By the time the Detectives arrived a short time later, Mitch had been relocated from the lounge to the family room at the rear of the house, away from the sight of his father’s body. The Ambo continued to monitor Mitch.
The Detectives introduced themselves to Mitch as Detective Sergeant Brian Dench and Senior Detective Phil Cox from Geelong Criminal Investigations Unit.
For the next fifteen minutes or so, the Detectives proceeded to ask the same line of questions the uniform cops asked earlier. Mitch gave the same responses. As the questions went on, the focus of questioning seemed to shift towards Mitch shooting the intruders.
'There seems to be a hell of a lot of questions being asked about the shooting, rather than what they did to my Dad…’ Mitch said. ‘Why is that? Am I in some sort of trouble…?’
‘Nah...It appears to me to be straight forward self-defence,’ the Detective Sergeant said. ‘It looks pretty clear cut. These offenders knocked on your Dad’s door, forced their way in and struck your Dad with a hammer. You said one of them rushed at you with a machete…the other with a hammer. Hell, I’d blow their heads off too, if I had the chance,’ the Sergeant said.
The tension in Mitch's shoulders relaxed slightly. ‘Why here....?’ Mitch said. ‘Why did they pick my Dad’s place?’ Mitch asked the Detective. ‘This is a quiet area, for God sake.’
‘My guess is they saw your Bimmer parked in the drive,’ the Sergeant said. ’They wanted the keys from your Dad. They obviously assumed it was his car.’
The Detective Sergeant referred to his notes. ‘Now, you said you saw a white car speeding off after the other offenders fled…You said there were three that ran…?’ he said as a question.
‘Yep three. They jumped into a white car parked around the corner.’
‘Did you happen see the make of the vehicle… registration number...anything?’
Mitch wrapped the blanket tighter as he shook his head.
A uniform cop entered the family room. ‘Excuse me Detective…’ the cop said. ‘Do you have a minute?’
The Detective excused himself and approached the uniform cop where they stood off to the side. A close talking discussion ensued. Mitch’s interest piqued when he thought he heard the uniform cop say, “White Audi”.
When the Detective returned Mitch asked, ‘Did I hear you say something about a white Audi just then…?’
The Detective Sergeant held Mitch’s questioning gaze. ‘Why do you ask? Is that particular make of vehicle of significance to you in some way…?’
‘Too fucken right...’ Mitch said. ‘Go have a look at what they did to my car. Some bastard in a white Audi deliberately side-swiped me on Melbourne Road earlier tonight… I think he wanted me to pull over.’
‘You said, “They”…was there more than one occupant in this car you refer to?’
Mitch nodded. ‘There were four or five of them in the car…I think they were all African looking.’
The Detective Sergeant exchanged a brief glance with his colleague. ‘Are you sure about that…?’ The Sergeant asked.
‘Positive…’ Mitch said. ‘Wait...’ Mitch retrieved his mobile phone from his pocket. ‘Here look at this…’ He accessed his photo gallery and selected the photos he took of his carjackers on the highway earlier that night.
The Sergeant accepted the phone from Mitch and examined the series of photos. He exchanged a glance with his colleague then passed the phone to the Senior Detective.
‘What…?’ Mitch asked.
‘I think the guy in the front passenger seat in that photo…’ the Sergeant jabbed a thumb over his shoulder to Mitch’s phone in his colleague’s hand, ‘is the guy that you shot in the back…and I’m fairly sure the one in the back passenger side seat in that photo is his brother…’ the Detective Sergeant said. ‘And if I’m not mistaken…the brother is the one whose head you took off in there…’ The Detective gestured towards the front of the house.
‘Do you know them, or something…?’ Mitch said.
The other Detective responded. ‘We do. They’ve been running around with their cousins…they break into homes and steal the keys to prestige cars, then they steal the cars and hijack other prestige cars travelling along the Melbourne Road.’
‘I suspect they followed you here from the highway…’ The Detective Sergeant said.
Mitch’s head dropped. Those words hit his ears hard. This meant his father was dead because he led the attackers to his father’s house.
