“In 43 years, this was and still is the only time in my career I thought I was going to die.” LaurieMorley01

This is what was going through Sergeant Laurie Morley’s mind as he faced the fight of his career in Harvey on October 16, 2015.

Laurie was on his last day of annual leave when he stopped into a local liquor store to pick up a bottle of wine just before 6pm.

While he was inside the store, he heard a commotion outside and then saw a young man “flying backwards past the doorway” and a group of 10 people attacking him.

Even though he was off duty, Laurie chose to intervene.

“By the time I managed to get out of the shop, which was split seconds, they had him bailed up between a verge rubbish bin and a car and they were kicking him in the face, stomping on him and punching him. It was almost like everyone was trying to get a blow in,” Laurie told Police News.

“My immediate thought as I identified myself as a police officer was they were trying to kill him.

“As I intervened, five of them took off and five stayed behind.”

Laurie identified himself as a police officer again and told one of the men he was under arrest, only to be greeted with a punch to the chest just below the throat.

“His exact words were ‘You touch me again mate, you’re fuckin gonna die, you’re dead’. That didn’t stop me and I managed to peel myself through the group of people and get over the top of the young man that was being assaulted.”

Laurie managed to get the young man into the safety of a nearby car which was driven by a local man. With the boy in the safety of the car, Laurie continued to be punched and kicked.

“In particular, a female who was there was over the top, screaming in my face and smacking me so I’m trying to hold people off with my hands and eventually, for some reason, their attention turned to how come he’s gone but we’re still here. I said I’ve arrested him, I hadn’t arrested him but I had to think on my feet, he’s gone up to the police station why don’t we go up to the police station?”

Laurie said the group agreed, followed him to the police station, pushing, shoving and abusing him the whole way there.

While this was going on, Laurie is led to believe there were lots of calls being made to WA Police to assist him.

As Laurie and the group approached the police station where the boy was sitting in the car with the door open, one of the offenders was able to get ahead of Laurie and ran to the car to attack the boy with a double fly kick to the groin. The crowd then started punching and hitting the young man again.

“When you are in these volatile situations you do tend to get a little tunnel-visioned and my vision was again that I needed to protect this young man,” Laurie said.

“I again fought my way through the crowd despite getting punched, kicked and hit and I managed to huddle over him and screamed at him to get in the car and lock the doors.

“While this is happening, the car door is open and I was sort of jammed in there, I feel blow after blow after blow down my back, I felt one blow which was definitely a king hit to the face and I seriously started to see stars. I thought I was going to fall to the ground and all I remember thinking is don’t fall down, don’t fall down, don’t fall down. I’m feeling all of these blows.

They were punches and kicks and then this 40-something female started to choke me. She was trying to pull me off the young guy that I am huddled over so that this adult male could get to him. So she is choking me to my right and this fellow has grabbed my left arm and gone between me and the door and pulled my arm that far back behind my body that it caused a fair whack of damage.”

Laurie’s body started to pump adrenalin and he is thankful it did.

“If I had known what we believed happened to me at the time, I probably would have found myself in a whole lot more bother. I think I would have gone into a bit more of a panic mode than a protective mode,” he said.

“Suffice to say I thought I was going to die. The assault was protracted, was really, really violent and I’ve been in a few blues in my day. In 43 years, this was and still is the only time in my career I thought I was going to die and I’ve been in some pretty hairy situations.”

Eventually, Laurie was able to assist the young man into the car until more police officers were able to arrive and assist.

It turns out that the on-duty officers were on the other side of town, dealing with reports of this group from earlier in the day.

“My CSO told me that just before the other police arrived, two more car loads of people had arrived and were getting out of the car to come over and intervene but as the other police cars arrived they got in their cars, took off and we never saw them again,” he said.

With the other police officers now on site, Laurie and his team were arresting people and sorting out the carnage but not without a few more kicks and stomps to Laurie’s back and legs from the woman.

Police also discovered a hammer and a 33cm knife at the scene outside the station which belonged to the group.

