A gunshot rings out in the middle of the night in a small town in rural Australia. Detective Graeme is quickly on the case and soon learns not one but two additional drive-by shootings have occurred this early morning. Such things don’t happen where he lives and all he has to go on is some grainy footage of a dark car out looking for targets.
The Detective: Detective Graeme. After witnessing a bank robbery, Graeme decided to join the Victoria Police where he graduated from the police academy in 1994. He worked the ‘beat’ across many suburbs of metropolitan Melbourne before being promoted to Detective in 2003. In 2006 he transferred to the prestigious Homicide Squad, honing his skills from the legends of Victoria Police Homicide. He has also led small teams in the pressured world of armed robbery investigations. Graeme is the recipient of the National Emergency Medal (Black Saturday Bushfires 2009), National Medal (25 years service), National Police Service Medal and Victoria Police Ethical Service Medal. After an esteemed career as a Detective Sergeant with Victoria Police, Graeme went on to establish Peregrine Consultancy and Investigations in 2021.Read Transcript
Graham: [00:00:02] We did receive anonymous information that the victim of the first shooting was planning his own revenge. So, he knew within his circles who he thought the shooter was. Did not want to share that with us, obviously, but someone knew and told us he’s planning his own revenge. And we may need to interject there and do something.[Small Town Dicks intro]
Yeardley: [00:00:21] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.
Dan: [00:00:22] I’m Dan.
Dave: [00:00:23] I’m Dave.
Paul: [00:00:24] And I’m Paul.
Yeardley: [00:00:25] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:00:27] Dave and I are identical twins.
Dave: [00:00:29] And retired detectives from Small Town USA.
Paul: [00:00:32] And I’m a veteran cold case investigator who helped catch the Golden State killer using a revolutionary DNA tool.
Dan: [00:00:37] Between the three of us, we’ve investigated thousands of crimes, from petty theft to sexual assault, child abuse to murder.
Dave: [00:00:45] Each case we cover is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they solved the crime.
Paul: [00:00:51] Names, places, and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of victims and their families.
Dan: [00:00:56] And although we’re aware that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we ask you to please join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved.
Dave: [00:01:04] Out of respect for what they’ve been through.
In Unison: [00:01:06] Thank you.[intro ends]
Yeardley: [00:01:12] Hey, Small Town Fam. How are you? Where are you? Wherever you are in the world, I hope that you’re well and safe. We have a really interesting case for you today. It’s one which, in my opinion, really illustrates the uniquely small-town dynamic of Detective Sergeant Graham’s jurisdiction. I loved having a glimpse into that aspect of his work. And honestly, even though Graham is halfway around the world from us here in Los Angeles, there are more similarities than differences in the way detectives catch up with their suspects. This episode is also the last episode you’ll hear this season without Paul Holes in it. That’s because as with the episode, The Most Dangerous Time, we recorded this one before Paul joined the team.
[00:01:59] However, Paul will be back next week, front and center, to tell us about a triple murder he investigated during his own story career. Dan, Dave, and I thank you all for being here. Now, please settle in for Moving Target.
[00:02:17] Today, on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:02:22] Happy to be here.
Yeardley: [00:02:24] Happy to have you. And we have Detective Dan.
Dave: [00:02:26] Hello, there.
Yeardley: [00:02:27] Hello, you. And Small Town Fam, [imitates a trumpet] doing a little dance because we’re very excited to welcome back Detective Sergeant Graham.
Graham: [00:02:37] Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for having me again.
Yeardley: [00:02:40] Aw, we’re so happy to see you, Graham. See you over Zoom.
Graham: [00:02:43] Yes, lovely.
Yeardley: [00:02:44] So, Small Town Fam, perhaps you can tell, Graham’s not from around here. Graham, just give us a tiny snapshot of your jurisdiction.
Graham: [00:02:54] Yeah, thank you. I’m on the East Coast of Australia. So, pretty much halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, right on the border of the states of Victoria and New South Wales in a town called Wodonga. That’s in Victoria and just north of us by the Murray River is a town called Albury in New South Wales. So, we have a fairly complex little city of about 40,000 people for us in Wodonga and around about the same but a little bit more over in Albury. So combined, we’re pushing 80,000 population, but very hilly, a lot of ranges, a lot of bushfires, and very, very hot during the summer. Very, very cold during the winter.
Yeardley: [00:03:31] Excellent. All right. Well, you have a really interesting case for us today. I’m just going to hand it over to you.
Graham: [00:03:37] Thank you so much. Yeah, this case came to me in about September 2020. So, it’s not too long ago, and it really made one of those days where you think maybe I should have stayed in bed. You’ll get the gist of that as we go on. But there’s a couple of drive-by shootings we had, which is very out of the ordinary for us. The first time, I guess, the uniform fellows got called out was about 5 o’clock in the morning. They got a call to one shot fired into a bedroom window of a residential house in the western part of the city. Just normal suburbia, a pretty typical residential street. Not much going on other than at 5 o’clock, the loud gunshot and penetrated the front bedroom window of this male and female’s house. And the person who was home at the time was Mark, was home with his wife. They were up at the time actually, and they called 000, obviously, immediately.
Yeardley: [00:04:27] 000 is like 911 in the States.
Graham: [00:04:30] Yep, the shot was heard and they realized that a shot had gone through their front window into their bedroom wall. My team called me just after 6 o’clock once they got the scene managed and locked down and no one in, no one out, secure the scene as most uniforms will do. I was making my way to try and get to the scene and trying to get my head around exactly what was going on, let alone wake up without a coffee. So, it was a little bit of a rude shock to wake up to [Yeardley chuckles] this. Not a normal start to the morning for such a town. A pretty big deal, I guess, is what I’m trying to say.
