John Gass

Officer 'forgot' to chase up call in bush death case

A MOTORIST was found dead in bushland in western Queensland five days after a former rural police sergeant "forgot" to chase up a call about an abandoned car, a tribunal has found.

Andrew Thomas, who was stationed at Augathella for 16 years, was off-duty when he received a phone call about 11.30am on December 6, 2009, from a resident concerned about the "weird" way a car had been abandoned.

The car was on Narran Rd at Wyandra, which is about halfway between Cunnamulla and Charleville.

Sgt Thomas took no further steps to investigate until he became aware of a missing person search at that location on December 10 and 11.

He accepted a misconduct charge and was demoted to senior constable for two years but the demotion was suspended for two years.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission sought a review in December, 2012, arguing the sanction imposed did not properly reflect the purpose of the disciplinary proceedings.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, in a judgment published on Monday night, removed the suspension.

Tribunal members said the fact Sgt Thomas was no longer a serving police officer was irrelevant, that the sanction should serve as a deterrent to others.

"The area is largely uninhabited and in December temperatures can soar to extremes in the high 30s," the judgment read.

"It's unclear why the local resident called Sgt Thomas in Augathella when there are police stations closer at Cunnamulla, Wyandra and Charleville.

"Despite this, he gave Sgt Thomas sufficient information that he should have been alert to the potential consequences for a person stranded in that region having spent 16 years at Augathella."

The officer argued he was off-duty, recovering from a head injury and had personal issues he was dealing with that day.

He said he assumed the car was stolen and the phone connection was poor but the tribunal found he simply forgot about the call and therefore failed to take action.

The members said they were satisfied Sgt Thomas did not deliberately ignore the information.

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