The Hunter’s most senior police are at odds over who ordered the search of whistleblower Peter Fox’s locked office in 2010.
Contradictory evidence has emerged before the Special Commission of Inquiry during the final week of examination into how Newcastle police dealt with allegations the church tried to cover up sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher – both now dead.
On Wednesday, Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Humphrey told the special commission that the then Commander Carlene York’s staff officer, Inspector Fay Dunn, requested the search of Chief Inspector Fox’s office.
Chief Inspector Humphrey said he had received a “panicked” call from Inspector Dunn, who had been asked “hard questions” by Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy.
He said Inspector Dunn wanted the files, that included victim statements, so she could brief Commander York.
But on Thursday, Inspector Dunn said she had no recollection of ordering any search.
“I certainly had no involvement in the search ... I had no authority to do so,” Inspector Dunn said.
She said she did receive a call from Ms McCarthy who requested comment about the church’s involvement in sexual abuse.
During her evidence in May, the now Assistant Commissioner York, said she had not requested the search of the whistleblower’s office while he was on leave.
The commission heard that the documents found in the search later formed a Strike Force Lantle, which Assistant Commissioner York assigned to Newcastle detectives.
Chief Inspector Humphrey, who oversaw the investigation, rejected suggestions there was any reluctance by investigators to confront senior members of the church over the allegations of child sex abuse.
Before wrapping up several hours of intense cross-examination by Chief Inspector Fox’s barrister Mark Cohen, Chief Inspector Humphrey said he was happy to take on the Catholic Church.
He denied claims the strike force had been abysmally managed by three of Lantle’s officers, who had all gone on sick leave.
“I was not happy with how it was handed [in] ... it needed organisation ... maybe I’m a bit linear,” Chief Inspector Humphrey said.
Detective Inspector Graeme Parker, who also took on management of the investigation, said Chief Inspector Fox had been “less than enthusiastic” about the investigation.
He said that despite Chief Inspector Fox’s claims that he had collected dozens of witness and clergy statements, Inspector Parker had never seen those documents despite having requested them numerous times.
“I don’t think [Chief Inspector Fox] was being co-operative at all,” Inspector Graeme Parker said.
“He is a senior detective; he is more than aware the documents are not his documents; they belong to the NSW Police Force.”
Senior members of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese will give evidence about the church’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations next week.