'He puts the gun out the window and fires at least two shots'
A retired Queensland police officer involved in one of the state’s most dramatic manhunts has relived the moment he was forced to shoot an armed bank robber dead.
On April 12, 1978, Detective John O’Gorman led a team of officers into a backyard in Brisbane’s Taringa in pursuit of David Lawrence Hunter, who had just robbed the Bank of New South Wales at Ashgrove – pulling out a sawn-off shotgun and threatening staff before fleeing with thousands of dollars in cash.
Retired 9News cameraman Nick Nicolaides was standing on the footpath on nearby Montrose Road speaking with police officers when Hunter drove past in his gold Chevrolet Impala and fired two shots.
“He puts the gun out the window and fires at least two shots, one, two, directly at Nick and the copper,” the retired detective told 9News.
“God knows how they didn’t get hit.”
Hunter had already fired a dozen shots at Detective O’Gorman and his partner.
The car chase ended in a nearby dead-end street.
9News video shows Det. O’Gorman directing his officers as they close in on Hunter in a backyard in Duke Street.
“Half of you is terrified you’re going to die, the other half is terrified you’re not going to stop him,” Ret. Det. O’Gorman recalled.
But Hunter was trapped, holed up in a shed.
Refusing to surrender, he fired a shot which scorched the shirt of Detective Sergeant George Sieb.
Both Det. Sgt. Sieb and Det. O’Gorman fired a shot in return. Hunter died instantly.
“I can remember every little detail,” Ret. Det. O’Gorman said.
“And it’s the worst feeling in your life. You’ve got to squeeze the trigger and then… it is the worst feeling.”
Inside Hunter’s bag, police found $23,000 in cash from the robbery.
Hunter had also robbed three Brisbane banks the year before.
“The chance of him killing somebody was massive,” Ret. Det. O’Gorman told 9News.
He would make an appointment to see the bank manager and, once inside, would threaten staff and run off with a bag of cash.
Before he robbed the Bank of New South Wales that day, he had also called the manager of the Commonwealth Bank at Ashgrove, where police were waiting.
Despite the decoy, in the end police caught up with Hunter anyway.
The footage of police closing in on the dangerous bank robber won Nicolaides a Logie Award for Outstanding News Story. Both Det Sgt Sieb and Det O’Gorman were honoured by the Queen for their bravery.
“I’m no braver than any other copper… just this one got some headlines,” Ret. Det. O’Gorman said.
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