‘I know what blast damage can do to a human’
WHEN a former top cop was murdered in a targeted car bomb attack, it was dubbed an act of "urban terrorism".
The bomb had been placed underneath his car and detonated remotely as he arrived home from a day at the races.
Australia had never seen anything like it before, and the grisly scene was one bomb technician Jodie Pearson could never forget.
It was a dark, rainy, night in early September 2001, and police were worried the evidence would get washed away.
"It's probably the kind of gruesome ones that are maybe the most memorable. But there were some jobs that I remember that were really difficult because they're in difficult locations or we really had to solve a puzzle to be able to achieve, but I suppose the most memorable where my kind of learning and my experience in my leadership kind of capabilities really took a leap was probably during the night of the car explosion".
The bomb killed former CIB chief Don Hancock and racing identity Lou Lewis.
Inspector Jodie Pearson spoke to News Corp Australia about becoming Australia's first female bomb technician for the new Police Tape podcast series, Blue Sirens.
In Blue Sirens, you will hear interviews with policewomen around the country - at the peak of their careers - including detectives who worked on Melbourne's gangland murders, the female cop referred to as "the gang buster", a Deputy Police Commissioner and an FBI-trained criminal profiler.
Listen to the podcast for Police Tape Blue Sirens below:
Inspector Pearson, a recipient of the prestigious Bev Lawson Memorial Award recognising woman who have been first in a law enforcement activity, revealed that when she arrived on the scene on the night of the car bombing, she only knew that one person had been killed.
"It was nerve-racking, but it was kind of surreal and exciting," she said.
"I had been to lots of suicides where there had been explosives used, some accidents. So I was aware of blast damage, what that can do to a human body. So I was kind of prepared for what I was going to see. But what I suppose I wasn't prepared for was the complexities of dealing with an investigation where there's potential other devices. And there's potentially suspects that are watching what we're doing, and that there's a real element of risk. So, that was the difference for me."
She didn't have the option to send in the bomb robot, because the site was too far away for radio communications.
So it was decided a bomb technician had to go in and do a physical clearance.
"I had to put the bomb suit on and go and clear this pathway," she said.
"I tried not to think about all those other external factors, the criminal element and the secondary devices. I just wanted to go and secure that evidence.
"When you get the bomb suit on, and you start to walk away from the command post, you're very sensory deprived. You've got limited vision to the side. So you've really only got a little small window at the front, your little face screen to see out of. You can't really move your head too much. You've got some battery-powered assistance to circulate air, and that makes a hum, and every time you take a breath in, the fan increases. So you breathe quite heavily because it's quite a heavy suit, and it's physically tiring.
"All I could hear was the sound of my own breath. As I got away from the command post, all I could see was the blue and red flashing lights and blinking and it was very surreal. So all you've got is your own thoughts. So that's when I really had to calm myself down and really use the training that I had received to break it down into what I needed to do. So firstly, I kind of needed to find a clearer pathway, so clear every way up to get this evidence. But as I turned around the corner, there was a big fence at the front. I could see something that … from a distance, I couldn't really make out what it was, but I suspected what it was. And as I kind of turned a corner, that's when I found a second body.
"I was terrified. Yeah, I really was. I mean, as I said, I'd seen blast damage to bodies. So I was prepared for that. But what you can't prepare yourself for is somebody has done this and that somebody is still out there. And are they watching you? So, in my mind, I was thinking, 'Oh God, they've already targeted a former policeman. Are they targeting me?' But you can't let that cripple you … There's so many people relying on your part of the whole investigation that you know your training, you know your equipment, you know your teammates, you have to rely on that to get you through. "
The police were worried there might be other bombs planted in cars or in surrounding homes.
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