Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

{Cold Night, Hot} {Situation }; {Lismore Detective Inspector Receives Citation } {for Keeping a Cool Head in Stand-Off}

Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

{Cold Night, Hot} {Situation }; {Lismore Detective Inspector Receives Citation } {for Keeping a Cool Head in Stand-Off}

Article excerpt

Byline: Jamie Brown jamie.brown@northernstar.com.au

LISMORE Detective Inspector Stephen Clarke spends his time managing crime within the Lismore Area Command, but yesterday was awarded a Commissioner's Unit Citation for his role as negotiator in a truly explosive situation.

The event took place at a Glen Innes service station in September, 2003, when a man tried to commit suicide by filling the interior of his station wagon, and dousing himself, with an incredible 995 litres of petrol before threatening to light it up.

"I remember the figure clearly," said Det Insp Clarke yesterday, cup of coffee in hand, at the ceremony held at the House With No Steps, Alstonville.

"He just kept filling the car up, until one policeman snuck around the back of the station and turned off the main valve."

Fortunately with regard to the fumes it was a frigid winter night. But as chief negotiator, Det Insp Clarke recalls his feet turning to ice as the stand-off dragged on through the dark night for 10 long hours.

"I was closest to the man, about 30m away, and firefighters were behind me," recalled Det Insp Clarke. "Their job was to make sure I was doused if the petrol was ignited. But I was told later that had it gone the fireball would have taken us all."

Det Insp Clarke said the negotiations proceeded according to plan, with intensive training coming to the fore. "You do as you are taught," he said. "There is a standard protocol and you must follow it. Yes, that gave me some comfort. Knowing what to do took a bit of the fear off my mind."

As the hours dragged on, the petrol dissipated and with advice from firemen, Det Insp Clarke crept closer and closer until, when just six metres away, the man ignited the car and himself.

While the fire was fierce, it wasn't an explosion. And the man survived, with terrible burns. …

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