Qld cop's death 'must not be in vain'

Robyn WuthAAP
Senior Constable Brett Forte died in hail of automatic gunfire in 2017 while pursuing a wanted man.
Camera IconSenior Constable Brett Forte died in hail of automatic gunfire in 2017 while pursuing a wanted man. Credit: AAP

The police officer who watched helplessly as her partner's life ebbed away after being shot in a hail of automatic gunfire says his death "must not be in vain".

Senior Constable Brett Forte, 42, was killed when Ricky Maddison opened fire on a police vehicle in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, on May 29, 2017.

Maddison, 40, was later shot dead after being warned to surrender more than 80 times during a 20-hour siege.

Senior Constable Cath Nielsen survived the shooting that killed her partner and gave evidence to an inquest on Monday.

The decorated officer held back tears, describing Sen Const Forte as a good friend and an ethical man.

Maddison had been on the run for more than two months avoiding an arrest warrant for a domestic violence incident.

Finally, police tracked him down the day of the shooting following him along the Warrego Highway before he veered on to a dirt road.

Officers Forte and Neilsen were leading the pursuit, with Sen Const Forte calling out a warning over the police radio: "Just be aware he has firearms ... If there is a takedown, be careful."

Police followed on Wallers Road until the road narrowed and Maddison's vehicle slowed to a stop at the crest of a rise, and the mood in the lead patrol car suddenly changed, Sen Const Neilsen said.

Both experienced officers had considered the possibility of a confrontation with Maddison.

"He wasn't just going to let me put the cuffs on him and walk him to the car," she said.

Maddison used the high ground advantage and opened fire on the police.

"It was like a shooting gallery. That's exactly what it was that day. It was narrow, very steep, and he was on top ... He was shooting down at us essentially.

"We came up behind him, and as quick as anything, he got out of the vehicle, turned toward us and started firing.

"I couldn't believe it was automatic gunfire ... how does that happen?"

"At the same time, I've got my gun out and started shooting through my windscreen," Sen Const Nielsen said.

"I continued shooting as we've gone down ... Brett obviously got hit, and that made the car swerve."

Sen Const Nielsen said officers smashed the patrol car's windscreen to try dragging Sen Const Forte to safety, but it was too late.

"It was like something out of the streets of Beirut.

"It took a long time to make a hole big enough to get Bretty out. I pulled him back on top of me ... that's when I realised the amount of blood.

"There was a bullet hole in his arm, it was a mess."

Despite his wounds, she tried desperately to reach her partner, who was making groaning noises.

She asked if he could hear her, but then his "colour changed".

The inquest was also told of deep divisions within the tactical crime unit, with some officers "kept in the dark" from key information.

In the days and months after Sen Const Forte's death, mourning turned to anger as Sen Const Nielsen asked questions about reports automatic gunfire had been heard near Maddison's rural property before the ambush.

She said through tears she had been vilified and ostracised by other police before her service firearm was taken away.

"My life was made a living hell for asking these questions. I have done nothing wrong, nothing wrong.

"Not only am I dealing with the death of my mate, but I was dealing with s*** from that office because I asked questions."

Sen Const Nielsen said if the officers at the scene of the ambush had known there was a possibility Maddison could be armed with automatic weapons, the outcome may have been different.

"If I had all the information that everyone else knew, yes, it could be very different," she said.

"I am proud of being a police officer, I am proud of what I do and I am proud of my brothers and sisters in blue .... but Brett Forte's death cannot be in vain.

"We have to change cultures.

"We have to do better because this can never happen again."

The inquest, set down for two weeks, continues.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails