A Queensland police officer who was ambushed and murdered by a crazed gunman just over a month ago used his body to shield his partner in the final moments of his life.
Senior Constable Brett Forte died a hero, saving the life of his colleague, Senior Constable Cath Nielsen, from a barrage of machine gun bullets fired by a small-time thug on the run from the law.
Rick ‘Mad Dog’ Maddison lured the officers on a police chase down a remote road in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley before he suddenly stopped his vehicle and opened fire.
Brett's father Stuart Forte revealed to Sunday Night's Steve Pennells that he'd been told his son had deliberately put himself in front of Senior Constable Nielsen.
“[Cath] said that he leant across in front of her, and that she should have been shot and not him,” Stuart said.
“I think he pushed her out of the way, covered her a little bit at the same time as he was reversing out of there and I don’t think he even thought about it, I think it was just an instant reaction.”
Brett was shot in the chest, but despite his injuries he managed to slam his car in reverse, saving his partner’s life in the process.
Maddison was on the run from police over a series of vicious assaults on his ex-girlfriend. She was interviewed by Sunday Night under the name Sarah*, and revealed the extent of the abuse she received from Maddison.
“He was adamant that I was having an affair. He ended up head butting me, and splitting the ridge across my nose and giving me two black eyes on that first time,” Sarah said.
“It turned out that he broke three of my ribs.”
Sarah recalled another incident when she was lying on her bed to ease pressure off her broken ribs when Maddison approached her with a knife.
“He dragged the knife across my throat and pushed the blade at my nose and then just kept stabbing the top of the bed head right above my head and right next to my face.”
Eighteen months later, Sarah had cut ties with Maddison. But after another violent run-in with him, she decided to press charges.
Sarah was put in contact with an officer who specialises in domestic violence, Senior Constable Susan Forte - Brett Forte's wife.
In a tragic coincidence, while Susan was giving support to Sarah, Brett Forte was in pursuit of Maddison. The fugitive opened fire on police - hitting the Senior Constable in the chest and taking his life.
“If it wasn’t for me and this warrant, then that would have never happened and there would still be a police officer and a family man there to go home to,” Sarah said.
“And I do feel that it was because of me.”
Five thousand mourners attended Brett’s funeral three weeks ago. Four thousand of them were serving police.
“Susie, my wife and I, we’ll never forget that,” said Stuart Forte, who is a retired police officer.
“I'm just so proud. Just so proud. My father was a police officer and everything and I know how proud he would have been as well. It's just pride... Pride. it could have been any police officer, it was, just, he was unlucky on that day.”
*Not her real name