BRAVERY: Senior Constable Catherine Nielsen, Senior Constable Scott Hill, Senior Constable Stephen Barlow and Constable Brittany Poulton received the Valour Award.
BRAVERY: Senior Constable Catherine Nielsen, Senior Constable Scott Hill, Senior Constable Stephen Barlow and Constable Brittany Poulton received the Valour Award. Bev Lacey

Twist of fate brings old friends together on fateful day

IT was an unusual twist of fate that brought Gatton Senior Constable Stephen Barlow, Senior Constable Brett Forte and Sergeant Glen Thomas together during the events of May 29.

The trio came through the academy in the same class and were thrust into each other's path once again as they tracked a car driven by Ricky Maddison on the Warrego Hwy, with all three pursing the gunman in separate vehicles.

They were led to Wallers Rd in Adare where the officers were greeted by a barrage of automatic gun fire.

Snr Const Forte was shot twice and became trapped in his rolled vehicle, prompting calls for back-up from his partner Senior Constable Catherine Nielsen.

They were met by Snr Const Barlow, who was accompanied by Senior Constable Scott Hill and fellow Gatton Constable Brittany Poulton.

Together they managed to free their comrade while still under fire and rush him away from the scene, where he would later die of his injuries.

For their tremendous show of bravery, the four officers received the Queensland Police Service's highest honour, the Valour Award, at the end of September.

Speaking this week on his return to duty after a visit to the National Police Memorial in Canberra, Snr Const Barlow said it was a bittersweet moment.

"I didn't quite realise just how significant that award was when they said I was getting it, I just brushed it off, and I still brush it off,” Snr Const Barlow said.

"As far as I'm concerned, I was working that day, it happened when I was on shift, I would expect any police officer to have done the same thing had they been in my position.”

They were invited by Snr Const Forte's wife Susie to join her in Canberra last week.

"It was very touching. It bought back a lot of memories of what had occurred,” he said.

"It shows what a close-knit brotherhood the police service are and the support you receive from that.”

Snr Const Barlow remembers his mate, who worked regularly in the Lockyer Valley as a part of the Toowoomba Tactical Crime Squad's duties in the region, as a very popular figure among his peers.

"Brett was a character, the classroom character at the academy,” he said.

"He was very proud of his father, he came from a policing background. His father was a motorcycle police officer, he aspired to that... his main aim in life was to become a motorcycle police officer like his dad.”

While injury and death are part and parcel of the job, Snr Const Barlow said the loss of a close friend and colleague had hit him hard.

"I won't say as police we become complacent because we do regular training however it definitely makes you think,” he said.

"We go to incidents all the time where people are hurt, traffic crashes or whatever, we go to deaths quite often, where people just die from whatever reason.

"When it's one of your own, it is different, it definitely makes you think of the dangers within the job... (I'm) definitely more cautious after it, there's no doubt about it.”

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