POLICE were warned that bomber Glenn Sanders was visiting a Ballarat hospital wearing a vest filled with explosives weeks before he blew himself up at his Derrinallum farm.
Sanders visited his ill mother at St John of God hospital with the vest strapped to his chest every day for at least four weeks before he triggered the explosion that killed him and injured two policemen.
Derrinallum plumber, Gary Poole, last night said he told police Sanders was wearing a device that potentially contained explosives into the hospital, but they took no apparent action.
“It wasn’t just a one-off time that he wore the vest to hospital. He did it all the time,” Mr Poole, a lifelong friend of Sanders, said.
“I can’t believe I was contacted by Ballarat police several weeks before the incident with Glenn, but nothing was done.
“They raised questions with me about a vest he was wearing. I confirmed that he had a vest and I believe it contained explosives.
“I told them I couldn’t guarantee whether they were real or fake but I have seen enough explosives and detonators in my time to believe they were real.
“I warned them that I didn’t want to read in the newspaper about an explosion going off in the hospital.”
St John of God chief executive officer Michael Krieg would not comment on any part of the police operation.
Mr Krieg said he was unaware if Sanders wore explosives into the hospital: “I don’t even know that he was in my hospital, or if he did.”
Local residents who knew the 48-year-old say he had become increasingly paranoid.
Despite repeated reports to police about his dangerous and alarming behaviour over a two-year period, their concerns largely went ignored.
It wasn’t until Mr Poole lodged an official complaint on April 10 that police stepped in the next day to arrest Sanders. Police have previously confirmed they went to his property after receiving reports of a “serious incident”.
Sanders had asked Mr Poole to help repair a car in the mechanic’s pit of his garage. But when the tradesman stepped down into the space, Sanders blocked the entrance and threatened him. He was trapped for about 10 minutes before he managed to convince Sanders to free him.
“He was that paranoid he was talking about unmanned drones and the CIA and the FBI watching him,” Mr Poole said.
“None of it made sense. I spent a lot of time talking to him after he let me out, but it seemed as if he had gone too far.
“It did concern me enough to go to the police. I now hope it all comes out in the Coronial inquest.”
Derrinallum residents say Sanders had armed himself and his farm with bombs, hiding explosives underground and booby-trapping buildings, and had a dune buggy parked at the back of his house ready to escape if authorities came calling.
He walked the streets of Derrinallum wearing the explosives vest, sometimes revealing it to locals.
His mother was admitted to Terang hospital in early March before she was transferred to Ballarat about 10 days later.
Friends say he would wear the vest when he visited her in the ward, taking her dirty washing home each day and then returning with freshly laundered clothes the next.
When he left her bedside, he would walk around the shops and buy take-away food before making the 85-kilometre journey home, where he had accumulated a huge arsenal of explosives and weapons.
Two years ago, Country Fire Authority volunteers had complained about the explosions that were coming from his property. They were worried about the prospect of having to be called out there in an emergency.
Acting Superintendent Paul Ross has said the mammoth, four-week clean-up effort at Sanders’ property was the largest police operation of its kind in Australian history.
He said the bomb response unit had never seen anything like it. Acting Superintendent Ross said police had received reports of incidents involving Sanders since the middle of last year and action was taken then.
He said although there was not enough evidence to conduct a full search of Sanders’ property at the time, his explosives licence was cancelled.
A police spokeswoman last night said investigations into the Derrinallum explosion and Sanders’ movements in the lead-up were ongoing.
“The matter is also subject to a Coronial inquest and as such, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time,” she said.
“We encourage members of the public to contact Victoria Police with information regarding illegal activity. Reports of this nature are taken seriously and investigated.”
- with ANDREW RAMADGE