Detective Senior Constable
Coomera Police Station
Born 17th January, 1976
Murdered – Shot on 29 May 2011
Died 1 June 2011
Tuesday, 7th June, 2011
Gold Coast Convention Centre, corner of Gold Coast Highway and TE Peters Drive, Broadbeach, commencing at 11.00 a.m.
Policeman shot in face on Gold Coast
By Andree Withey and Russell Varley
Senior Constable Damian Leeding was responding to a triple-0 call at the Pacific Pines Tavern when he was shot. (ABC TV)
A police officer is fighting for his life in hospital after being shot in the face during an armed hold-up on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
Senior Constable Damian Leeding, 34, from Coomera was responding a triple-0 call at the Pacific Pines Tavern when he was shot in the face as he approached the tavern.
Queensland Police Union (QPU) president Ian Leavers says Senior Constable Leeding was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene just before 11pm (AEST).
“Damian and a female detective were responding to alleged armed robbery in progress and upon approaching the tavern the offender has come towards Damian and he has been shot in the head,” he said.
It is understood three people armed with guns had been threatening staff and customers at the tavern.
Police say they believe up to seven people had been involved in the hold-up.
Police detained two men as they tried to run into nearby parkland and they are being questioned about the incident.
One was bitten by a police dog.
Ambulance officers assessed the man but say he did not require hospital treatment.
Police have cordoned off the area and are searching for the remaining five suspects.
Mr Leavers says Senior Constable Leeding has undergone emergency surgery in the Gold Coast hospital and is in a critical condition.
He says he has been to the hospital and spoken with the female detective who was with Senior Constable Leeding at the time of the shooting.
“This is unfortunately the unpredictable nature of police work which can occur from time to time, but it is tragic and we are hoping for a good outcome,” he said.
Queensland Police Minister Neil Roberts says the shooting highlights the risks and dangers of police work.
“We just need to let police to fully investigate the matter,” he said.
“We really do ask anyone with any bit of information – no matter how small – to please ring Crimestoppers.
“This is a very difficult time for the family and really our hearts and minds are with them at the moment.”
Mr Leavers says Senior Constable Leeding is a well respected officer with Coomera CIB.
“Damian is a married man – his wife is also a police officer and he has two very young children,” he said.
“It is a very distressing time and our prayers and thoughts are with them.
“I have spoken to the colleagues and police on the scene and all are hoping for the best possible outcome and our prayers and thoughts are with Damian and his family.”
Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said at a press conference “the worst situation almost that you could possibly imagine for us has occurred”.
Commissioner Atkinson says officers at Coomera CIB will be given extra support.
“It’s our intention to bring in extra police from outside to help in the staffing of Coomera for the next 48 hours so that the officers at least have additional back-up there,” Commissioner Atkinson said.
“If they choose to take some time off and then we can support them in that regard.”
Commissioner Atkinson says he believes the incident will touch the wider community.
“I think there will be an outpouring of support for people who in the daily course of their duties put their own safety at risk to protect the public,” he said.
Shot policeman: ‘We’re expecting the worst’
May 31, 2011 – 9:26AM
The UK family of shot police officer Senior Constable Damian Leeding is rushing to reach his Gold Coast bedside as the trio charged with his attempted murder prepares to face court.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers joined Senior Constable Leeding‘s wife Sonya in prayer this morning at the intensive care unit of Gold Coast Hospital, where the plain clothes detective remains on life support.
Senior Constable Leeding was shot in the face at point-blank range after he leapt over a fence and came face-to-face with a bandit armed with a sawn-off shotgun at a Gold Coast pub on Sunday night.
“There is not much we can do but wait,” Mr Leavers said this morning.
“His injuries are very, very serious, as you can imagine from a gunshot injury to the head.
“We’re expecting the worst, but hoping for the best.”
Senior Constable Leeding, 35, had recently returned to duty after the birth of their three-month-old daughter Grace. Sonya, a fellow police officer, remains on maternity leave. The pair also have a two-year old son, Hudson.
Mr Leavers described Senior Constable Leeding as a “supremely fit man” and keen triathlete.
“Damian is a fighter and if anyone can pull through this it’s going to be him,” he said.
His father and sister were due to fly to the Gold Coast from the UK today.
Two men and a woman are due to face Southport Magistrates Court today charged with attempted murder, armed robbery and seven counts of deprivation of liberty.
Senior Constable Leeding responded to a triple-0 call from the Pacific Pines Tavern about 10.30pm.
