At home in a one cop town

IN RETROSPECT, Senior Constable John Shilton can see the irony in his baptism of fire in the one-cop town of Marlborough.

It was on his first day at his new posting last September: the city slicker policeman from the Gold Coast was confronted with a car which had smashed through the front window of Marlborough's BP Service Station.

The 72-year-old male driver had reportedly confused the accelerator with the brake.

"It (car) ended up in the dining area,'' Senior Constable Shilton recalled.

"I was used to an environment where I'd have police support staff either with me, or arriving soon after.

"It didn't take me long to realise that basically I was the man, and I had to do it all myself.''

Senior Constable Shilton, formerly stationed at Surfers Paradise and Mudgeeraba for a combined seven years, had wanted to work in a rural area and jumped at the opportunity at Marlborough when it arose.

On his second day as officerin-charge of the small town (population less than 100), he was called to his first traffic accident.

"It was a car with some tourists in and it ran off the road and rolled a couple of times.

"I was aware of the reputation of the road (Bruce Highway) up here before I started.

"Every time I told someone I was going to Marlborough they'd say 'Ah, the Marlborough stretch'.''

Lucky for Senior Constable Shilton, things soon settled down. Apart from attending one fatality ? a 16-year-old girl died after the sedan she was driving failed to negotiate a bend on the Bruce Highway, about 40km north of Marlborough on December 30 ? major incidents have been few and far between.

He was, however, on leave when another road fatality occurred in December.

"There's always something to do ? patrol the highway or catch up on paper work.''

And when times get tough, there's always his wife, Helen, to help out.

"Usually wives or husbands don't get involved but she can do things like take photos on a digital camera if I need help.

"Up here that's just part of the deal.''

The couple lives in a home which is part of a three-block police reserve which also includes the demountable station, a holding yard, old watchhouse and stables.

"It's a bit different to going surfing and walking the dog to the beach but we're enjoying it,'' Senior Constable Shilton said.

"I do a bit of fishing and crabbing around the local creeks.

"It's a good lifestyle here and the people are very friendly.

"Instead of being just a policeman, the locals know me as John from the police station. I'm not just a nameless face.

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