[00:04:59] We knew the pressure was on. And immediately we started to think, “What’s the link here? Is this a targeted shooting? Is it someone inside the address? Or is it just a mistaken identity and everything in between?” It was game on, I guess, from the start. I managed to get myself a bit ready. And the phone’s running red hot as you’d imagine, and making sure that the scene for my investigation, and particularly then the team for some forensic capability being ballistics and all the rest was certainly secured. What quickly became known to us was that address where Mark lived was definitely well known to us and so was Mark. Mark was reportedly in the drug scene, and was very well known to us. We’d actually been through that address a couple of times, as in we’ve done some warrants there before. So, it was probably no surprise that maybe things have gone a bit awry in his world and someone was after a bit of retaliation or a bit of a message.
Dan: [00:05:49] What do you guys typically encounter on the street regarding narcotics?
Graham: [00:05:52] For us, up here in the northeast, it’s methamphetamine or ice, it’s called. So, the ice is really the drug that is causing us the most harm. Probably, a lot of places around the world, people can still function on that drug, as opposed to heroin we saw in the 90s and 2000s. Ice is definitely unfortunately, what the scourge is for us at the moment.
Dave: [00:06:11] So, heroin and fentanyl are not big players in Australia on the drug scene?
Graham: [00:06:17] No, unfortunately, we are seeing a little bit of heroin start to make its way back into the market. Fentanyl, not so much. We did have a run of it but we had a significant amount of deaths and overdoses, and I think that sort of scared a fair few off.
Dave: [00:06:29] So, you guys have a history with Mark in that residence, but he felt that he would call the police on this occasion.
Graham: [00:06:38] Yeah, his partner actually called 000 just as an immediate response. I’m not sure what their conversation would have been when he found out that 000 was called and I would imagine it would have been too nice.
Yeardley: [00:06:46] [laughs] I see.
Graham: [00:06:48] [chuckles] Yeah. Probably not his first instinct to call us.
Dave: [00:06:50] Right, it kind of sets the scene for how the interaction is going to go once the police get there as well, as you hear the address, you know what address you’re going to and what kind of calls are generated out of that address. And then, you’re dealing with him in a different capacity.
Yeardley: [00:07:04] Also, since he didn’t know the police were coming, and he’s not the one who called, it sort of adds an extra layer of up the ante to that encounter.
Dave: [00:07:13] Police are going to be in that house, so you better hide all the spoils of what you’ve been doing.
Yeardley: [00:07:19] What sort of part of town is it? Is it just sort of a regular part of town and there happens to be this one residence that police go to a lot or is it a sort of sketchy part of town?
Graham: [00:07:30] It’s a pretty normal part of town. Really, it’s probably developed in the previous five to eight years, so a new estate. So, generally, really quiet area. And you’re spot on, the reception that was met with the uniform and Mark wasn’t the most politest, that’s for sure. But we went to work and we managed to get ourselves in to be able to assess the scene, have a look within the bedroom, but we weren’t allowed too much around the house other than that, as you’d imagine, he didn’t want us to probably find anything else. We went to work and found some CCTV around that area that did have really bad footage unfortunately. As you guys would appreciate, sometimes you get really crystal-clear footage, and this footage was not the best at all. But it did have a vehicle around the time that was within the vicinity. But we’re unable to get any direct footage on that house. There wasn’t a lot of CCTV in that area. And it’s pretty common for us up in the country that we’re finding. We’re probably a little bit behind the city that every second house in the city would have cameras. But that’s not the case up here.
[00:08:25] We’re lucky in one respect that we did have a vehicle to go by. But all we could really see was it was a small car. And the best we knew it had four wheels because it was moving, and that was about as good as it got.[laughter]
[00:08:37] It wasn’t a good case. But a really good search of that area didn’t give us much either. So, we’re up against it. We had a victim in Mark that didn’t really want to cooperate although his partner was quite scared. We had no shell casing, we didn’t find anything through a really thorough search. We had a very small penetration of the window. And we found partial of a projectile, a .22 caliber round that had gone into the bedroom wall. So, we had something there but nothing else. No fingerprints. It’s a shot fired, so there’d be no fingerprints. We had no footprints. And about 5 o’clock in the morning, no witnesses at that part of town. So, regardless of a victim that didn’t really want cooperation, we certainly had to investigate fully because this isn’t what we want to going on in our small community, particularly with that randomness of a drive-by shooting.
And it was at that point, I think I got a phone call from a resident on a different part of town who said, “I understand there’s been a shooting, I might have some information for you. I’ve got actually the vehicle on camera during the shooting.” So, I’m like, “Fantastic. This will be a nice little wrap-up. We should have this done by lunchtime and time to go to the pub.”[laughter]
[00:09:41] But, no, unfortunately. It took me a little while to get my head around that he was referring to a different address that they had been a second shooting. So, the first shooting with Mark was in a street called Georgina Street in Wodonga to the west part of town and this other address was in Gordon Street, completely different part of town, so there’s no mistaking that these were two separate incidents. So, I’ve managed to get other members to go to this other address, where my friend decided to let me know he’s got the footage of this exact car. And again, we’ve got that footage and had a look, and there was no mistaking that this was a separate address. And we’re lucky enough this time that this camera actually had audio. So, we’re able to hear the shot go off quite loud and had the car in full view of the camera. Although again, not to the point where it was an ability to be able to identify the vehicle. So, it was only side on, there was no registration that you could get. you couldn’t see who was in the car, but it was definitely an odd-shaped small vehicle. Probably not the one you want to be doing drive-by shootings in. It wasn’t a Chrysler 300C or [Yeardley laughs] a big Jeep or something. But it was a real small, little dinky car that we thought, “Okay, maybe someone has used their own car. Maybe this isn’t a stolen car.”
