'I'm lucky to be alive': Run down cop's emotional message
RUN DOWN by a kid behind the wheel of a stolen Volvo, police officer Constable Peter McAulay suffered brutal and horrific injuries.
And in the fight of his life, for his life, he won.
But the impact and consequences of the injuries were life-changing.
Scarred and battered Const McAulay, 25, has for the first time faced the teenager who ran him down nearly ending his life.
The now 17-year-old driver, who cannot be named, went before Judge Dennis Lynch QC in Ipswich Children's Court to be sentenced.
Watched by his mother and an aunty, he pleaded guilty to doing a malicious act with intent on Brisbane Road at Booval on September 27 last year; and unlawful use of a stolen car.
He also pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of committing a burglary; and robbery.
When queried by Judge Lynch, prosecutor Clayton Wallis clarified the serious charge, saying the Crown accepts that the teenager did not intentionally drive-at Const McAulay.
And that the car's swerve was likely an attempt to avoid the tyre deflation stingers placed on the road by the officer.
He said a previous charge of attempted murder was discontinued because of a lack of evidence.
The teenager has since spent 314 days held in custody at a juvenile detention centre.
The Crown sought a sentence of five years in a detention centre because of the gravity of his most serious offence.
Judge Lynch, after hearing lengthy submissions from the Crown and defence barrister James Benjamin, then adjourned sentence until Friday.
Mr Wallis said Const McAulay had laid stingers down on the road in an attempt to intercept the stolen car.
However, the driver swerved into the parking lane and struck the officer at a speed estimated to be between 49 and 56km/h.
There was no heavy braking or an attempt to swerve and avoid Const McAulay.
After being struck the officer was carried for some distance suffering considerable injuries.
The teenager fled the scene on foot with a female passenger.
When tracked down by police the teenager denied any involvement, including being the driver.
Mr Wallis said the driver then tried to shift the blame by saying the female was the driver.
Mr Wallis said investigations show Const McAulay would have been visible to the driver from a distance of 87.5 metres.
A brief letter of apology written by the teenager to officer McAulay was placed on record.
In it he writes: 'I didn't mean to hurt you in any way. I honestly didn't see you.'
However, Mr Wallis said another letter written by the teenager to a jail inmate shows a lack of contrition about the incident.
Despite his age and lack of previous criminal history, Mr Wallis said a conviction should be recorded for that offence, and no less than five years detention be imposed, with the teenager to serve at least 70% in actual custody unless the court found special circumstances applied.
With a badly damaged right leg, clearly visible scars in his head and missing front teeth, Const McAulay limped to the witness box and read his victim impact statement onto the court record.
The baby-faced teenager sat silent in the dock.
Const McAulay, with no memories of the horrors his body endured that day, outlined the significant surgeries he has endured, his family and steadfast girlfriend Laura also having to endure his pain and suffering.
He only remembers attending a Toowoomba food and wine festival a few days prior.
"I sustained many horrific injuries. Initially life and death," he said.
"I was in a coma and am lucky to be alive."
There were fractures to his spine, a busted right knee, head trauma and severe brain injury that required surgery.
He was in ICU at Princess Alexandra Hospital and surgeons had to remove a large front left portion of skull for eight months.
With only skin protecting the brain, he had to wear a protective helmet.
"It caused excruciating pain," Const McAulay said.
He then endured cranioplasty neurosurgery to reinstate the skull flap.
There was six weeks in a wheelchair but after five knee surgeries his limp will be for life.
His short-term memory has been affected, and he forgets simple things.
Its biggest impact has been on his active, adventurous outdoor lifestyle.
Const McAulay had just returned from a New Zealand skiing holiday before the trauma, and had been a keen cyclist, runner, and hiker, saying that at the time he'd been the fittest he'd ever been.
Even swimming is now painful.
He admits the realisation that he will live with disability was at first soul-destroying, with the lost dreams and aspirations that he had.
Then there is the mundane daily chores - he can't even crouch to clean the shower.
He suffers fatigue which affects his moods, and his hearing is damaged.
He lost 20kg and has not regained muscle mass.
Nine months later in June he got to drive again.
"Pain has become a normal part of my life now," he said.
"I simply manage it as best as I can. The hospital my second home."
Defence barrister James Benjamin said he acknowledged the gravity of the severe injuries suffered, and that they would affect the rest of his life.
The teenager now viewed his actions as being "stupid and reckless" with his time spent in custody a wake-up call.
He accepted that severe punishment is warranted.
Mr Benjamin said the teenager was exposed to domestic violence that had an effect on his developing adolescent brain, and been a cause of methamphetamine drug use.
It was again reiterated that the teenager did not deliberately drive at the police officer, the prosecutor confirming that this was accepted by the Crown.
Mr Benjamin acknowledged that it was the teenager's attempt to avoid police capture had led to the life-changing effects on Const McAulay.
He argued that special circumstances could be found, and that he not serve more than 50% of any sentence imposed.
With the court hearing it was a case of "significant reckless indifference" by the offender, Judge Lynch said he needed more time to consider his sentence.
Remanded in custody, the teenager's case was adjourned with his sentence to be finalised on Friday.