Inside, two armed bandits had allegedly held hostage and tied the hands of seven people – four patrons, two staff and a security guard – and were demanding money.
Police have said the robbery was meticulously planned. Their accomplice was keeping watch and reportedly warned the pair inside that police had arrived over a walkie-talkie.
When Senior Constable Leeding leaped a fence he came face-to-face with one of the bandits and was shot in the face at point-blank range.
Senior Constable Jackson rushed to her partner’s aid and began to perform CPR as a dog squad officer arrived and pursued the alleged attackers.
Two, a man and a woman, were soon apprehended in nearby parkland. A second man was arrested yesterday morning.
Police yesterday charged the two men, aged 37 and 38, and a 37-year-old woman, all from Nerang.
Tributes have flooded social networking site Facebook for the officer who excelled to reach the rank of plain clothes detective after eights years in the force.
“Stay strong Damian. I hope that you are able to recover from this senseless act against you,” Tania Sherley wrote.
Das Pedro wrote: “Pull through champ, hearts and thoughts are with you.”
Senior Constable Leeding was stationed at Surfers Paradise police station after he graduated from the police academy in 2003 with an award for his physical fitness.
He then joined the Gold Coast Criminal Investigation Branch, before being posted to Coomera CIB when it was established 18 months ago.
His wife Sonya had worked at Runaway Bay, but is currently on maternity leave.
LEEDING, Damian Detective Senior Constable Late of Upper Coomera, formerly of Highland Park.
17th January, 1976 to 1st June, 2011. Aged 35 years
Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his Friends. “At Great Cost, With Honour We Serve”
Loving Husband of Sonya. Adored & Proud Father of Hudson and Grace. Much loved Son of Stephen and Julie. Loved Brother of Hayley and Chantelle. Much loved Son-in- law of Garry and Margaret. Greatly missed Brother-in-law to Melanie, Shane and Christie, and loved Uncle to his Nieces and Nephews.
Relatives and Friends and Colleagues of The Late Detective Senior Constable Damian Leeding, are warmly invited to attend his Funeral with full Queensland Police Honours. To be held in the Gold Coast Convention Centre, corner of Gold Coast Highway and TE Peters Drive, Broadbeach, Tuesday, 7th June, 2011 commencing at 11.00 a.m.. No flowers by request. Donations would be appreciated to the Damian Leeding Remembrance fund.
Lawyer defending one of accused in Damian Leeding trial tells jury officer’s actions ‘rash, dangerous’
- The Courier-Mail
- September 20, 2013
A POLICEMAN who was gunned down outside a Gold Coast tavern made the “rash, ill-considered and highly-dangerous” decision to open fire on an armed robber, who reacted “in self-defence”.
Officer Damian Leeding’s family rejoices as killer Phillip Graeme Abell is sentenced to life in jail without parole
- The Courier-Mail
- October 09, 2013
A VIOLENT, gun-toting career criminal and convicted bank robber yesterday stood head bowed and showed no emotion as he was given life in prison for killing Gold Coast policeman Damian Leeding.
Phillip Graeme Abell, 41, stood with a hardened face as he was told he would serve a life sentence without parole for the shooting murder on May 29, 2011.
Outside court, the father-of-two’s family rejoiced at the sentence but shared their heartbreak.
“We would just like to say how grateful we are to the judge and the court for the length of the sentence,” mum Julie Waters said.
“Obviously that’s never going to bring Damian back, but nothing is enough to bring Damian back, ever …”
Abell was sentenced to 18 years jail for the terrifying armed robbery of the Pacific Pines Tavern and three years jail for each of the seven hostages he detained at gunpoint in the long, frightening minutes before Sen-Const Leeding was shot at 10.40pm.
There was no repeat of Abell’s antics as the verdict was delivered, when he infamously refused to stand and flipped the bird at Supreme Court Justice James Douglas.
His only supporter in court, his partner, sat emotionless behind him in the public gallery. Abell will be 59 before he is eligible for release.
Justice Douglas denounced his lack of remorse and the “deliberate” killing of a police officer in the execution of his duty.
He said that by arming himself with a loaded shotgun during the holdup, Abell would have “at least anticipated the possibility of police intervening”.
“It seems significant to me the crime was a deliberate shooting of a police officer who was acting in his sworn duty to protect the public,” he said.
Ms Waters and Sen-Const Leeding’s sisters Hayley and Chantelle read out victim impact statements from the witness stand through tears.