[00:10:51] We spoke to the people at that address that we thought was the target, and probably no surprise, that address was known to us as well. But this shot would was aiming at that locker units, and this was the furthest unit from the street. So, probably about a 30-meter shot and probably wasn’t using the front sight that much. And we think that shot’s gone way over the target and just didn’t hit. So, a really thorough search again of that scene. There was no penetration of windows or walls or roof lines. No one heard the shot other than it was on the footage. No one was woken up but a little bit nicer part of town, I guess, than what we would expect that to happen. But unfortunately, again, just a small drop in that ocean of a bit of badness going on in that community affects everyone. And we had some elderly neighbors nearby that were quite upset of the fact that there’d been a shooting at the house next door. So, the pressure publicly was starting to rise up as well that we had these two separate shootings on the one night. And the risk there is obviously a stray bullet going anywhere, it’s not going to be a good thing.
Dave: [00:11:48] The person who called you and said, “Hey, I’ve got video of your shooting,” is that the person who lives at this residence that was shot at? Or is it a neighbor who’s just in the area and says, “I’ll reach out to my detective friend”?
Graham: [00:11:59] Yeah, someone who was in the area, not too far from there, and had checked his footage through the night just through activations and saw this car because they were aware of that address as well. So, yeah, as I said, took a while for me to get my head around that this wasn’t the same one that we’re actually at, this was a second address.
Yeardley: [00:12:17] Did that tiny odd-looking car, even though the first footage was quite grainy and you couldn’t really see any real detail to the car, could you at least tell like, “Oh, it’s also a smaller car”? Did it look like it might be the same car, I guess?
Graham: [00:12:31] We thought that. Exactly. We thought it could be the same car, they’re not distinctively different. We didn’t have a large vehicle and a small vehicle, they both just look small. We’re thinking already that these are linked. Obviously, we don’t have too many drive-by shootings, let alone two on the one night. So, we’re starting to think there’s a link but the evidence that we would have to get to a court or before a jury would have to be pretty solid. Where the exact shot was fired from it in this second place, we could see because we knew where the car was and where that loud crack went off. We knew exactly where that shot was fired from. So, a really thorough search again, looking for the shell casing. But unfortunately, again didn’t come up with too much. No projectile found, shell casing not found. As the shot was fired from within the vehicle, it’s possible the projectile could have ejected within the car. There’s no other evidence physical that we had other than this was captured on CCTV, we wouldn’t have known about it.
Yeardley: [00:13:22] Let’s just say that it was the same shooter. Would it have been possible for them to get from location number one to location number two in the amount of time that you got that second phone call?
Graham: [00:13:36] Yeah, most definitely. The times were a couple of hours apart, more than enough time to go from one scene to the other. So, we’re already thinking what is motivating this shooter. And we didn’t have a lot to go on. Both addresses weren’t cooperating. There was no real link between them other than known to us perhaps in that drug scene, they’re probably more in competition from each other. So, again, thinking, “Is this someone trying to get into the market? Is someone that’s not happy with any debts that may be owed?” As I said earlier, the community was really getting into this. the local media news, they were turning up, and the jungle drums were definitely beating and we’re getting lots of different information coming in. A lot of that random, made things complex to weed out the good information from the bad became a real challenge.
Yeardley: [00:14:18] Yeah, absolutely, because you have to chase down all those leads, right?
Graham: [00:14:22] Yeah, can’t leave anything unturned, particularly when people want to call our Crime Stoppers number here and give anonymous information. And sometimes, that can be as damaging as it can be beneficial. So, we had to make sure we covered absolutely everything. Also, we just had probably random people ringing up trying to dob in their local drug dealer that may have owed money to and thought, “If the cop was going to lock them up, then I don’t owe that money anymore.”[chuckles]
Dave: [00:14:57] Just to educate our listeners and myself in Australia, how common is gun ownership and how often do your officers come across people with guns?
Graham: [00:15:11] Gun ownership in the Northeast of Victoria where I am on that border town, quite common. We’ve got a lot of farming areas. So, we’re talking high-caliber weapons, long arms for farming and destruction of animals. We do see a lot of guns stolen from random break-ins in farmhouses. And we did have an amnesty a long time ago, where we wanted everyone to register their guns, but there was certainly a lot that still slipped through the system and unregistered ones are definitely out there, but certainly quite expensive to buy a black-market gun here. So, once the criminals can get their hands on them, they’re worth a fair bit. But as for instances that the police would come across, very rare that we would come across armed defenders with firearms. So, nowhere near the volume that is expected in the US.
Yeardley: [00:15:55] Do police officers carry guns in Australia?
Graham: [00:15:58] Yeah. So, the stakes were high. We knew we had someone in our town going around with an operating firearm, wasn’t an imitation. We had to go to work with our New South Wales counterparts on this as well. As I mentioned, we’re bordered with him to the north, there’s every chance that maybe someone of interest was skipping the jurisdiction. However, at that time, COVID was well in place. And we had actually a border closure between the state of Victoria and the state of New South Wales. So, the checkpoints on every part of that river were manned by police. That gave us some comfort, but a lot of work to do and go through which vehicles were going through those checkpoints. Some were being recorded, and some weren’t. So, it was a bit of a needle in the haystack to go through thousands and thousands of cars crossing every day between the jurisdictions. We were effectively one city bordered by that river that separated the jurisdictions.
Dan: [00:16:48] And based on the proximity of your jurisdictions, I imagine you guys share a lot of information.
Graham: [00:16:54] Yeah, daily. I was making my New South Wales counterpart across the river, fully aware of what was happening and whether they had any intel they might hear from their sources as well and could feed that directly to us, but probably more so around the risk that if we come across this odd shaped small car, and if a pursuit started, then their level of risk and their policy in their jurisdiction is a little bit different to ours. So, from our point of view, if we’re going to chase that car across the border, we need permission before that happens. You need to get the authority from that jurisdiction that we can enter there’s and still chase that car.
Yeardley: [00:17:27] Oh.
Dan: [00:17:27] That’s interesting.
Yeardley: [00:17:28] That is interesting.
Graham: [00:17:29] Quite complex.
Dave: [00:17:30] Yeah. And for us, if we got a couple of drive-bys, I would make sure that our dispatch was forwarding that information to other agencies within our county, or if we had information that they’re going to a different state or a certain way, we give them that information, because I don’t want a police officer pulling over a car not knowing that this car is possibly associated with two shootings earlier in the night, and then they get ambushed. So, you have to push that out quickly. But where we live, in fresh or hot pursuit, I can follow that car into another state.