Five offenders were charged with a range of offences and one adult male was charged with the assault on Laurie, as well as assaulting his own mother, and spent 13 months behind bars.

Following the incident, Laurie was hurting. He was battered and bruised.

In the weeks, months and years following the incident, his body and his mind wore the scars of the battle in the main street of Harvey.

A month after the incident, Laurie visited his surgeon who inspected his bruised arm, in particular his elbow which soon became the priority.

“He said to me there was more damage to my arm but they had to prioritise the surgeries,” he said.

“I said to him, I believe I was hit on the elbow with a hammer. When he operated on me his words to me were he’d never seen an ulna nerve so badly flattened.”

Laurie had a major surgery called an Ulna Nerve Translocation, which saw his ulna nerve moved from the front of his arm to the back because of the damage and the pain caused by the incident.

Following the surgery, Laurie was in a cast and sling for six months, sleeping on his lounge chair to avoid knocking the injury. All the while complaining of pain in his wrist, shoulder, back and hip as well as having a tooth fall out.

Six months later, Laurie underwent nerve surgery in his hand, then developed a frozen shoulder and a small procedure on his hip led to a diagnosis of two bulging discs in his lower back. More surgery followed on his shoulder to repair torn ligaments and bursitis and another six months in a sling.

These procedures started to fix Laurie’s damaged arm however, he was still struggling with pains in his hand.

Some two years following the incident, Laurie went back to his surgeon in Bunbury.

“It was really funny, when I first got assaulted all I could complain about was my thumb, I didn’t complain about my elbow, hand, fingers, it was my thumb,” he said.

“I said to the surgeon, mate you have to do something my wrist is just bloody killing me. I couldn’t play golf, I break in horses and I couldn’t handle ropes. He had my wrist scanned and he said ‘I can’t do this, I’m sending you to another specialist in Perth.”

Laurie went up to Perth where the full extent of the damage was identified. What followed was another operation however, this operation had the added risk of Laurie potentially losing the use of his left hand.

“Before I go into surgery, the specialist says ‘I will go in and have a look but I think there is something more serious than what I can see and if needs be, we will stop the surgery, wake you up, have a talk about it and you can sign the forms and we will go back in and fix it’.

“I said ‘why would we do that’ and he said ‘there was the possibility you may lose the use of your hand, there may be damage in there that I can’t fix and there could be some repercussions.”

Laurie took his chances and instructed the surgeon not to wake him up and to do what needs to be done. The surgeon performed a TFFC Reconstruction on the ligament that holds his hand on his arm.

“I had complete bone separation of my hand to my arm and bone separation of my fingers to my hand so for two years, in layman’s terms not in medical terms, my hand was not attached to my arm,” he said.

It has only been recently that Laurie has been able to stop physiotherapy however, he still has to go back to Perth to test the strength in his hand and wrist following his most recent surgery.

While the surgeries have been successful, there is permanent damage which will never heal.

“I can’t push myself up from a seat, I can’t do a push up, which might be a good thing, and the flexibility is severely diminished. I can’t rest my elbow on anything because my ulna nerve is not on the outside it is on the bottom.”

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In another twist, due to a decision in the District Court last year, Laurie is not able to receive a cent in compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act.

Due to an unfortunate precedent set by Cooper v Smith [2017] WADC 82, more seriously injured police officers are effectively excluded from being able to apply for criminal compensation as these police officers have incurred a greater amount of sick leave and medical costs.

For Laurie that is another blow however, he has had his fair share.

The incident also caused Laurie to be checked into the Perth Clinic for the second time in his police career. Back in 2002, Laurie was first diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after his wife insisted he visit the doctor after she noticed he was not himself.

“It simply turned out that I’ve dealt with too many dead people,” Laurie said.

“I went to a fatal traffic crash as a cadet, I’ve been to lots of deaths of different kinds and this particular crash I was 17 years old and essentially picked a man’s parts and brains that were smeared all over the road with my bare hands, put them in a plastic bag and buried them on the side of the road.