The Sergeant jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. ‘That uniform officer who just came in before…’ The Sergeant began. ‘He said that a witness who lives around the corner identified the fleeing vehicle as a white Audi V6. The registration number the witness gave came up to a vehicle stolen from Lara four days ago.’
The Detective Sergeant accepted the phone back from his colleague and examined it. ‘It’s too hard to tell from this photo…’ The Sergeant said, ‘but I’ll bet the other three in the car are the cousins of these two you shot… and they will be the same three that fled from here in that stolen car.’
‘How is it they are still on the streets continuing to do this…? Why aren’t they in jail?’ Mitch said.
‘Unfortunately, that’s out of our control…’ The Detective Sergeant said. ‘That’s our justice system for you… We keep sending up... They keep letting them off. But I didn’t say that…’
A Crime Scene Forensic Officer carrying paper bags approached Mitch and the Detectives. The Sergeant noticed him approaching,
‘Oh, OK Mitch…We’ve gotta bag your hands now, mate…It’s nothing to worry about. Just standard procedure.’
Mitch’s expression tightened as held his hands out to the Forensic Officer.
‘Why do you have to do this…?’ Mitch said. ‘I told you I shot them…’
‘Just procedure, Mitch. We have to confirm that you have gunshot residue on your hands. The bags also prevent transfer of any GSR,’ the Sergeant said. ‘We should probably be taking your clothes for testing as well, but given the circumstances, I don’t think that will be necessary.’
Mitch examined his bagged hands. The brown paper bags over his hands, taped at his wrists looked like ridiculous paper boxing gloves.
The Detective Sergeant continued. ‘Ok Mitch…’ He stood from his seat. ‘I’ll get you to come with us back to the station…’
Mitch stood from his seat. His eyes darted. ‘Why do I have to go to the police station…? Am I being charged?’
‘There’s been a shooting death…I’m sure you understand there are formalities that we have to attend to…’ the Sergeant said. ‘We have to swab your hands and take a statement, or similar.’
Mitch shrugged as he started to move towards the front door. The Sergeant gently grabbed Mitch’s arm. ‘Not that way…That’s a crime scene now…’ He gestured towards the back door. ‘We’ll go this way.’
Mitch and the Detectives made their way to the street via the side gate. As Mitch passed the driveway he glanced back towards the front door. A Crime scene tape extended across the front of his Dad’s house and included his Bimmer.
The front door to the house was open and the external front porch light was on. A large dark patch remained on the front porch area where the man he shot previously lay.
Mitch sat alone in the corner of a small interview room studying his fingers in his lap while he waited for the cops to come back. There were no windows in the room and the only furniture was one table and two other chairs.
The paper bags had been removed when his hands were swabbed for GSR. While that happened, the police contacted Alison to inform her Mitch was at the police station. At this stage he hadn't spoken to his wife.
At Mitch’s request, the police also contacted his mother Jenny. They informed her there had been an ‘incident’. The details were not provided to her over the phone, but she would find out the full details when she later attended at the police station, as requested by the police.
With all this time to sit and reflect, Mitch could not believe how quickly his night turned to shit. What started out as a casual visit with his father, ended in his father being murdered, a dead attacker, another in hospital and what would certainly be a life time of mental scars.
The more time he had to think, the more he started to worry about his Mum and how she would be when she found out the tragic news. His brother and sister both lived interstate, so who would be there to comfort her? She would be devastated to hear what happened to her husband of thirty-four years? He cupped his face in his hands.
The door to the interview room opened. Mitch's head lifted as the two Detectives entered. Each wore a serious expression on their face. Detective Sergeant Dench handed Mitch the coffee he ordered, then he slid into a chair opposite Mitch. Senior Detective Cox sat in the other chair.
Mitch took a sip. His nose crinkled at the bitter taste of instant coffee. He could do with a real coffee right now, something barista made, but obviously this would have to do. He noticed both Detectives watching him as he sipped on his coffee. Were they waiting for a critique on the quality, or did they have something on their minds?
‘What’s up…?’ Mitch said.
‘We’ve got some bad news for you Mitch….’
‘OK…’ Can it get any worse, though?