Yeardley: [00:18:04] Could you arrest them in that other state also?
Dave: [00:18:06] You could detain them, put them in handcuffs, wait for somebody from that state to assist you with the arrest. They’re going to have to handle the paperwork. But certainly, just because we get to a border for us makes no difference to me whatsoever. We want that other agency to know, “Hey, we’re headed your way. Just a heads-up.” You also need to respect what that community expects but of their police. Do you push a pursuit at 3:00 in the afternoon on a school day? It largely depends on the crime that was committed, the dangerousness of the offender. But yeah, it looks really bad when your jurisdiction chases somebody into another jurisdiction and you get in a really bad crash. It’s horrible.
Graham: [00:18:47] Yeah, you’re absolutely spot on. It’s that risk to the community, and the expectation of what people would want us to do is to chase these people and stop them. So, we made sure that information was shared. The problem there was probably more so that it would only take three minutes for a car to go from the middle of our city to the middle of the next city. So, the timing is really short. So, by the time that we would come up on our radio and say that we may be pursuing this vehicle wanted for a drive-by shooting and for the supervisor to process that and risk assess, you’re almost crossing the border straightaway. So, we generally, as part of that call of coming up to our radio in pursuit is let New South Wales Police know that we have commenced a pursuit that’s within the striking distance of their border. And generally, they’re all up for it. They’re not going to back away from that. They start setting up on the border and waiting to take over.
Yeardley: [00:19:36] So, your neighboring jurisdiction now knows that there could possibly be a pursuit that crosses into their territory, and that they also should be on the lookout for this weird, oddly shaped little car?
Graham: [00:19:50] Yeah, it did help with the border closures for sure. So, everyone on those border checkpoints were keeping an eye out for this odd-shaped car. We were waiting on some experts to look at the footage and see whether they might be able to make it out. We had some former mechanics that were now police having a look at it as well. Everyone had a few different theories. But it was definitely an oddly shaped car that we weren’t used to seeing around town. The country policing, a little bit limited on numbers. I think we had about four investigators. Ballistics wise, we’re hoping to get some assistance out of the city, but they were like four or five hours away. And they were busy with the city shootings or the city matters that were going on. So, we’re on the chalkboard to be ticked off, but we’re probably a bit down the list, unfortunately.[laughter]
Graham: [00:20:31] So, we had to make decisions, do we release the footage of this car to the public? Do we want to let the people or the shooter know that we had this car on camera? Would they then get rid of the car? And we decided to release the footage from the shooting where the projectile missed.
Yeardley: [00:20:47] So, that shooting number two, the one that happened at the apartment block?
Graham: [00:20:52] Right. We did receive some information overnight that there was actually a third shooting that occurred at a different address, a third address. So now, we had three. This one that we just learned about, this third one in chronological order, had occurred first, some hours before the one that Mark was the victim of. So, we had to attend this address and, yep, a little hole through the glass window of the loungeroom. And this one went through glass. A picture frame had been resting against the glass, wasn’t up on the wall, penetrated that picture frame. The trajectory of this one was going up. So, this one actually entered the wall a lot higher than where it entered the glass. So, it sort of entered the bottom pane of the loungeroom window. But the trajectory was going up. And that was reflective probably of the landscape there. It was actually a bit of a hill, their premises. So, we had a bit of an idea where the shot may have come from.
[00:21:43] As I mentioned, we’re waiting on our forensics. We were a long way away geographically. But we were under pressure to progress this investigation that this was now the third that we knew of, are we going to see more? What’s the risk to everyone? So, we had to make do with what we had and try and do our best ballistics examination ourselves. We knew the hole was through the glass, we knew where the round actually came to rest on the loungeroom wall a bit further away. So, we got one of our colleagues to go down and get the longest piece of string that we could get.[laughter]
[00:22:13] And did it the old-fashioned way. \
Dave: [00:22:15] It’s so effective though.
Graham: [00:22:17] Yeah. Here we are rolling out a piece of string through those holes and out to the street, and it really gave us a good indication as to where that person either stood or as we knew from the other two, they were in a car. So, we knew roughly again where we thought the shot had come from.
Yeardley: [00:22:34] How far away was this third crime scene which actually turned out to be the first? How close to the other two was it?
Graham: [00:22:42] Probably around that five-kilometer distance away. So not around the corner, but definitely within still the township.
Dan: [00:22:48] The media release, did that generate this third call, which actually turned out to be the first shooting?
Graham: [00:22:54] Yeah, it did. I think the occupants noticed a hole on the window. But again, this third address was known to us, surprise, surprise. And as we established once we got there and spoke with them that they actually weren’t home on that night. So, they didn’t hear anything. But they didn’t notice a hole in the window and called 000.
Dave: [00:23:10] Do any of these three houses, do they know each other? I mean, it’s a small town. They probably heard of each other, but they’re not associates or are they?
Graham: [00:23:19] Yeah, that’s right. We didn’t believe so. But as we sometimes keep an open mind, those relationships can come together or they can fall apart really quickly. So, we had no intel at that stage to suggest they’re all in cahoots with each other. We believe they would know each other, yes. So, it’s a little bit up in the air as to what was this motivation behind these shootings, what was driving the person to fire these random single shots. To us, we’re thinking, it’s sending a message. It’s either back off or pay up. And again, forensically, we didn’t have much from this one where we got the information through after the media release. We actually had no CCTV. We did find a partial piece of the projectile that seemed to have fractured itself as it tumbled through the window. and through the picture frame.
[00:23:59] The pressure was definitely mounting. So, we’ve got now three drive-by shootings across probably about six hours in duration, trying to find any information and any new leads. We didn’t have any forensic evidence. We were up against it. No one was really talking to us. And we weren’t getting a lot of assistance, unfortunately, through the ballistic capability because they were tied up elsewhere in the state. So, we had to go with what we knew. Small caliber, no shell casings. Our best lead was this car.