“It might not sound like a challenge but it is in an emotional sense when I was at Traffic Operations Group I was part of the

State Ceremonial Motorcycle Team that did all the escorts for the Newman funerals, Cheryl Klumper, Mike Jenkins. All these young people who were being killed in the line of duty and I don’t know if it sounds soft or not but the emotional impact of doing that all the time can be quite severe.”

As a result of the injuries inflicted on him by the group in Harvey, Laurie was on strong painkilling medication. When he was coming off the stronger medication, he started to have anxiety attacks and nightmares.

“Not only was I having nightmares about this particular event, I started to have flashbacks and see faces of dead people. I can remember every single face but I can only remember the name of one person that died, which is confusing for me.

“I’m a firm believer that if you suffer from mental health issues you need to seek help. I sought help in the first instance 16 years ago with the help of my beautiful wife who dragged me to the doctor by the ear.

“She identified that we needed to get some help and I knew that I was in trouble.

“After the assault, knowing what assistance was available to me, I sought help through Health and Safety Division to go and see my psychiatrist again and they went, ‘yes in a hurry’.”

Laurie said that without the support of Sean Attwood from Health and Safety Division he would have been a lot worse off.

“I had lots and lots of things going through my mind. I had feelings of abandonment from some of my peers, it is really funny I had feelings of shame and embarrassment that I’d been assaulted to the point where I was having all this time off work but in reflection, it was a silly way to think.”

Laurie went back to the Perth Clinic for two weeks, completing a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Course, which he credits as a lifesaver.

“It has allowed me to rationalise what happened, my thoughts and practice sleep techniques and sort of settle my mind a little bit.”

The course enabled Laurie to identify when he is having “moments” and he needs to take steps to look after himself.

“You need to as a sufferer of depression, anxiety or posttraumatic stress to be in a situation where you can recognise what is happening to you and take positive steps to try and help yourself. These therapies and the professional people involved in the mental health industry can help you through it, if you want to adopt what they have got to say.”

Laurie hopes that the broader community realises the impact mental health problems can have on society.

“Back 16 years ago, I was the toughest bloke God ever put on this earth and no way in the world was anybody going to see a weakness in me except for my wife maybe,” he said.

“The stigma back then about mental health issues, and I suppose in particular PTSD, was such that you were weak, a bludger, you were worthless.

“Mental health was treated with a comment like you need to get over it, toughen up, don’t be so weak. I confess, until I became a sufferer, I was one of them.

“Until I developed a mental illness of my own, I was one of the most ignorant bastards God put on this earth. Mental health to me was some pyscho druggie having a psychotic turn that needed to go to the Alma Street Clinic, not a bloke like me who was caring, loving, happy and loved going to work.

“My wife could have walked because I turned into an absolute prick. Not violent, but she couldn’t talk to me, look at me, walk past me, everything was why are you doing that? Why are you looking at me like that?

“Once I got the right kind of help the sky turned from dark to blue again.”

Laurie has used his experiences to spread the word about mental health and the need to assist people, often speaking to groups of police officers and the community.

“PTSD for me is not a mental health illness, it is a mental health injury. Because until such time as I went through all this stuff I was ok and then all of a sudden I had this massive anxiety attack. It was like this having a big tonne of bricks and shit all over me, I couldn’t breathe and the first time I thought I was having a heart attack,” he said.

Laurie has spent 43 of his 60 years as a police officer. He joined as a cadet back in October 1975 and has served all over the State including several traffic locations and the areas of Fremantle, Rockingham and Mandurah. More recently, he has served as OIC at Yarloop and the past six years as OIC of Harvey. A location he always dreamed of serving.

For Laurie, the sun has set on his policing career as he retired earlier this month.

While he has enjoyed his policing career and the relationships he has built with colleagues and the community, he admits the events of his assault in Harvey have taken their toll.

“The last two and a half years of my career have actually been quite shit.”

By. Steven Glover