Senior constable Douglas Eaton

By Greg Piper
Category: Local Legends

Each September we pause to remember and pay tribute to the police men and women who have been killed on duty while serving to protect our local communities. Since the inception of Police Remembrance Day 254 members of the NSW Police Force have died on the front line protecting our values and our way of life. I recently had the privilege of attending a ceremony at Toronto Country Club where a plaque was unveiled to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of an event that still holds strong in the memories of many in my community.

Late in the evening of 30 April 1977 Senior Constable Doug Eaton and Senior Constable Edward Gill were called to a silent intruder alarm at the country club, which is located in a quiet and isolated part of Kilaben Bay. While they were making external checks of the building they were ambushed by three armed men who had broken into the club. Senior Constable Eaton was killed by one of the gunmen and Senior Constable Gill was seriously wounded. The club was an old fibro clubhouse that had been popular with the locals, but its isolated location had made it a regular target for thieves. On this night 41-year-old Nikola Glesic and his sons Wally and Danny had broken into the clubhouse and were about to leave with a few bottles of scotch, a bottle of wine and a few bags of potato chips when the senior constables arrived. They fired at the officers from behind nearby bushland.

Senior Constable Eaton was just 36 years old when he died, leaving behind his wife, Judy, and young children Sharon and Michael. Senior Constable Gill later recovered from serious wounds. What followed was an extraordinary show of community strength, yet more grief was to come. Three days later, in a bitter irony, Cessnock officers Senior Constable Alan Thompson and Senior Constable Ray Scorer were killed in a car accident while returning to their station after the funeral of their colleague. Senior Constable Eaton was very well known and highly regarded in the area, having lived and served locally for the previous 13 years. The community, shocked and angry, established a memorial appeal for the Eaton children.

Sergeant Joe Hinton, who ran Toronto police station at the time, said he had never seen anything like it. He recalled people streaming into the station to donate whatever they could afford to make sure the Eaton children were able to continue with their education. He recalled, "One chap who had been arrested and charged by Senior Constable Eaton weeks prior sent a card to the station expressing his sadness at Doug's death and saying how courteous Doug had been the night he was charged. He also sent a $50 donation." About $24,000 was raised in the area, while a further $27,000 was sent from all over Australia to police headquarters in Sydney. It was an extraordinary gesture.

"He was a special type of fellow, and an outstanding policeman, exemplary husband, father and community man," Sergeant Hinton said. Those qualities live on through his wife, Judy, and through Sharon and Michael. Michael is now a police sergeant working general duties in the Coffs-Clarence Local Area Command. I have known Judy for many years now. She is a stalwart member of Morisset Lions Club and is involved in many community activities. She is held in very high esteem by those who know her but without a doubt she still carries the scars of that horrible night 40 years ago. I am certain Doug would be very proud of his wife and children.

Senior Constable Eaton was posthumously recognised with a Queen's Police Medal. Last month's commemoration included the unveiling of a plaque at Toronto Country Club which will forever preserve his memory, as well as his dedication to the local community. The service was organised by local area commander Superintendent Brett Greentree, who was joined by the Acting Deputy Commissioner of Field Operations for the NSW Police Force, Jeff Loy, and most significantly the Minister for Police, Troy Grant, who is in the Chamber this evening. I should also point out that the Minister joined me at Morisset late last year to open a new police station in my electorate. He will be back in the electorate in the coming weeks to officially open the new station at Toronto, which includes a training room that will be named in honour of Senior Constable Doug Eaton.

The Minister is always welcome in the electorate of Lake Macquarie, and I thank him for his and the Government's interest in providing better facilities and general support for our police in Lake Macquarie. Police work is all too often dangerous, and protecting our community requires a constant vigil. While I acknowledge senior constables Eaton, Gill, Thompson and Scorer today, I also acknowledge all those men and women who serve every day to keep our communities safe.