[00:24:24] We did receive anonymous information that Mark, the victim of the first shooting, was planning his own revenge. So, he knew within his circles who he thought the shooter was. Did not want to share that with us, obviously, but someone knew and told us he’s planning his own revenge and we may need to interject there and do something. The information was quite serious. We decided to go back and visit Mark, but we went there armed with a warrant, just in case, so that we had the lawful reason to enter the property thinking that he would refuse, and probably get his entire hard drive of the CCTV, not just the piece of CCTV that on night of the shooting conveniently said didn’t work. And we enter, he’s not too happy for us to be there at his place. And we find Mark, he’s three quarters away through making a pipe bomb out in his garage. [Yeardley gasps] And he’s ready to take matters into his own hands.
Yeardley: [00:25:14] Oh, my God.
Dave: [00:25:16] Just a side hobby.
Graham: [00:25:16] Yeah, just a side hobby of explosives. Whether it was there to be a house or a vehicle targeted but he wasn’t mucking around, he was serious. He was going to put that somewhere to, I guess, pay back who he thought was the shooter. So, we had to get Melbourne up at that stage. So, they had to travel up there for hours up the highway, because we’ve got a bomb that was well beyond our capability and capacity to disarm and make safe. They had to come up anyway. So, the bomb squad and ballistics come up, which sort of turned things a little bit. We started to get a little bit of definitive answers for the court. Should we get down that way, yes, it’s .22 caliber small rounds. Thankfully, that team and us did a good job. And they validated our level of investigation as to where we thought the shooters were and what had happened at each of those scenes. But then, we got sidetracked on having to deal with Mark and locking him up for potentially some serious offenses, which was the possession of explosives and his intention to use them against who he thought was the shooter.
Dan: [00:26:14] Did this encourage Mark to maybe cooperate a little more? Give a little more information to you?
Graham: [00:26:20] Not so much. No. He was probably more concerned with who we left behind, probably his partner now being vulnerable. We did try and speak with her, but she didn’t want to talk to us. So, we tried a few different techniques there, but they’re old school, didn’t want to play the game. And he was in lockup with us for a little while. So, yeah, things increased to a whole another level. Thankfully, as you’d imagine all the information we’re getting in now, the media are aware. They knew we had the bomb squad. We’d sort of got a little bit quiet on where the investigation was at. We didn’t release too much. But again, we’re getting a lot of misinformation as to who might be involved.
[00:26:54] But there was one that did stand out to some of the team. And that was a real quick call that was giving us a name on who to look at. “You need to look at James.” This guy in town who, again, was well known to us. “You need to look at James and two females, one name Ruby and one named Terry.” While the other calls would come with a whole backstory and the reason why, justification, but this one stood out because it was just short and sharp and to the point. And one of the team came and said, “We think we need to follow this through because this guy, James, certainly would be up for this type of thing.”
Yeardley: [00:27:26] Was he also a known drug dealer, James, or did he dabble in other things?
Graham: [00:27:30] Yeah, he was more a weapons guy, involved in firearms, some violence in assaults, serious assaults, which made us think this could be up his alley. And part of that call also gave us some information about a motivation that this was all over a particular drug dealer that had been going around our town named David. David was one of the well-known drug dealers in town, was getting a bit loose and standing over people. And the information we thought was that James would take things into his own hands and try and send a message to David to back off. So, the information we had was that he was targeting these addresses thinking that David was at these and firing shots in them to try and get David to back off a little bit, which great concerns for us, the randomness of how these shots were being fired in the houses and has every chance to get the wrong address.
Yeardley: [00:28:19] Sure. Well, and in as far as he shot into three different houses, he already had the wrong address.
Graham: [00:28:25] Yeah.
Graham: So, we had a good motivation then but the pressure there was we knew it wasn’t going to go away. It was escalating. Particularly with the pipe bomb scenario with Mark, people were starting to take things into their own hands, so we had to act pretty quick. At least we had some starting points, we knew we had to try and find James. But having known him, we knew he was quite transient, just would never stay probably in one place more than one night. So, we thought we’d go a little bit of the weaker links and target the two women that we believe are involved in the shooting, Ruby and Terry.
[00:29:09] We knew previous addresses of them. So, we decided to go off to Ruby’s place first. It wasn’t too far from some of these addresses. I guess if we mapped them all out, she’d almost be in the middle of all three of these shootings. So, we go knocking on her door, again armed with a warrant just in case we needed it. And lo and behold, we got no answer. So, we get permission and we force our way in and she’s nowhere to be found. There’s no one in the house. But what was clear to us was that someone had left in a hurry. There was still food out. There was half coffee drunk, cold by then, but there was no sign that someone had packed up and decided to move on. This was left in a hurry. So, we’re concerned, I guess, for her welfare as to whether things started to turn on her and whether any retaliation had taken place.
[00:29:52] We decided to try and reach out to some family we knew that were in town. We went and visited some friends and relatives, and eventually we’re able to get her on the phone. She decided to speak with us on the phone.
Yeardley: [00:30:01] Ruby decided to speak with you?
Graham: [00:30:03] Yeah, she did. She was in a lot of fear. She was very scared, and said she had to get out of town. And we’re like, “Yeah, we think we know why you need to get out of town and you need to probably come and speak to us.” But no, she goes, “No, no, I don’t know anything about this. I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I just need to get out of town for other reasons. And I’m not going to tell you where I am.” Okay. So, all the usual investigations go on there as to her phone and where is she, but she had rung from another friend’s phone. So, almost a bit of a dead end, unfortunately. But at least we’re in contact.
Yeardley: [00:30:34] Did you say that Ruby reached out to you?
Graham: [00:30:38] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:30:38] Ruby reached out to you to say, “I don’t know anything about this.” She’s trying to get out in front of this.
