gunned down neighbour Alan Dare and constables Matthew Arnold and Rachel McCrow at their remote bush block near Wieambilla, about 300 kilometres north-west of Brisbane.
The killings raised concerns about what the four police officers knew prior to visiting the property where two were shot down without warning.
Following the murders, the ABC revealed QPS had been made aware nearly 12 months earlier about teacher Nathaniel Train's unstable behaviour and possession of firearms as a result of him breaching the border on December 17, 2021, during a period of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
During the border breach about 450km west of Brisbane, Train broke through a border gate, bogged his four-wheel drive in floodwaters, dumped firearms into a nearby creek and fled north into Queensland carrying more guns and other weapons.
He was also heard talking in Morse code and complaining about the COVID-19 vaccine.
The bogged vehicle was left on a property just over the Queensland border where he broke through the gate on the Boongangar Bridge over the Macintyre River.
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Train's bogged vehicle was seized by police a day after the ABC revealed its presence on the remote western Queensland property.
The ABC has confirmed that shortly after the breach, Goondiwindi Regional Council emailed a detailed report about the incident to Queensland police, including CCTV imagery of the bridge gate being broken open.
When the ABC sought to obtain access to the 13-page email chain and attachments under Right to Information (RTI) laws, a "third party" understood to be a Queensland government agency objected to its release, arguing it could "prejudice" the coronial investigation into "potential crimes".
The third party submitted that "it was not unreasonable that prejudice could be caused to the investigation if the evidence detailed in the requested documents were to be released prior to the finalisation of the investigations".
"Investigators, including the coroner, must be able to explore theories, discuss strengths and weaknesses of the investigation, gather and review evidence and discuss the direction and progress of the investigation without the spectre that such information could be released prior to its finalisation," the third party submitted.
Contacted about the refusal, QPS said the public release of the information could "jeopardise" continuing lines of inquiry.
"Consultation has taken place with the state coroner regarding the release of this report and at this time it will not be released as it forms part of a complex picture that is still being developed," a police spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the investigation was "ongoing and not all information has been made public".
Goondiwindi Regional Council is still considering whether to release the documents after an ongoing RTI process.
Six days after the ABC revealed the border incident involving Nathaniel Train, QPS held a press briefing confirming the breach and his illegal dumping of two firearms was known to them.
Speaking at the briefing, Deputy Commissioner Tracy Linford revealed there had been a warrant out for Train's arrest in connection with the border breach.
But she said police "knew very little about the Trains and there had been nothing that would have caused a particular flag for our members who attended on that day … that would have raised any particular concerns about those individuals".
Deputy Commissioner Linford said the police who were shot by the Trains had gone to the property to follow up a missing person's report relating to Nathaniel Train.
The report had been filed by Train's wife, who had not seen him since he left New South Wales in late 2021, Deputy Commissioner Linford said.
She said police did not believe that officers had been deliberately lured to the property and into an ambush by the missing person's report.
"She [the wife] had a genuine concern for his wellbeing. She hadn't spoken to him for some time," Deputy Commissioner Linford said.
Prior to police attending the property, they had done checks on the police computer system and were aware there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest relating to him crossing the border with firearms.
Deputy Commissioner Linford said the officers had "very little history or knowledge about any concerning behaviour" by Train and there was not anything to suggest the attending police should have been concerned.
Pressed during the briefing about Train's disturbing behaviour in crossing the border with firearms, dumping firearms and speaking in Morse code, Deputy Commissioner Linford insisted at that time the job was still "run of the mill for police with someone moving around".
"Those firearms were registered to him. At that time, he had a firearms licence," she said.
Deputy Commissioner Linford then revealed that in August 2022 — four months prior to him shooting the officers dead — police had gone to the Trains' Wieambilla property to try to talk to Nathaniel Train about his border crossing and why he had left two firearms behind.
"They had been unable to locate him," she said.
"They had left messages at the property by card and phone … there was nothing to indicate to them that Nathaniel was at the property."
Deputy Commissioner Linford said it was normal to take four police officers or "some form of backup to arrest someone".
She said the Trains' movements and activity in months prior to the killings would make up part of the investigation.
After the siege, police seized six firearms from the Wieambilla property, she said.
Two of the firearms were registered to Nathaniel Train and the three others were unregistered, according to Deputy Commissioner Linford.
Nathaniel Train worked as a school principal in Queensland and New South Wales.
His ex-wife Stacey had also worked as a school principal in Queensland.
A spokesperson for the Queensland coroner’s office said no comment could be made at this time as the state coroner, who had carriage of the matter, was on leave.
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