SPOT­LIGHT ON HERO COP

Western Times - - FRONT PAGE - RECOG­NISED: Sgt Gerard Thorn­ton (right) shakes hands with Com­mis­sioner Ian Ste­wart at the QPS South West Dis­trict awards cer­e­mony. PHOTO: ALEXIA AUSTIN

MOR­VEN’S Sergeant Gerard Thorn­ton was recog­nised dur­ing the QPS South West Dis­trict awards cer­e­mony for his work in help­ing to crack the Cold­well mur­der cold case. Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Ian Ste­wart pre­sented Sgt Thorn­ton with the Dis­trict Of­fi­cer’s Cer­tifi­cate for his ded­i­ca­tion to the case.

OUT­BACK Sergeant Gerard Thorn­ton is an “un­sung hero” ac­cord­ing to Queens­land Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Ian Ste­wart.

He was one of 28 of­fi­cers from the south­west dis­trict hon­oured at an awards cer­e­mony in Roma on Wed­nes­day, with Com­mis­sioner Ste­wart say­ing the sergeant’s award “had been a long time com­ing”.

Sgt Thorn­ton, was sta­tioned in Mor­ven when Lainie Cold­well died af­ter fall­ing from a lad­der on Au­gust 23, 2009, but when he vis­ited the scene the fol­low­ing day he im­me­di­ately be­lieved “some­thing didn’t look right”.

Cold­well’s de­facto part­ner of 18 years, for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer Louis James Ma­hony, told emer­gency ser­vices he had been home at the time with their daugh­ter, and he be­lieved Ms Cold­well, 36, had fallen from a lad­der af­ter try­ing to re­move party lights, hit­ting her head on a rock.

How­ever Sgt Thorn­ton said the first thing that caught his eye was the an­gle of the lad­der, which had re­mained un­moved since the in­ci­dent.

“As soon as I saw the lad­der in the tree I knew no one could have climbed that lad­der,” he said.

“To con­vince peo­ple to see the same pic­ture as I had seen, that was the hard part, but I just knew with cer­tainty no-one could have climbed that lad­der.”

On fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it was dis­cov­ered that Ma­hony had taken out a $2.25 mil­lion life in­sur­ance pol­icy two months be­fore the ac­ci­dent.

With a small team and dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion, Sgt Thorn­ton was able to gather the ev­i­dence and state­ments re­quired to re­open the case in 2011.

Sub­se­quently, Mr Ma­hony was put on trial and found guilty of Ms Cold­well’s mur­der by a Toowoomba Supreme Court jury in Novem­ber last year.

Sgt Thorn­ton said he of­ten found his views on the case over­looked by his col­leagues, as he toiled for eight years to bring jus­tice.

“I vis­ited the scene the next day and it didn’t look right but I didn’t have a chance to have an­other go at it un­til two years later when I went to re­lieve the of­fi­cer in charge of the CIB and I dug the file back out,” Sgt Thorn­ton said.

“I worked on it alone for my first two years. Prob­a­bly the big­gest strug­gle was get­ting se­nior po­lice to see the same pic­ture I (saw) and it was a strug­gle, but it just had to keep go­ing and go­ing un­til you got it.”

Com­mis­sioner Ste­wart said Sgt Thorn­ton’s ac­tions had been ex­em­plary.

“It’s won­der­ful to be in Roma at this awards ser­vice recog­nis­ing all of these of­fi­cers, who have been in­volved in par­tic­u­lar events that have been recog­nised as out­stand­ing pieces of po­lice work,” Com­mis­sioner Ste­wart said.

“There is no bet­ter ex­am­ple of this than the story of Gerard Thorn­ton.

“I don’t think there is a finer thing an of­fi­cer can do than get clo­sure for some­one that no longer has a voice.”

Mr Ma­hony has lodged an ap­peal against his con­vic­tion, with the court date yet to be re­leased.

SER­VICE RECOG­NISED: Sgt Gerard Thorn­ton at the QPS south­west dis­trict awards cer­e­mony with his wife Lyn and daugh­ters Emma and Dan­nielle Thorn­ton.

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