Graham: [00:30:43] Yeah. We’ve been knocking on friends and relatives’ doors, trying to find Ruby and saying, “We’ve got concerns that she may be involved in the shootings around town. We’ve got great concerns for her welfare. So, we need to speak with her.” So, family got a hold of her. Ruby then rang me on my phone, “I understand you’re looking for me.” “Yes, we want to make sure you’re okay. How do we know it’s you? We need you to go to the nearest police station.” “No, I’m not going to do that. I just need to get out of town and lay low for a while.” “We know why you need to lay low.” But it was a bit of cat and mouse.
Dan: [00:31:11] Typically, it’s not uncommon. They just play dumb. “Why would you be concerned about me? Why do you need to get a hold of me?” They’re fishing. They’re fishing for information. They want to know how much the police know. We play this game all the time.
Dave: [00:31:23] And it is always funny, when the police start hitting multiple addresses. And depending on the lifestyle that these people are involved in, they don’t like getting attention from the police, even if it’s, “We’re not looking for you. We’re looking for this person,” but they’re like, “We don’t even like when the police are on our streets. So, why don’t you go ahead and contact them so they stop coming by my house?”
Yeardley: [00:31:46] I see.
Dave: [00:31:47] You get a lot of peer pressure.
Yeardley: [00:31:48] Uh-huh. So, Ruby would get peer pressure from her other, perhaps somewhat sketchy friends going, “This is not cool.”
Dave: [00:31:56] Or you’ve got family that don’t condone your behavior and they’re tired of her shit. Call the police.
Graham: [00:32:02] Yeah. And both [unintelligible 00:32:03] in this situation, one, they didn’t want us knocking on their doors looking for Ruby, or you’re right, just that moral compass of, “We don’t agree with this. This isn’t right. So, we need to contact this person.” So, yeah, it was quite an interesting turn of events. But we believed that she was safe. But you’re right, it was bit of that Kenny Rogers, know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.[laughter]
[00:32:27] She was definitely trying to hold ’em, but we’re all over her. So, we turned our attention then to Terry, and were able to track her down just through again, the local people that were helping us out, and we tracked her down to a caravan park just on the outskirts of town. And we did some surveillance of that caravan park and found an oddly parked, small, odd-shaped car that was quite distinctly the same as the one we’ve been looking for on the footage. So, we all roll out to the car and we roll into her cabin and knock on the door and we check the car. It’s got some false plates on it. But we’re able to check the engine and it’s actually registered to Terry. She’s home. We ask her, “This is your car?” “Yes.” “Who’s had it the last few days?” “I lent it to a friend.” “What’s your friend’s name?” “Don’t know.” “Where have you been?” “Don’t remember.”
Dave: [00:33:11] It’s the same script throughout the world.
Yeardley: [00:33:13] Nobody thinks about the insanity of lending your car to somebody whose name you don’t even know.
Graham: [00:33:18] Yeah, definitely no common sense. So, her story was breaking down really quickly. This was not going too well. And you could see the pressure and the stress. So, once we finally got our forensic to have a look in the car, we had it towed and examined. There was a balaclava found in the backseat. We had gunshot residue tested of the vehicle, believing shots were fired from within it. And if you recall before, we didn’t find any of these shell casings. I’m almost willing to put a six pack of beer on we’re going to find some shell casings in this car. But unfortunately, we found nothing other than the balaclava.
[00:33:49] So, I thought, “Well, we’re on the right track here. If James is our shooter, we’ve got the balaclava. He’s made a mistake and left it in the car. We’ll hopefully get his DNA.” But Terry didn’t want to play the game. She was trying to tell us that she loaned the car to someone, but we’re able to quickly check the CCTV from that caravan park. And all the timings lined up pretty well with the shootings and the car wasn’t loaned to a friend as she tried to tell us and we arrested her. She was taken into custody and interviewed at length. Things become a little bit real for her at that point.
Dave: [00:34:19] I’m sure it got very real for her. The timing of these shootings, are they hitting an address returning to the caravan park, going back out, hit another address?
Graham: [00:34:28] Yeah, that’s what we’re thinking. Actually, where they were going back to, the footage at the caravan park showed they weren’t going there. So, we’re thinking there’s another address perhaps which could have well been Ruby’s because Ruby wasn’t home and she had no cameras on her place. But you’re right. They were going somewhere in between there. There was no way they were just sitting in the car, drawing attention to the police that might pull them over. They were going somewhere to bunker down for a couple of hours and either work out where they thought David may be next. So, had to try and identify that address.
[00:34:56] The investigators did a great job of talking with Terry at length. She was very scared. And as I said, her story broke down real quick. She was going to be charged and she was charged as an accessory to those shootings, because she eventually did tell us that she was the driver of the vehicle. But she didn’t want to nominate who the shooter was. She was just too scared. So, things changed a fair bit that we at least knew we’re on the right track and we had the right car, and we had the right people, and now it was trying to find James and the weapon.
Yeardley: [00:35:25] About how old are James, Ruby, and Terry?
Graham: [00:35:29] Ruby and Terry would be in their late 30s, early 40s, and James would be late 20s. So, yeah, been around the block a little bit, but they’ve got themselves tied up into some serious stuff. We got a statement in the end out of Terry. She decided to become a prosecution witness for the Crown evidence. I think she saw the light after some time in custody and thought, “Yeah, I’ve really got myself in over my head here.” And she made a statement, she didn’t realize that there were going to be shots fired. She knew that they were going out to try and put some pressure on David, because they were the vigilantes that thought they would do the right thing for the town, and try and stop all this going on.
[00:36:06] Terry’s statement, whilst it was corroborative to the point that the timings were all right, she said, “I wasn’t aware that there was going to be shots fired,” and then when it started happening was too scared to do otherwise. Look, I guess that does make a bit of sense. But Terry was again hiding like Ruby was, trying to hide herself and putting the car somewhere where she didn’t think we would find it. But we did and things are starting to really come together.
