CITY DIVIDED: Aftermath of murder reveals NSW Police at war with itself & community it has let down before

Headshot of Sarah Blake
Sarah Blake
The Nightly
8 Min Read
Credit: Supplied

Five days after handing himself in to his former colleagues, accused double murderer Beau Lamarre-Condon finally answered the question that was frustrating homicide detectives and adding to the agony of the loved-ones of missing Sydney couple Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

After retaining a lawyer, Lamarre-Condon at 11am, Tuesday, pointed homicide detectives to a rural property south of Sydney. Two hours later, the popular young men’s remains were found in surfboard bags covered in debris, at Bungonia, near Goulburn, about 185km from where they were killed at Paddington in inner Sydney last Monday.

Police allege the “horrendous and horrific murders” came after Lamarre-Condon, a 29-year-old, celebrity-obsessed part time actor and senior constable, had stalked and harassed Baird, with whom he had a brief relationship.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

They say he used his service handgun - a glock pistol - to kill the couple before transporting their bodies in a rented white van to one property in Bungonia before moving them to where they were found.

“We are very confident that we have located Luke and Jesse,” NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb told a press conference.

“This information did come with the assistance of the accused, for which we are grateful.”

The families of Baird and Davies, who had travelled from interstate and had been staying in Sydney hotels while the search spooled north to Newcastle and south to Sydney’s Royal National Park and then Goulburn, were making their way to retrieve the bodies on Tuesday afternoon.

Luke Davies and Jesse Baird
Luke Davies and Jesse Baird. Credit: Facebook/Facebook

The discovery was announced at the end of a head-spinning day that finally brought small relief to the Davies and Baird families, who have been tormented during the past four days of roiling headlines and political intrigue.

But even as there were some answers in the double murder that has transfixed Australia, many questions remain.

These questions include the identity of a woman who police say travelled with Lamarre-Condon to Goulburn in a van after the killings but was not involved, how Lamarre-Condon was able to access his police gun, his fitness to serve as a police officer after a controversial tasering incident and how neighbours in the Paddington street where the killings took place didn’t report hearing any gunshots.

There is also serious conjecture about the future of the state’s top cop amid the fallout from the killings.

POWER PLAY

There’s quiet power and full-throated power in Sydney, and NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb is facing a potent combination of the two as calls mount for her resignation.

Ms Webb has been slammed for what her detractors call a flat-footed response over the past week in the search for Baird, 26, and Davies, 29. This included waiting three days to front the media and awkward verbal missteps such as a silly spat with TV reporter on the weekend, labelling the murders a “crime of passion” and quoting Taylor Swift to deflect from criticism.

None of it has been slick, but the criticism is nothing new for the under-fire Webb who has been battling a smear campaign since assuming the top job in February 2022. It also came after public blunders during past high profile investigations, including being accused of initially trying to hide for 36 hours the fact that police had used a taser on 95-year-old nursing home resident Clare Nowland, who later died, in May 2023.

Ms Webb also drew the public’s ire after attending an International Women’s Day event at a Maserati dealership in where her husband worked at Alexandria in Sydney’s inner south as floods engulfed parts of southwestern Sydney in March 2022.

She defended attending the event, a fundraiser for Police Legacy to which she was invited by one of her husband’s contacts.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb addresses media during a press conference.
NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb addresses media during a press conference. Credit: DAN HIMBRECHTS/AAPIMAGE

The first female police commissioner in NSW, Ms Webb has from day one battled a whispering campaign from former and serving officers that she was former premier Dominic Perrottet’s “captain’s pick”. Put in place over the popular former deputy police commissioner Mick Willing, her appointment was often questioned, with some surmising that she had been chosen in a nod to the loss of departed premier Gladys Berejiklian, who Perrottet replaced in October 2021.

There is no proof or suggestion by The Nightly that this was the case.

“She’s only there because they wanted a woman … Not the top candidate.” These are the common criticisms of the 54-year-old in charge of almost 20,000 staff with a $5.3 billion budget.

But what looks different this time is the full talkback radio and Sydney media chorus assembled against her, with even the formerly supportive Ray Hadley using his 2GB platform on Monday to call for her head after the “incapable” Ms Webb handed over most of a press conference updating on the search for the missing couple to Deputy Commissioner Dave Hudson.

As one veteran NSW political operative said on Tuesday morning, referring to a series of negative stories about Ms Webb: “God help you when you’ve got Hadley, (Ben) Fordham, the (Daily) Telegraph and the (Sydney Morning) Herald in lockstep against you”.

A high-placed media figure said there was “blood in the water” and that Ms Webb was on a “slippery slope”.