The women spoke about the toll their son and brother’s murder had on their family, of their individual battles with post-traumatic stress disorder, their struggle to come to terms with his loss and frustration at broken relationships.
Ms Waters told of the daily struggle to sit through her son’s murder trial and being “overwhelmed” at seeing her son’s killers.
“Words cannot express our grief and how much we miss Damian,” she said.
Tavern staff members Kelly McLaren and Emma Stoddard shared their grief and sadness and told of the ongoing, debilitating impact on their emotional and physical well-being.
Ms Stoddard said she blamed herself for what happened to Sen-Const Leeding and struggled to find meaning or happiness in her life.
“I constantly remember Damian who lost everything,” she said.
Abell’s extensive criminal history of violent armed robberies was aired in court, including the holdup of a bank for which he served eight years in 1997. In 1990, he was sentenced to four-years jail for being the getaway driver when a convenience store was held up with a loaded pistol.
He was dealt with for violence towards Queensland Corrective Services officers while in custody in 1993.
Abell is yet to be sentenced for a violent home invasion on December 30, 2010, using the same sawn-off shotgun that killed Sen-Const Leeding.
He and accomplice Donna Lee McAvoy, 39, were convicted of the Coomera detective’s murder last month.
Outside court, Assistant Commissioner Paul Wilson said he had phoned Sen-Const Leeding’s wife Sonya, who was absent from court as her children were unwell, to tell her of the sentence.
Jury retires to consider murder charges against two people accused of killing policeman Damian Leeding
- The Courier-Mail
- September 23, 2013
Phillip Graeme Abell, 41, and Donna Lee McAvoy, 39, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Coomera detective Senior Constable Damian Leeding, 35, as he tried to foil their escape from a hold-up at 10.40pm on May 29, 2011.
At the opening of the 11-day trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court, both pleaded guilty to armed robbery with personal violence and to seven counts of deprivation of liberty.
Justice James Douglas on Monday summed up the evidence to the jury before it retired to consider a verdict at 12.35pm.
It returned to a packed court room at 3.50pm to deliver a unanimous decision.
Crown Prosecutor Todd Fuller QC told the Supreme Court in Brisbane Sen-Constable Leeding was shot in the head at close range just minutes after he arrived at the scene.
He suffered “catastrophic” brain injuries that led to his life support being switched off on June 1. He had fired three shots from his gun before it jammed.
Mr Fuller said an “organised criminal enterprise” almost escaped with a haul of $16,000 in coins and $20 notes after the hold-up.
The pair disguised themselves, wore padding and dressed in dark clothing as they robbed the tavern, taking seven staff members and patrons hostage by holding the gun to their heads and tying their arms behind their backs with zip-ties.
One woman managed to sneak out and call 000 from her car before driving away. Another witness called 000 when he saw the drama unfolding as he stopped by for a drink.
Sen-Constable Leeding and his partner, detective Sen-Constable Nicole Jackson, were the first police on scene and drew their guns.
Sen-Constable Leeding jumped over a fence at the tavern and yelled “stop police, police” when his partner heard two shots ring out and dived for cover.
Sen-Constable Leeding had more than 50 injuries to his face caused by pellets from the shot fired at him. The injuries included skull fractures, compound facial fractures, lacerations to his frontal lobes and a complete loss of eyesight.
McAvoy and Abell were caught in nearby bushland that night.
Earlier, the public gallery in court 11 was packed as the jury filed out to consider the evidence heard during the trial.
Justice James Douglas on Monday summed up the evidence to the jury before it retired to consider a verdict at 12.35pm.
He told the jury it should dismiss all feelings of sympathy or prejudice and warned it against allowing public opinion to affect its decision.
Justice Douglas said it was open to the jury to find both Abell and McAvoy guilty of murder with intent, if they were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Sen-Constable Leeding was dead, the defendant Abell killed him and did so with intent to cause death or grievous bodily harm and that the killing was unlawful.
He said the jury could also find Abell and McAvoy guilty of murder if they found the unlawful killing was carried out in the prosecution of an unlawful purpose, as in this particular case, an armed robbery, and was a probable consequence of the act.
Justice Douglas said it was the burden of the prosecution to disprove the police officer’s use of force was unlawful on the night.
Under the law, if a person was assaulted and there was a reasonable apprehension of death or grievous bodily harm, and the person cannot otherwise preserve themselves, it would be lawful for the person to use any such force as was necessary to defend themselves.
He said if the jury found Abell acted in self-defence, it must find him not guilty of murder or manslaughter.
