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Queensland Police have branded the incident in which two Queensland police officers were shot dead as Australia’s first domestic terror attack motivated by ‘Christian extremist ideology’.

Constables Matthew Arnold, Rachel McCrow as well as neighbour Alan Dare were fatally shot by Nathaniel, Gareth and Stacey Train after officers arrived at the family’s rural Wieambilla property.

Dare was shot after attending the property to investigate the commotion, whilst the Trains were killed during a gunfight with specialist police who attended later that night, on 12 December 2022.

Four officers attended the property as part of a ‘routine’ missing person check into the alleged disappearance of Nathaniel Train.

The junior officers were faced with a barrage of bullets when they attended the property, ultimately resulting in two killed, one escaping with a bullet wound, and another hiding in long grass on the property, dodging fires after the Trains set it ablaze.

The Trains’ 56-year-old neighbour Alan Dare was fatally shot in the back after noticing smoke billowing from the property due to the fire and seeking to aide.

Constable Matthew Arnold was only 26-years-old at the time of his death, with Constable Rachel McCrow only 29-years-old.

On the Wieambilla property, which is more than 300km west of Brisbane, investigators discovered six guns, three compound bows and a number of knives.

They also found that the property was littered with camouflage clothing, CCTV cameras and radios.

It was also structured with steel and log barriers, dirt mounds, and reflective mirrors on trees to detect incoming traffic.

The police even located a trapdoor under the property’s residence.

It has thus been deemed that the Trains had undergone preparation and planning prior to the fatal attack, with Deputy Police Commissioner, Tracy Linford stating: “we don’t believe this attack was random or spontaneous. We do believe it was an attack directed at police.”

Linford has revealed that police believe that the shootings were a deliberate and premeditated act of terror inspired by extremist Christian beliefs.

“Nathaniel, Gareth and Stacey Train acted as an autonomous cell and executed a religiously motivated terrorist attack,” explained Linford.

“What we’ve been able to glean from that information is that the Train family members subscribe to what we’ll call a broad Christian fundamentalist belief system known as premillennialism.”

Premillennialism is the belief that Jesus Christ will return to Earth, after a period of severe tribulation, essentially a ‘rapture’ or ‘end times’.

Linford explained: “I’m not an expert in that but, in its basic interpretation, is that there was a belief that Christ will return to the Earth for a thousand days, provide peace and prosperity, but it will be preceded by an era, or a period of time of tribulation and widespread destruction and suffering.”

She noted that recent events including the Covid pandemic, climate crisis, and global conflicts had spurred the Trains’ radical beliefs.

“Christian extremist ideology has been linked to other attacks around the world, but this is the first time we’ve seen it occur in Australia,” Lindford said, pointing to the Waco attack in Texas as one of the most recognisable incidents.

A diary kept by Stacey Train has revealed that they viewed police as ‘monsters and demons’ and that the trio had anti-government beliefs which was aggravated during the vaccine rollout.

The Trains’ YouTube and Rumble accounts had various references to an imminent apocalypse.

The Australian Security Information Organisation has previously assessed that Australia is more at risk of terrorist acts perpetuated by ‘a lone actor or small group’.

ASIO has noted that Australia’s terrorism alert level will remain unchanged despite this incident.

Currently, the national terrorism threat level is at ‘possible’, which means that Australia remains a potential target of a terrorist attack.

The scale ranges from ‘not expected’, ‘possible’, ‘probable’, ‘expected’ to ‘certain’.

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Terrorist Act Offences

In Australia, a ‘terrorist act’ is defined under section 100.1 the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

Offences related to terrorism are outlined in Part 5.3 of the Act.

A terrorist act includes actions or threats of action which are done with the intention of advancing a political, religious, or ideological cause, as well as coercing, or influencing by intimidation, the Australian government or the government of a State, Territory, or foreign country, or the public.

An action will be considered a ‘terrorist act’ where it causes:

  • serious physical harm to a person,
  • serious damage to property,
  • death or endangerment of a person’s life (other than the life of the person taking the action),
  • serious risk to health or safety of the public, or
  • serious interference or disruption to an electronic system including those related to information, telecommunication, finance, and those used for essential government services, public utility, or transport systems.

However, an action will not be considered a ‘terrorist act’ where it can be classified as advocacy, protest, dissent, or industrial action, and it is not intended to result in any of the consequences outlined above.

By Poppy Morandin.

AUTHOR Poppy Morandin

Poppy Morandin is the managing law clerk and an integral part of the team of criminal lawyers at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia . She's also a part of CDLA's content article production team. Poppy is passionate about law reform and criminal justice.

View all posts by Poppy Morandin