The wife, the police and the ombudsman.

George Bowman recounts the day his wife left, and its aftermath.

The postmistress was quite sure of her facts. "She was a tall, slim woman of about 40, with very dark hair. She phoned the police from here and said 'Her husband has a gun and has threatened to kill her. Please hurry.' She then gave them your address."

After three years of stepdaughter-inspired wifely violence and unable to take any more punching, I had been forced to seek police assistance. When, as a result, the police had later served my ever-loving with a summons for an ADVO hearing to restrain her, she grabbed my toddler son and left without warning.

Four days later, she was coming to collect her belongings. The phone call from the postmistress suggested she had a surprise in store. it was the "tall, slim woman of about 40, with very dark hair" who puzzled me. We had no such acquaintance in Sydney.

Knowing my wife only too well, the previous evening I had called at the local police station. With the condescending smirk police reserve for any man who claims to have been battered by a violent wife, Sergeant Jones* had listened to my request for assistance on the following morning. He told me police were "a little thin" on Saturday mornings, but nevertheless, if I called for aid, it would be sent. Next morning the removalist's truck was led into my drive by my wife's car. Out got my wife, her son aged 30 (recently home from Long Bay for drug dealing and various car offences) and two of her sisters, one of them the "slim, dark-haired woman of 40" who had come all the way from the Blue Mountains for the occasion. (This particular sister had, for years, commended me for my patience and forbearance in the face of my wife's violence, describing her as a "silly girl". Blood, it appears, is truly "thicker than water".)

But there was a third vehicle, a police car, from which climbed Constable Smith* (female, 35, overweight) and Constable Brown* (male, 22, skinny, piping voice) who followed the raiding party into the house. Constable Smith placed her coarse face only inches from mine and shouted, "We've come for the gun, SAR!". I responded that I had handed in my weapons on return from WW2 and had touched no gun since 1945. My wife led the whole circus into a bedroom, climbed on a chair and retrieved a little boy's air gun from the top of a wardrobe. She had put it there herself. To the best of my knowledge I had never seen the toy gun before.

"You're a liar, aren't you SAR!" roared Constable Smith."

"Show me that" said I and reached for the "gun". Constable Smith, ever-valiant in the face of mortal danger, shoved her big bust and square shoulder against me and heaved me away from the "gun", not quite pushing me over. Hysterical shouting resulted in the revelation that the "gun" was once the property of a lad of 13 whom I had not seen for 18 years. My wife had hidden it on the wardrobe 10 years ago. Nobody else had any idea it was there.

By now Constable Brown, who had probably had his badge at least a week, was getting into the act, fingering his revolver as he did so.

Said I "Oh come on, laddie, can't you see you've been tricked?!" His piping voice rose an octave. Determined to show his valour matched that of his colleague, he squeaked, "Don't you call ME 'laddie'!"

For 90 minutes they stalked about, scowling at me the while, as my wife and her party stole everything not nailed down. Twice I tried to protect my small son's toys from the grasping hands of the "dark-haired woman. Constable Smith's bust and shoulder heaved away to intervene.

Immediately before leaving she grasped the gun by both ends and, holding it horizontally, pushed it into my face and screamed "We're going away to check on this gun and when we do you are going to be in BIG TROUBLE!"

Four days later I wrote to the Minister for Police, stating my unequivocal admiration for all police but also saying that he should do something about the two uniformed louts who had threatened and assaulted a peaceful man of 68. The minister sent my letter to the Ombudsman. There was also a helpful letter saying the matter could be best dealt with under a "conciliation process" used for most complaints against police but overseen by the Ombudsman. Some weeks later I got a phone call - from Sergeant Jones, no less. He was trying to "conciliate" the matter and I must come down to the police station forthwith. No, I would not. My thinking - which I was careful not to reveal to the gallant sergeant - was that I would make my decisions on my own territory, not theirs. I said that. I was fully occupied at present and would follow up his gallant colleagues when I had time.

On a dark winter night three weeks later Jones phoned again. Was I home? He was coming to my house "to lay it on the line". He wanted me to sign a form. Both words and tone were threatening. He sat in my lounge scowling at me, holding in his hand the form he wished me to sign. There was no attempt to explain the contents or purpose of the form. I just had to sign. Rejecting his overtures, I said the actions of his colleagues had left a man 68 without police protection. Jones said that was not the case. If ever I needed aid, I had only to phone and ... he would send Smith and Brown to my aid! Truly! That's what he said.

I sent him on his way.

Three months later the Ombudsman wrote again. The office had decided to take no further action, because...."I am not satisfied that the actions of the police are capable of being construed as unlawful, police being obliged to assist in the administration of a restraining order ....

WHAT restraining order??!! I wrote three pages back, stating the facts all over again. Two weeks later, the Ombudsman wrote again, apologising, in that their office had acted for six whole months in the belief that I was the subject of an ADVO!! Nevertheless they weren't going to take any action.

At that point I decided to think of the trees and did not reply.

There were three consequences. Four months after the raid, my wife appeared in court for the ADVO hearing. We'll skip the details. Enough to say that with tearful face she just lied her way out of it. At 9.30 that night she phoned me, weeping over her perjury, finally broke down and sobbed "Oh God I love you!" before hanging up, still sobbing.

The second consequence happened 15 months after the raid, to wit a letter from Sergeant Jones, some of which is worth quoting verbatim. "On (date) Constable Brown attended your residence in connection with a disturbance. "While there he took possession of an air rifle. You admitted to him that you were not the holder of a licence entitling you to possess that rifle. Computer records show that to this date you still do not possess such a licence. Constable Brown is not taking court action against you for possession of the rifle while unlicensed." Which was big of him. I wrote forthwith to Police Internal Affairs, including a copy of the whole file and saying I hoped Brown DID take action, insofar that I would truly enjoy putting him on the stand and cross-examining him myself.

Back came a printed form from Internal Affairs, saying how glad they were that I "had accepted the apology" given by Sergeant Jones for his harassing letter. Did I indeed? I hadn't realised.

The third consequence was fascinating. Nearly a year later, a police car came to a halt in a street near my home and a Senior Constable got out to ask directions to a particular address. As we chatted, his driver got out and hid behind the car. Guess who? Constable Brown. Wonder why he hid?

Good luck, Peter Ryan!

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