Justice Douglas summarised the evidence heard during the trial and the closing arguments of the Crown and defence counsels.
He told the jury it must reach a unanimous verdict.
Phillip Graeme Abell and Donna Lee McAvoy show no remorse after being found guilty of murder Gold Coast policeman Damian Leeding
- The Courier-Mail
- September 25, 2013
PHILLIP Graeme Abells icy-blue stare is fixed defiantly on the man behind the camera.
Just moments earlier, those same eyes stared down the sites of a shortened Bentley pump-action shotgun and fired at a police officer.
Blood trickles down his left arm where a police dog latched onto him in bushland near the Pacific Pines Tavern.
He didn’t make a sound as the dog bit into the flesh of his armpit and crouched silently in the lantana until a police torch picked him out in the darkness.
“You’ve got the wrong guy,” he told them.
“I’ve had a couple of drinks and come into the bush.”
Abell was marched from the scrub by two police officers who tracked him in the dark for 350m and five long minutes.
Their radios were switched down low as the dog tracked his scent, a heady mix of adrenaline, sweat and alcohol.
Back on the road, Abell’s hands were wrapped in paper to preserve evidence and cuffed behind his back.
The weapon he brandished during the stick-up was dumped into the bush near where he ran off the road.
A few more metres on he dropped a bum-bag full of shotgun cartridges, tore off a brown jacket, a black life vest, gloves and tracksuit pants.
The image of gunman Abell, 41, was yesterday released by the Supreme Court in Brisbane after he and Donna Lee McAvoy, 39, were found guilty of the shooting murder of Coomera detective Sen-Constable Damian Leeding outside the tavern that night.
McAvoy, overweight and wrapped in layers of clothing, trailed Abell as they ran from the tavern moments after the shooting.
The spoils of their 16-minute siege on a quiet Sunday night – $16,000 in coins and notes weighing more than 70kg – was abandoned in the car park.
McAvoy was wrestled onto Pitcairn Rd by two police officers and Abell took his chance to flee.
They said she looked exhausted and complained of struggling for breath with her breasts bandaged down and her torso strapped in a child’s-size life jacket.
CCTV images from the robbery showed Abell pointing the gun at frightened patrons and staff as they cowered on the ground and behind the bar McAvoy zip-tied the hostage’s hands behind their backs and filled a black sports bag with cash from a safe. Abell threatened he would “shoot to get out’’ if the police turned up.
As the bandits fled with cash and stolen car keys, Sen-Constable Leeding foiled any chance they had at a clean exit by jumping a 1.2m high fence, running through a children’s playground and firing three rounds before his Glock pistol jammed.
Abell returned fire with a single blast from the shortened shotgun, striking the detective in the head and face.
The trial exhibits released by Justice James Douglas yesterday included the frantic radio call by detective Sen-Constable Nicole Jackson to police communications.
“Charlie 500 urgent,’’ she said. The communications operator calls her back but gets no response. She tries two more times before warning other police the job was now a “code 1’. “Shots fired, shots fired. Urgent. Officer down’’ she said.
The exhibits also included 000 calls to police from frightened pub patrons who saw the holdup unfolding but managed to escape.
Another has the chilling conversation between McAvoy and an undercover officer in the cells of Southport’s police watch house.
“I’m looking at a long time,’’ McAvoy told her undercover cellmate, as if it were a badge of honour. “Pac Pines. Armed robbery.’’
A dazed sounding McAvoy told her cellmate her accomplice opened fire at Sen-Constable Leeding, claiming he was “cornered’’.
“You don’t know what you’re going to do in a situation like that,’’ McAvoy said. “He’s f . . . shot his way out.’’
McAvoy continued: “F… oath mate. Just as we were walking out the f . . . door, didn’t know there were f . . . coppers there and they’re supposed to f . . . announce themselves.’’
Another man told police how he was followed by what police believe was a car without its headlights on. Detectives believe it was getaway driver, Benjamin Ernest Power, 39, and McAvoy’s partner of three years.
“I just walked into the pub at Pac Pines and it’s being held up.
“There’s guys with guns, everything,’’ he said.
“There’s a car following me with its lights turned off…’’
Earlier, Phillip Graeme Abell refused to stand for a judge and flipped him the bird as a jury yesterday found he and Donna Lee McAvoy guilty of the murder of Gold Coast policeman Damian Leeding.
Detective Senior Constable Leeding, 35, left behind his wife Sonya and two young children, Grace and Hudson, when he was shot in the face at close range as he responded to a Gold Coast tavern robbery in May 2011.