“Hadley’s a very well-versed student of the NSW police force and when he makes a call to that effect the government has a real problem on their hands,” they said.

And that was before Ms Webb’s ill-fated appearance on Seven’s Sunrise this morning, where not only did she refer to a Taylor Swift song to deflect criticism, but after which it was reported she was so keen to avoid a waiting news crew that she wouldn’t leave the studio.

“There will always be haters. Haters like to hate. Isn’t that what Taylor says?” Ms Webb told stunned host Natalie Barr.

“I have a job to do. It is a big job. This is just one of many. We actually had seven murders last week.

“We had a triple murder out at Parramatta and we’ve had others.

“This, though, of course, is a complex matter. All we need to do now is find Jesse and Luke so their families know where they are. That’s my priority.”

Ms Webb’s spokesperson said the delay leaving Sunrise was because the Commissioner didn’t have time to stop for media when she was due to meet the Mardi Gras board in an effort to convince them to lift their ban on police officers marching this weekend.

Premier Chris Minns is insisting that Ms Webb “absolutely” retains his support, but there is no doubt her opponents are more emboldened now than at any other period of her two-year tenure.

KILLING SEASON

“For a long time people said ‘you’ve got to give her a break, she’s still got the training wheels on,” says one former senior detective.

“But it’s clear now that the training wheels aren’t ever coming off.

“And it doesn’t matter that crime figures at the moment for NSW are actually good. What matters is the police commissioner being able to convince the people of NSW that they are safe, that grannies don’t have to be fearful in their cul de sacs. And at the moment that’s not the case.”

Former homicide detective Duncan McNab said many in the force now considered Ms Webb’s leadership on its last legs.

“I think she can survive it but she needs to dramatically turn herself around and start being a leader,” he said.

“Karen Webb’s entire tenure has been marked by the public justifiably questioning her ability to lead the police force.

“Unfortunately she doesn’t have the confidence of the police force and you have to have it in order to lead them.”

BIG TUESDAY

As the search for Baird and Davies continued, a new thread in this quintessentially Sydney story unwound when The Daily Telegraph reported that the organisers of this weekend’s Mardi Gras parade had asked police not to attend. The Sydney Mardi Gras board late on Monday night said the alleged murders by a serving police officer had devastated the LGBT community.

A spokesperson said a police presence at this year’s march could “intensify the current feelings of sorrow and distress” left by the tragedy and said the board had asked NSW Police to withdraw.

“This decision allows space for the community to heal this year and acknowledges the profound grief and strain that we are enduring,” said the spokesperson.

“This is an opportunity to pause and reflect. NSW Police have been notified, and while disappointed, understand the board’s decision and the board are meeting with the police to discuss further.”

A file photo of Lamarre
Beaumont Lamarre-Condon at the 2020 Mardi Gras parade. Credit: AAP

On Tuesday morning, a crisis meeting between Mardi Gras organisers and police leadership - including Ms Webb and Police Minister Yasmin Catley - was understood to have reached potential compromise that would had allow participating officers to march out of uniform.

“We had a really respectful conversation with the group up there,” Ms Catley told reporters after the meeting.

“We’re going to continue to keep talking. It’s a confidential meeting, and I’m keeping it confidential.

“But it was a really positive meeting and very respectful.”

Ms Webb said she remained hopeful some kind of rapprochement with the Mardi Gras could be reached.

HARD ASK

At their press conference on Tuesday announcing the tragic discovery of the bodies, police were grave and the impact of the past week was clear on their drawn faces.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald looked exhausted when he reflected on how hard it had been for the entire force to be investigating one of their own at a time of “unprecedented public interest”.

He said the development “may bring some solace. I know this will be heartbreaking”.

“We sadly as a society have these domestic violence incidents that occur in our world and we have to deal with them,” he said.

“It has hurt us because it was one of our own officers who was involved in this.”

Helen Baird (left) with murder victim Jesse Baird
Helen Baird (left) with her son Jesse Baird. Credit: Facebook/Facebook

For her part, Ms Webb said she was “very relieved” after having been in close contact with the Baird and Davies families, whose grief she has been at pains to keep referring to in her public appeals over the past couple of days.

“I’ve spoke to the families. They’ve arrived from interstate and they’ve been waiting for news,” she said.

“Each day, each hour was an agonising wait.

“We’ve been working around the clock on this for the families to find Luke and Jesse and I’m pleased we’ve found them.”

She said she hoped the discovery would bring them peace.

“Parents want to know where their children are,” she said.

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 19-04-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 19 April 202419 April 2024

World on edge as Israel hits Iran in missile strike.