HARDEST OF DAYS: A former police officer recalls one of the toughest scenes he had to face.
HARDEST OF DAYS: A former police officer recalls one of the toughest scenes he had to face. File

The unthinkable tragedy a Warwick man will never forget

WHEN I started in the police force back in the 1980s I knew I was going to confront stuff that would be brutal and hard to deal with.

Stuff that would challenge me mentally. Lots of it.

Death and destruction on our roadways.

People being violent to each other. Innocent people being harmed.

Sadness and tragedy. Way, way too much of it.

One such thing happened in the mid 1990s when I was a detective south of Brisbane. It was a tough beat.

I saw some of the worst ways people treated their fellow humans whilst I was stationed there.

This day, it was a newborn baby. Born as healthy and perfect as any baby could be.

But this one was dead.

It wasn't wrapped in a blanket, or flannel or one of those lovely little Bonds "Wonder-suits" like my first-born little man was in, at home at that exact time.

This bubby was in the dirt hastily covered with branches. Abandoned with the placenta still attached. A shocking and tragic scene.

It wasn't the perfect little corpse of the newborn that shocks me now. Or the other little ones, bereft of life that I saw over my career.

Even though it was terrible at the time.

What still hurts, even now, was the tragic circumstances that the wee babe had come into the world. The mother was a child herself, a schoolgirl. Thirteen or so years old.

She'd become pregnant in the same manner as others have since time immemorial and ever since. A "mistake" perhaps. An unfortunate bump in her life's path? Depends who you talk to.

In my book, certainly not a thing to end in such a way.

The poor girl lived in a "regular" two-parent family.

In the suburbs with brothers and sisters.

She chose to conceal her condition and managed to do so through various ruses and carry the baby to full term.

The day eventually came when the baby decided it was going to be born. To start with in her bedroom, a thin wall away from her sleeping parents and then eventually in the bush behind the family home. Sadly, the baby had subsequently passed as she tried to keep the poor thing quiet.

It wasn't until my kids started to become teenagers that the tragedy of the entire event triggered something in me that reminded me of it. It hit me hard. Years spent doing that job does that to people.

It left me questioning my parenting style.

How does a family exist, where a child, barely even a teenager, is unable to talk to their parents about such a serious matter?

How can that "divide" be so great that it was better to see a newborn baby die, rather than solve the problem another way?

What "punishment" was she so afraid of that she would choose to conceal the impossible rather than find help in the arms of her family?

What type of environment did that girl exist in?

Why didn't she have someone that she could trust to help her?

And what were the consequences for the family down the track after we had dealt with all the legal side of things?

I've told that story to all my children as they've come of the age to understand.

I can't help but cry as I tell it. I'm sure it would rip a family apart and create an unfixable divide.

I'm sure this story has been repeated and will be again. And as Melinda and I struggle with raising healthy, inquisitive and often rebellious teenagers, we just do what we can to keep the lines of communication open. It's hard sometimes, but we all need to keep talking.

Andrew Gale



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