New NSW Drug and Firearm Squad Commander Peter McErlain. Picture: Nathan Edwards
New NSW Drug and Firearm Squad Commander Peter McErlain. Picture: Nathan Edwards

‘It’s a bad, bad thing’: Bikie-busting cop’s new war

THE no-nonsense cop who dismantled­ one of Sydney's most violent street gangs and cut his teeth investigating the state's worst bikie massacre is vowing to bring down the ice scourge "destroying families and communities" in our country­ towns.

The Daily Telegraph can today reveal former Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad commander Detective Superintendent Peter "Silver" McErlain is now at the helm of a team of more than 100 officers­ who will concentrate on fighting the ice epidemic in rural areas.

Police officers from the NSW Drug and Firearm Squad and Tweed/Byron LAC remove cannabis in bushland and properties in the Tweed Heads hinterland. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Police officers from the NSW Drug and Firearm Squad and Tweed/Byron LAC remove cannabis in bushland and properties in the Tweed Heads hinterland. Picture: Nathan Edwards

 

 

The newly merged NSW Police Drug and Firearms unit now includes a "mix" of officers with backgrounds such as chemistry and the law.

While in charge of MEOCS, the 60-year-old helped to bring down the notorious Brothers For Life gang.

Now he has the incredibly addictive, deadly and cheap drug ice in his sights.

"Ice is absolutely killing us in the rural areas," Supt McErlain told The Daily Telegraph.

"It's one of the biggest issues in terms of violence, in terms of the gun crime that's associated with it, and in terms of destroying whole communities and kids' lives. It's a bad, bad thing."

 

Police remove cannabis plants from a rural property near Uki in the Tweed Heads hinterland. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Police remove cannabis plants from a rural property near Uki in the Tweed Heads hinterland. Picture: Nathan Edwards

 

 

His plan is to send his crack teams bush, especially in the state's west, to investigate with local officers, who are often strapped for time and resources. "What I want to do is try to get as many resources and expertise as we can to the rural side of things - ice is one of the major challenges we face," he said.

 

 

Ice is absolutely killing us in the rural areas - Superintendent Peter McErlain

 

 

Going bush also makes sense for officers in his squad trained in the use of firearms. "Those firearms thefts out of rural properties - nine times out of 10 they fall into the hand of crooks, so that's a worry in itself," he said. "We intend to increase our presence there."

State Crime Commander Assistant Commissioner Mal Lanyon said the squad's main focus is eliminating the importation and supply of illicit commodities.

Police gather during the operation to eradicate cannabis from the area. Pic Nathan Edwards
Police gather during the operation to eradicate cannabis from the area. Pic Nathan Edwards

"Organised crime is about profit; which is essentially derived from illegal drug and gun sales - they go hand-in-hand in that world - so it makes sense for police to target them together".

 

WARLORD: FROM REFUGEE TO SUPERVILLAIN

 

 

Supt McErlain, a volunteer lifesaver and Wests Tigers tragic joined the police force in the late 1970s.

As a detective, he worked on the 1984 Milperra Massacre in which seven people were killed when tensions between the Comanchero­ and Bandidos bikie clubs reached boiling point.

 

 

Top cop Peter McErlain moves on ice scourge in country NSW

 

 

Supt McErlain has also been the commander at Kings Cross, Maroubra, St George and Liverpool­ commands.

While ice was the biggest issue for country towns, Supt McErlain said his squad would also zero in on cannabis. He has spent the past week with hi team ripping out hundreds of plants from hippie communes and properties across the Northern Rivers region.

Bandidos bikie gang members acts as pallbearers at the funeral of two of their own at in September 1984 who were killed during the Milperra massacre. Picture: Ian Mainsbridge
Bandidos bikie gang members acts as pallbearers at the funeral of two of their own at in September 1984 who were killed during the Milperra massacre. Picture: Ian Mainsbridge

He said targeting cannabis was still a priority because it "fuelled organised crime" and "What comes with organised crime? Violence and death."

The new squad will also ensure every investigation­ on the books will now have the attention of detectives­ with backgrounds in both firearms and drugs.

Ex-leader Farhad Qaumi (left) is behind bars for a murder suspected of being paid for by standover man Pasquale Barbaro (right) who was later gunned down.
Ex-leader Farhad Qaumi (left) is behind bars for a murder suspected of being paid for by standover man Pasquale Barbaro (right) who was later gunned down.

 

"Where there are drugs there are firearms so it's a real good mix," he said. "We've got chemists, lawyers, all sorts of disciplines and they are outstanding cops."

 

 

 

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► CHAPTER ONE: Inside the squad that beat Sydney's gangs

► CHAPTER TWO: The real-life police fight club

► CHAPTER THREE: The day bikies went too far

► CHAPTER FOUR: Bikie gangs: Warlords of the underworld



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