Mervyn Henry Stevenson

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Mervyn Henry Stevenson
Born(1926-03-31)31 March 1926
Died(2001-12-16)16 December 2001
OccupationPolice officer
AwardsAustralian Stockman's Hall of Famer

Mervyn Henry Stevenson served as a Queensland police officer from 1947 until 1982. He started as a bush cop and ended up as the superintendent in charge of the Townsville Police District, though his retirement years were tainted with the spectre of corruption.[1][2]

Renowned bushman[edit]

Described as "the last of the corned beef and damper coppers", Stevenson made a name for himself as a horseman, cattleman and bushman.[3] He gained notoriety in 1950 at the northern township of Coen for tracking down on horseback a group of 12 Aborigines wanted for questioning over the murder of an indigenous police boy.[4] In 1965 he was promoted to detective sergeant and named officer-in-charge of the CIB stock squad based in Charters Towers.[5]

Corruption charges[edit]

Following his retirement, Stevenson's reputation was tarnished by the publication of a confidential police report prepared by Inspector John Huey, an investigator who would later head a special task force of the Fitzgerald Inquiry.[6] Huey's report was tabled in Queensland Parliament on 18 September 1984 by Opposition police spokesman, Mr. Wayne Goss.[7] Goss told Parliament police investigations into cattle stealing offences in north Queensland resulted in recommendations that charges be laid against Stevenson. The report also recommended the reopening of investigations into the suspicious suicide of Detective Sergeant Jack Connor at Mareeba and various drug-related matters because statements made by Stevenson indicated that he had not properly investigated these matters to the benefit of a fellow officer.[8]

Goss criticised Police Commissioner Terry Lewis (a man who was subsequently indicted and jailed for his role in various police corruption scandals that emerged a few years later during the Fitzgerald Inquiry) for vetoing the recommendations of the report.[9] He asked Parliament why the proposed charges against Stevenson were treated as "internal" charges requiring the approval of the commissioner before charges could be laid.

"In any other case involving any ordinary citizen, once the police officer forms the view that he has sufficient evidence to charge he goes ahead and charges the person and the matter comes before the court", Goss said. "Not so in this case. At the highest level a special procedure was directed and this resulted in no charges being laid".[10]

Stevenson lamented the accusations, saying: "In my time, I recovered stolen cattle worth more than $700,000. I was in more than 2000 criminal or quasi-criminal investigations. And right at the end of my career, here I am accused of being a cattle thief".[11]

Friends in high places[edit]

High-level supporters of Stevenson lauded his accomplishments. Assistant Commissioner Bill McArthur, a former stock squad officer himself, said: "I will say I wish there were more young Stevensons…in the police force today. They are excellent men and outstanding stock squad investigators…true blue horsemen, bushmen and stockmen".[12] McArthur subsequently removed Inspector Huey from the Stevenson investigation and, in 1989, during the Fitzgerald Inquiry, was questioned as to whether his friendship with Stevenson was the reason the investigation was halted.[13]

Inspector John Huey testified before the Fitzgerald Inquiry on 14 June 1989 that Stevenson had stopped another officer making a confession about the death of officer Jack Connor at Mareeba, adding that he had not included full details about Stevenson in his report because he believed that Stevenson "had friends in high places".[14]

Crooked Creek Cattle Company[edit]

The cattle duffing racket of north Queensland police was mentioned in the Australian House of Representatives in 2006 by the Federal Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter.[15] He referred to it as ‘the crooked creek cattle company’. He told parliament he had given evidence about it when he was a senior minister of the Queensland government. He also acknowledged the very courageous actions of ABC journalist Steve Austin, who exposed the situation.

Missing Person Link[edit]

In 1992 Townsville police published an identikit sketch of a person wanted for questioning in relation to the suspected murder of a young West Australian hitchhiker, Tony Jones, who disappeared without trace in 1982.[16] On the night of the disappearance, the suspect, believed to be involved in the cattle industry, was allegedly dining with Jones at the Rising Sun Hotel and planning to give him a lift to Charters Towers.[17] The Townsville Bulletin reported that the identikit sketch matched a "former policeman",[18] whose identity was subsequently confirmed during the 2002 coronial inquest into Jones's disappearance as being none other than Mervyn Henry Stevenson.[19][20][21]

Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame[edit]

Stevenson avoided prosecution and was eventually inducted into the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame in 2001.[22] He died of cancer on 16 December 2001 and was farewelled by a police guard of honour at his funeral in Townsville.[23]

External links[edit]

Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame http://ehive.com/account/3492/object/77960/Mervyn_Henry_STEVENSON_b_31st_March_1926_Mt_Morgan_QLD

References[edit]

  1. ^ Anderson, John, "Tough bush adversary", Townsville Bulletin, 22 December 2001.
  2. ^ Hansen, P, "Ex-policeman lashes out: confessions 'red hot'", Sunday Mail, 23 September 1984.
  3. ^ Anderson, John, "Tough bush adversary", Townsville Bulletin, 22 December 2001.
  4. ^ "Two natives charged with having murdered police boy", Cairns Post, 10 May 1950.
  5. ^ Anderson, John, "Tough bush adversary", Townsville Bulletin, 22 December 2001.
  6. ^ "Report by inspector", Courier Mail, 19 September 1984.
  7. ^ http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/documents/hansard/1984/1984_09_18.pdf.
  8. ^ Koch, A, "Policeman's death: report urges renewed investigation", Courier Mail, 19 September 1984.
  9. ^ Koch, A, "Policeman's death: report urges renewed investigation", Courier Mail, 19 September 1984.
  10. ^ Koch, A, "Policeman's death: report urges renewed investigation", Courier Mail, 19 September 1984.
  11. ^ Hansen, P, "Ex-policeman lashes out: confessions 'red hot'", Sunday Mail, 23 September 1984.
  12. ^ Hansen, P, "Ex-policeman lashes out: confessions 'red hot'", Sunday Mail, 23 September 1984.
  13. ^ "'Unethical' halt to investigation", Sydney Morning Herald, 15 June 1989, p.2.
  14. ^ "Death words stopped", Sydney Morning Herald, 14 June 1989, p.2.
  15. ^ http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansardr%2F2006-05-24%2F0095;query=Id%3Achamber%2Fhansardr%2F2006-05-24%2F0000
  16. ^ "Identikit issued after 10 years", Courier Mail, 2 November 1992.
  17. ^ "Identikit issued after 10 years", Courier Mail, 2 November 1992.
  18. ^ "Former policeman matches description", Townsville Bulletin, 4 November 1992.
  19. ^ ^ Transcripts of inquest into the cause and circumstances surrounding the death of Anthony John Jones", Townsville Coroner's Court, Ref. no. 20022002 T20/JOW M/T TSV6356.
  20. ^ Armistead, Jane, "Inquest into 30-year-old case gives hope", Townsville Bulletin, 3 November 2012.
  21. ^ Michael, Peter, "The bush copper and the missing hitchhiker,” The Courier Mail, 5 February 2016.
  22. ^ "Fitting farewell for bush policeman", Townsville Bulletin, 22 December 2001.
  23. ^ "Fitting farewell for bush policeman", Townsville Bulletin, 22 December 2001.