THE mammoth effort to clean up explosives at the Derrinallum bomb site is now the largest police operation of its kind in Australian history.
A one-kilometre exclusion zone is still in place around the Hamilton Highway farm as a specialist team combs the site for evidence, including detonators and more explosive devices. The operation, which is now in its second week, is likely to cost millions of dollars as the police command centre continues to run around the clock and 24-hour road blocks continue.
The Australian Federal Police and Australian Defence Force have been called in to help with the enormous and unprecedented task.
Experts have been on site since bomber Glenn Sanders, 48, triggered a series of explosions early on Friday, April 11, injuring two policemen and killing himself.
“I’ve certainly never been involved in a job like this one."Acting Superintendent Paul Ross
The blasts came at the end of a seven-hour siege when police negotiators unsuccessfully attempted to get Sanders to remove a vest containing explosives that he had taken to wearing.
Sanders’ substantial farmhouse and several sheds were obliterated in the blasts, leaving a massive pile of rubble and twisted metal for police to sift through. They have also been dealing with reports that he had several shipping containers and drums filled with explosives buried on his land.
“I’ve certainly never been involved in a job like this one,” Acting Superintendent Paul Ross said.
“Our bomb response unit members who are out at the scene have a combined experience of probably over 100 years and none of them have seen anything like it.
“We’ve delved through the archives of what’s occurred in the state, and we’ve spoken to interstate policing agencies about it, and we’ve spoken to Australian Federal Police, and we’ve had some conversations with the Australian Defence Force, and we can’t find an incident that has occurred like this elsewhere in Australia.
“When this is all over and, obviously, when the coroner’s had a chance to look at it, the complexity of it will become obvious.
“The trouble and the detail that Mr Sanders went to in relation to his property, for whatever reason, because of his psychiatric condition or whatever reason, I’m sure some people will find it astounding.
“It’s an extremely complicated inquiry and it’s an extremely dangerous investigation in terms of the material we’re dealing with.”
Controlled detonations are continuing at the property in an effort to make the site safe and specialist equipment is due to be brought in from interstate during the next three days.
“We’re not in a position to say we’ve found everything yet,” Acting Superintendent Ross said.
“It’s been extremely tedious. We’ve located explosives that we’ve had to deal with.”
“The length of time is quite crippling in a lot of ways but we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”
He said a coronial inquest was likely to be held in Warrnambool, but it could be more than 12 months away. One of the first questions to be asked was how Sanders was able to obtain and accumulate so many explosives.
“We have already located some suppliers and, as is the case with firearms and ammunition, there is an accountability process that persons with this stuff have to go through.”
He said as a result of an inquest, a coroner would often make recommendations about legislative gaps or areas that needed tightening up.
“Bear in mind, you can have all the legislation in the world, people can choose to ignore it. I’m not saying it occurred in this case, but that’s obviously something we’ve got to look at.”
He urged people with information about Sanders “however trivial it seems” or anyone with knowledge of the property to contact him at Warrnambool police station or through Crime Stoppers.
Acting Superintendent Ross said he hoped the highway could be reopened on Saturday.
“It is costing us a lot of resources to keep those traffic management points manned. Every shift is costing us eight members and there’s three shifts a day, so you multiply that out and there’s a huge commitment to it.
“Unfortunately we’re still not in a position where we think it’s safe to open.”