Outside court yesterday, his father-in-law Garry O’Brien could finally utter the words he had been waiting to say: “We’ve got the bastards”.
It was a reference to a comment from his son-in-law, who before his death told Mr O’Brien “we’re going to get the bastards” as they watched news footage together of escalating armed robberies on the Gold Coast.
“I think I can strongly say on behalf of the family, we can finally say to Damo, Rest In Peace,” Mr O’Brien said.
Sen-Constable Leeding’s mother Julie Waters said her son would be remembered by those who loved him as “a true hero”.
“Damian was doing his job and his life was taken without regard for him or his family,” she said.
It took a jury in the Supreme Court of Brisbane less than three hours to return its verdict, finding Abell and McAvoy guilty of the detective’s shooting murder.
The decision came after a two-week trial and was met with cheers, applause and tears from the packed public gallery in court 11.
A grim-faced and heavily tattooed Abell, 41, and co-offender McAvoy, 39, who sobbed with her face buried in her hands, will be sentenced by Justice James Douglas on Friday with getaway driver Benjamin Ernest Power, 39.
Power pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier this month.
Power, McAvoy’s lover, did not face trial when his plea of guilty to manslaughter was accepted by the Crown earlier this month.
McAvoy and Abell disguised themselves with padding and wore T-shirts over their heads when they raided the Pacific Pines Tavern, tying up terrified hostages and holding a gun to their heads.
They stole $16,048 in coins and notes as Power waited outside the tavern as a lookout, using a two-way radio to alert those inside to the arrival of police.
Sen-Constable Leeding and partner, detective Sen-Constable Nicole Jackson, were the first on the scene and ran to foil their escape.
Grainy CCTV footage showed Abell and McAvoy lugging 70kg worth of stolen coins out a sliding door and down a ramp seconds before the shotgun was fired.
Out of view, the weapon’s muzzle flash lit up the night and felled the detective where he stood.
Sen-Constable Leeding suffered more than 50 injuries to his head and face when the shotgun pellets struck him. He managed to fire three times but missed when his Glock pistol jammed on the fourth. He suffered catastrophic brain injuries and died in the Gold Coast Hospital when his life support was switched off on June 1.
McAvoy and Abell abandoned their sports bag laden with cash and fled into bushland, where they were caught soon after.
Assistant Commissioner Paul Wilson said Sen-Constable Leeding had bravely made a “supreme sacrifice”.
“It’s a reality check as to what police officers do every day in the community,” he said.
“They go to work to protect the public, as the brave Damian Leeding did on that particular night…’’
Police Union president Ian Leavers said the murder was “outright and callous’’ and denounced Abell’s conduct in court for its “complete contempt’’.
“As the jury found out, we have a person who callously murdered a young man in the prime of his life and nothing has changed since the 29th of May, 2011,’’ he said.
He said the verdict was right but it would never bring Sen-Constable Leeding back or let him see his children grow up.
Dog Squad officer Wayne Algie tells of the terrifying night that earned him a nomination for the Valour Award
( handler of Police Dog Bosun )
- Gold Coast Bulletin
- April 11, 2014
THE Dog Squad officer who risked his life to hunt down the gunman who killed Gold Coast Detective Damian Leeding has been nominated for the highest bravery award available in the Queensland Police Service.
Speaking exclusively to the Bulletin, Wayne Algie recalled the night that earned him the nomination for the Valour Award — given to an officer who performs an act of exceptional bravery in hazardous circumstances.
Detective Senior Constable Leeding was shot in the head and died days later in hospital.
His murder led to an outpouring of support from the Gold Coast community, who turned out in the thousands for his funeral.
Hero police dog Bosun, who caught Damian Leeding’s killers, sadly dies
- Gold Coast Bulletin
- June 23, 2014
FAMED police dog Bosun has died just one year after retiring.
The beloved German Shepherd, who caught the killers of Senior Constable Damian Leeding in 2011, passed away this morning after a short illness.
Bosun tracked the gunman, Phillip Graeme Abell, into “pitch-black’’ bushland after tracking him 350m into scrub on the fateful night.
Bosun’s handler Senior-Constable Wayne Algie said the leash went slack and he drew his firearm and a torch to see the dog had bitten a man and was holding him by the left armpit.
The nine-year-old dog died just months after receiving the Australian Defence Force Service Medal for his long career.
The medal ceremony was his last public outing before retiring to the home of his handler, Sen-Const Algie.