Yeardley: [00:36:28] Did you just say they thought they would be vigilantes and rid this town of these drug dealers? They weren’t wrapped up in all of that scene as well?
Graham: [00:36:36] No, they weren’t too wrapped up in that scene, no. They were known to us for other matters, but not so much in the drug scene. They weren’t drug dealers, as far as we knew but I think it was impacting on people they cared about or people they knew and hatched a plan to try and take things into their own hands against David.
Yeardley: [00:36:52] So, they really felt like they were some sort of Robin Hoods where they were going to right this wrong and save some people that they cared about from this surge of drug dealing in their town?
Graham: [00:37:03] Yeah. I don’t know the outcome they were chasing because it was only going to escalate. And knowing David, he was going to take a backward step from that either. It was just going to become a bit of tit for tat and was probably not going to end well.
Dan: [00:37:29] So, you’ve got Terry playing ball. But now, you’ve got Ruby and James in the wind.
Graham: [00:37:33] Yeah, Ruby and James in the wind. I think once the word got out to the local community and how small of a town it is, that word did start to get out that we’ve got the car, we’ve got Terry. So, Ruby reached out and wanted to hand herself in. “I need to come in under my own terms.”
Dan: [00:37:49] I would always tell people who were involved in these conspiracies. Whoever gets on the train first gets the best seat.
Graham: [00:37:55] Perfect analogy, yeah. Terry’s got the first class ticket, and Ruby wants to get in one next to her, I think. Yeah, we took that, no problem. And trying to manage that risk of, “Are we being played? Was Ruby just coming in to either set us up or what was happening at this particular juncture for us to arrest her?”, she knew that she was coming in, and probably the outcome would be the same as Terry. We didn’t make any promises or anything to the like, that we said, “Yes, she’s going to come in, and yes she’s probably going to be charged. So, you probably want to come in and be with us, as opposed to what else might be going on out there, where either David and his cohorts or James may change his tune, and all of a sudden, you’re in trouble.” So, I think she decided to opt with us. We had a safe meeting and got her into custody. We didn’t believe there was too much opportunity for Ruby and Terry to concoct this story together. So, the statements pretty well lined up together, that we’re confident enough that James was our shooter.
Dave: [00:38:49] About how many days are you into the investigation at this point that you’ve got Ruby and Terry in custody?
Graham: [00:38:54] Around about day three.
Dave: [00:38:56] Wow.
Graham: [00:38:56] Three long days, long hours, but we just had to keep going because the risk was there.
Yeardley: [00:39:01] And did Ruby and Terry actually know where James was, or they really didn’t know?
Graham: [00:39:05] No, really didn’t know. We believe they probably wouldn’t know. By now, he would have known we were after him. Having known him previously, he’s not going to hand himself in. We made the tactical decision to try and get our use of our SWAT team. We call our Special Operations Group, our SOG to do this high risk, and we didn’t want to put ourselves at risk or the community at risk. So, we had the applications in to have authorization to use those resources and again, coming from the city, trying to manage all that. And we had no starting point though. We didn’t know where James was. We didn’t even know if he may have fled back to the city.
Yeardley: [00:39:38] Did he have ties to the city?
Graham: [00:39:40] Yeah, he’s had ties to other parts and other parts of Australia. So, we really were thinking if he’s going somewhere, we might need to go on the hunt. So, we did have a bit of luck, and we had enough to issue a warrant for his arrest, even though we didn’t know where he was. So, we get a warrant from the court. And he knew that we’re after him and the information was really free flowing at that stage just to where James may have been and who is knocking around with. So, we started with his girlfriend, and we stayed on her in the hope that eventually he would come to her for some help, or at least stay with her. And that turned out to be the case.
[00:40:12] Our teams were able to find him and her together. We had some options as to how to best take them out safely without involving the community. But unfortunately, that got forced on us because he headed for the New South Wales border. And as I mentioned before, we had checkpoints in play, and we knew that he was high risk. But thankfully, as we said, at the start, I guess, of the podcast that sharing of information with our colleagues across the border really paid off particularly in this situation. So, they were well aware of the risk, they were well aware of who we wanted at that stage because they were continually updated. And by that stage, we knew what car James is in.
[00:40:49] At times up here, it was almost two, three hours across the border. So, you’re lined up for quite a long time. So, whilst he was just thinking he’s crossing the border, we let him get reasonably close to the front of the line, and eventually some of the uniformed members– and it was really unremarkable to the uniform to walk up and ask him to exit the car under the COVID regulations, and he was arrested without incident. He was taken into custody as nice as you like. So, whilst all the risk was there, ended up being the border checkpoint that made sure that there’s such a safe arrest for such a high-risk offender took place.
Dave: [00:41:22] Well, clearly, James recognizes it’s time to leave the cities committing all these crimes in.
Graham: [00:41:27] Yeah. The members on the checkpoint were fully aware who he was. So, it’s quite easily contained and safe. We managed to get James. We managed to get him probably about one kilometer or less into New South Wales jurisdiction, which became a problem because he would have to be extradited back to Victoria, even though he was just inside their jurisdiction.
Yeardley: [00:41:48] Oh, wow. Graham, James’ girlfriend who’s in the car with him when they get picked up at the border, what’s her name?
Graham: [00:41:55] Sarah.
Yeardley: [00:41:56] Do you think Sarah knew what James had been up to? Sarah was not in the car with Ruby and Terry and James when the shootings went on, was she?
Graham: [00:42:03] No, that’s right. It’s hard to say, I think, from her reaction when James was taken into custody, a bit of that shock and fear that came across. She was able to distance herself and alibi herself for all of those matters. So, whether he’s had a conversation with her, I guess we may never know. But she was released without being arrested.
Dave: [00:42:20] Any property on James when he was taken into custody?
Graham: [00:42:24] No, nothing. We searched their car, no firearm, nothing on him. He’s staunch as well. He’s, “Don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve got the wrong guy. Why have you arrested me, I’ve got nothing to do with this.” But we already had the warrants. So, we went to Albury court just in New South Wales, the extradition application was approved. And he was brought back to Victoria to face a court within our jurisdiction, and James was remanded on the seriousness of that offending. So, at that stage, we charged him with the three drive-by shootings.
