One of the region’s leading police officers says he’ll be happy to see the back of 2018.
Detective Sergeant Justin Marks has led some of the biggest local police investigations of last year. His feelings reflect the intensity of some of those jobs and the impact these crimes and incidents have had on his community.
Marks was a finalist in the recent Rotary Clubs of NSW, Police Officer of the Year Awards. Representing the South Coast Police District, the police officer of 24 years was one of three finalists in the Regional NSW Field Operations category.
Inspector David Maher from Orana Mid-Western Police District took the gong and Marks was the first to congratulate him.
After wrapping the case of high-profile child sex offender, Maurice Van Ryn in 2015, Marks found himself investigating fresh allegations this year against the former Bega Cheese executive, matters that are currently before the court.
The Tathra Bushfires of March 18 presented a unique challenge for the Bega-based officer, switching between his duties as a retained firefighter with Fire & Rescue NSW Bega and a police detective having to investigate the cause and circumstance of the blaze that destroyed 65 homes.
On top of that, Marks and his police comrades found themselves responding to the alleged murder of one of their own, as well as a local grandmother.
Twenty-year-old Murray Deakin is due to face court again later this month facing double murder charges.
The investigation led by Detective Sergeant Marks, suggests that at about 3:30 pm on Friday, June 1, 71-year-old Thomas Winner and his 69-year-old wife Gail were stabbed by their grandson, Murray Deakin, in their Bega home.
Tragically, Mrs Winner died at the South East Regional Hospital shortly after, while Mr Winner was taken to Canberra Hospital in a critical condition. He has since returned home.
In the hour that followed the alleged attack, officers from the South Coast Police District pursued a car belonging to the couple, which was allegedly being driven by Deakin.
At about 4:40 pm, retired police office Mick Horne, who appears to have stopped to offer assistance to Deakin on Sapphire Coast Drive at Bournda, was allegedly struck in the head with a hammer.
Police allege Deakin then made off with the 54-year-old’s vehicle before crashing it and running into bushland.
Mr Horne was airlifted to St George Hospital where he died two days later.
“You go from one extreme to the other in this job, every day is different,” Marks says, sitting at his desk in Bega Police Station.
“I couldn’t do my job without out my team of detectives, they are absolutely brilliant, and the men and women that work very hard throughout the South Coast Police District.
“And it’s a pleasure living in an area where the community is so supportive of us.”
Marks leads a team of three other detectives that cover communities south of Narooma to the Victorian Border.
Chief Inspector Peter Volf, says the professionalism, determination, and commitment Marks brings to the role serves the region well.
“Justin has been in charge of some of the biggest cases seen in the Bega Valley for decades. His ability to manage such a large number of high-profile cases is amazing, Chief Inspector Volf says.
“Justin’s positive attitude and professionalism flows into his team of Detectives at Bega which I believe is one of the best Detective Offices in the State.”
Detective Sergeant Marks started his policing career at Manly in the late nineties, before moving to Newtown and Bondi, and well as time with the Violent Major Offenders Unit, Homicide, the Drug Squad, the NSW Crime Commision, and the Professional Standards Command.
Marks believes moving to the Bega Valley ten years ago was one of the best things he had done for himself and his young family.
“They’re [Bega Valley community] good people, they’re hard workers, we appreciate their ongong support.
“It’s a dynamic job here, one day you can be investigating a stock or hay theft, the next day next day it can be a fatal shark attack,” he says.
“You are a police officer but you are also part of the community and you get to share the highs and the lows with the community, and unfortunately there have been more lows than highs this year.”
That closeness to the community is something Detective Sergeant Marks manages professionally and personally.
“You have got to stay objective, you’ve got to stay impartial, and you have got to just see the facts how they are,” he says.
“The biggest mistake is getting personally involved and using your position to drive a personal agenda.
“It’s about the issue, not about the person, our job is to put matters before the court and let the court decide.
“Sometimes you do go to some tough jobs – fatal accidents or suicides, and you know the family, it’s tough.
“Working in Sydney you can cross the Harbour Bridge and know that you are never going to see those people again, you don’t have that personal attachment, you’re not running into people at Coles, or the coffee shop, or at school.
Acknowledging the stress and pressure of his role in the Bega Valley, and his desire to be the best husband, father, and police officer he can be, Marks takes his mental and physical health seriously.
“You have got to have an outlet, you can’t live and breath your job,” he says.
“I go to the gym every morning at 5:30, you can’t let the work consume you – that is the quickest way to bring yourself undone, whether it’s working at the cheese factory or in health, any job.
“I play squash regularly and play golf (very badly) and in the winter months I love snow skiing – I got 21 days this year.
“You need to recognise those signs that you need to have a break.”
As a big year draws to a close, the impacts of the Tathra Bushfire is at the front of many peoples’ mind.
Detective Sergeant Marks says the investigation into the cause and origin of the bushfire is currently with the NSW Coroner. Marks and his team have requested that the public inquiry is held in Bega in the first half of next year.
“At the end of the day, this has affected the whole community, and if people need to come and sit and listen to the evidence they should be entitled to do that, it’s a massive part of the recovery process because people need answers,” he says.
“Not one life was lost though and that is an absolute credit to all the services and the community.”
Detective Sergeant Marks believes his recent award nomination is more a reflection on the men and women of the South Coast Police District rather than himself.
“Half of the South Coast Police District could have been nominated, we have an awesome team.”