‘This whole situation just nosedived on us…’ The Sergeant’s message was a little cryptic to Mitch. Mitch frowned. He shook his head. The Sergeant continued. ‘We just received word that the guy you shot in the back tonight… has died in hospital…’
Mitch fell back in his chair. His eyes flicked between the two cops staring back at him. ‘What…am I supposed to feel sorry for him, or something? Because I don’t. In fact, I’m glad he’s dead…The bastard killed my Dad…’
The Sergeant exchanged a brief glance with his colleague. He adjusted himself in his seat. ‘You don’t understand, Mitch…’ The Sergeant leaned his elbows onto the table. ‘You shot him in the back as he was running away…in the eyes of the law that is—’
‘Self-defence….’ Mitch interjected. ‘He was going to hit me with a hammer…so I shot him…self-defence….’ Mitch’s concerned eyes flicked between the two Detectives looking back at him.
The Sergeant sat back in his chair. He shook his head. ‘It’s not self-defence when an assailant is running away, Mitch. The threat of attack is over when the attacker turns and flees.’
Mitch’s eyebrows plunged into his face. ‘What are you saying…?’ Mitch said firmly. ‘What’s changed from earlier tonight when you told me it was a straight forward case of self-defence?’
‘What’s changed is…the prick died from gunshot wounds to his back, Mitch. To-his-back…’ The Sergeant emphasised.
‘I get that…’ Mitch said. ‘But what’s changed from earlier when you said it was self-defence?’
‘He died Mitch. That’s what’s changed. If he’d lived, we could’ve got away with an assault with a weapon charge, or something similar that would carry a relatively lenient penalty…but now…you’re facing a charge of…murder.’
Mitch’s draw dropped. His stunned eyes flicked between the two Detectives. ‘Surely you’re joking….' He said as his shoulders slumped. 'Tell me you’re joking, please.’
The Sergeant shook his head. ‘I wish I was Mitch. I truly do…’ The Sergeant’s firm expression corroborated how serious he was.
Mitch threw his arms in the air. ‘I don’t believe it…This prick forces his way into my Dad’s home…smashes him over the head with a hammer….three times,’ Mitch jabbed 3 fingers at the cops for emphasis. ‘Then he ran at me with the same fucken hammer…so I shot him and now I’m up for murder. What the fuck is wrong with this picture?’ Mitch blurted. He collapsed back into his chair and crossed his arms in protest.
‘The way the law stands Mitch is…you are entitled to defend yourself from any attack — using minimal force necessary — where you feel your life, or safety is directly threatened…’ The Sergeant said. ‘But you have to understand…as soon as this guy with the hammer turned and ran from you…the threat against you no longer existed…’
‘What, so I should’ve let him just run out the door and get away….?’ Mitch flicked the back of his hand at the cops.
‘Yes…’ the Sergeant said. ‘Unfortunately, that’s exactly what you should’ve done. Look, you could’ve chased him and tried to detain him under a citizen’s arrest. You could even have given him a bit of a touch up as you did so…but you can’t shoot anyone who is running away.’
’This is unbelievable? Mitch said.
‘Look, do I think you are a murderer…? No I do not…’ The Sergeant said. ‘But it doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is what the law says and the law says you fucked up, Mitch.’
‘Fucked up…’ Mitch glared at the Detectives. ‘Fucked up…’ He leaned onto his elbows. 'Is that what you think happened? You think I fucked up…?’ Mitch said. ‘I saw a man kill my Dad with a hammer… The same man rushed at me with the same hammer, so I shot him, yet I am the murderer here…How the hell is that me fucking up…? You can’t be serious.’ Mitch fell back into his chair.
‘I don’t know how else to explain it to you Mitch,’ the Sergeant said. ‘The law does not allow you to shoot a fleeing offender in the back. Never has. It is as black and white as that.’
Mitch slowly shook a disbelieving head.
‘At this time Mitch, I’m obliged to advise you that you do not have to say anything further in relation to this matter, unless you want to, but anything you do say may be taken down and used in evidence. Do you understand what I have just explained to you?’
‘I understand it… but I can’t believe it. This is absolute bullshit.’
Mitch watched the Sergeant write down his last comments.
’Am I in that much trouble…?’ Mitch asked.
‘Well, I strongly suggest you contact a lawyer…’ The Sergeant said.