[00:42:52] The next morning, he asked to speak with me and one of the other investigators. I was at that stage had just received a phone call about a fourth shooting that had just been uncovered and we had no idea about. So, I was dealing with that, which I’ll go into in a second. But James decided he would out of the goodness of his heart tell us where the gun may be. It was about 40 kilometers out of town. So, he’d done a fair bit of effort to get rid of it. We thought maybe he might have dumped it in the river or some do up here, but he’d left it at an address. And, yeah, we did recover that firearm in the roof of this address. So, things were really starting to get a bit of a bow on this package for us. We just about got everything we needed.
[00:43:31] And yeah, it was a .22 caliber long arm that had been cut down, so the stock of the gun had been cut and the barrel had been shortened so it’s a little bit easier to conceal. But the firearm when it was tested by ballistics was malfunctioning after each shot. So, the cartridge wasn’t actually ejecting every time he fired it. So, it was operable to the point where the round could be fired. But the casing was never ejecting. So, had James found himself in a problem with David and needed to fire multiple shots, he was going to lose. He only had one shot.
Dan: [00:44:03] I was going to say that gun’s no good on a two-way range.
Graham: [00:44:06] That’s right. So, during his interview, James did not make any admissions as normal. But we got to court eventually, and everyone pled guilty to the court as to their role in these offenses, and that their motivation was to stand up to David and show that they weren’t scared of him and what he was doing around town. We were able to wrap it all up. Get the gun, got the car, got all three people involved. And as I said, we ended up with a fourth shooting, but there wasn’t enough evidence to link that one to James as well. We definitely didn’t have any projectile. We believe that fourth one was definitely linked through the timeline of offending. Again, that fourth address was known to us but everyone inside was probably using too much of their own product and didn’t realize what had happened, so didn’t call police.
Yeardley: [00:44:47] And does Mark go to prison also because he built the pipe bomb?
Graham: [00:44:51] Yeah, he did. He was remanded for quite a substantial time and quickly pled guilty himself.
Yeardley: [00:44:56] And what about David? He was out of prison at the moment but did he find himself back in prison shortly afterward?
Graham: [00:45:04] Yeah, he did. So, he had some outstanding matters. And thankfully, our friends over New South Wales managed to catch up with him. So, he went into a completely different system over the border. So, a little bit of a cleanup for the town. And thankfully, I don’t think we’ve had any more drive-by shootings since.
Dave: [00:45:18] And for comparison purposes. I just want to know more about sentencing, you don’t have to give the specifics, but what would James be looking at what did Mark get for his activities? What does that look like in Australia?
Graham: [00:45:30] In this case, for both of them, probably come down to their prior history, both had had quite significant histories. So, the range of sentencing in this regard is probably a bit higher than what we would see normally. So, I think James got at least two years as a minimum sentence for his role in these shootings. And Mark got, I think, around eight months non-parole period for his role. We would probably have liked a little bit more, but that’s the system, isn’t it when our job’s done once it goes to courts.
Yeardley: [00:46:01] Right. Do you know how James and Ruby and Terry became friends, and friends enough to actually go on this rampage together?
Graham: [00:46:08] That’s a great question. They wouldn’t get into too much of that with us as to how they come across. We think it just seems to be knocking around town together. There’s no family links. There was no boyfriend, girlfriend links, just come across each other. And we tend to think a few too many nights having a drink and perhaps some other stuff that they come up with this plan. And it just got out of control and a little bit of pack mentality perhaps about, “Let’s take things in our own hands.”
Dave: [00:46:32] I had a question about the search warrant at Mark’s house, and you’ve got a bomb squad there. I imagine in that neighborhood that was better than watching TV that night. And I’m thinking about situations where we’ve had– we have a tip line where people can phone in tips about drug activity or drug houses. When we serve a search warrant on a house like that and bust in the door, and you walk out with the homeowner, whoever the problem is, start walking out with people in handcuffs and driving them away, you get quite a bit of community appreciation. Those are feel-good moments. You know that you’ve just plucked a huge dumpster fire out of [chuckles] the community, you’re like, “Hey, you’re gone for a little bit, at least.”
Yeardley: [00:47:16] Right. That was actually one of my questions. When you went to get your coffee and your bun the next morning, did you get like, “Oh, my God, Graham. Fantastic. Thank you, Detective Sergeant Sir, you’ve saved the day”?
Graham: [00:47:29] You do get a bit of that and you get that little pat on the back, which is great. And that’s why you do it. But then we do find after these bigger jobs, the information flow becomes a little bit more active. “That’s great. You’ve knocked out that. What about this one? What about that one?” So, that community confidence increases and they see the result. And they see the impact on their streets, their town. It just never ends, does it?
Yeardley: [00:47:50] Does it make you feel like it’s never enough?
Graham: [00:47:53] No, it doesn’t. I think we noticed that the impact it does have on the community, particularly the next day, see the front page of the paper and the bomb squad’s on there, and as you say, you’ve got old mate walking in handcuffs, we get a lot of praise for being it so quick. And that’s the relationships we have around town. Not only with the good people of town, the businesses that give us their CCTV, but also people that just want to see the good done around town and that moral compass kicks in and people want to tell us.
Yeardley: [00:48:17] Fantastic. I think it must speak to the character of your organization.
Graham: [00:48:22] Thank you. We all do our best, and the best thing for me is that we learn a lot along the way. We get the result we want. But every one of my detectives goes home safe.
Yeardley: [00:48:31] Brilliant. Thank you so much for bringing that to us today.
Dave: [00:48:34] Well done, sir.
Dan: [00:48:35] Thanks, Graham.
Graham: [00:48:36] Thank you.[Small Town Dicks theme continues playing]
Yeardley: [00:48:44] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Soren Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. And our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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