Who killed Bill Crews?
Dylan Welch, Kate McClymont, Joel Gibson and Tom Reilly
September 11, 2010
WEARING jeans and a casual shirt, the young officer dabbed at his eyes with a tissue as he explained to investigators exactly what had gone wrong when his mate Constable Bill Crews was fatally shot during a routine drug raid.
Adding to the horror of the young officer's situation is the possibility that he or one of his colleagues may have accidentally killed Constable Crews during the exchange of fire in the underground garage at a Bankstown apartment block on Wednesday night .
Asked yesterday if he knew who had fired the shot which killed the 26-year-old trainee detective, Assistant Commissioner Dave Hudson replied: ''We don't know at this stage but we have certain beliefs.''
Deadly force ... police re-enact their role in the fatal drug raid for investigators. Photo: Jon Reid
Mr Hudson said the picture would become clearer next week when further ballistic tests were completed. ''Obviously, we are in possession of certain information … but our investigations are still unresolved as to exactly what happened the other night.''
Well-placed police sources told the Herald that they believe the target of the search warrant, Philip Nguyen, fired the first shot. They say he may have done so because he is alleged to have recently ripped off some drug dealers and, fuelled by the drug ice, was paranoid that they had come to exact revenge.
When he saw the police, who were dressed in civilian clothes and armed with guns, he allegedly opened fire.
In the brief gunfight that ensued, Mr Nguyen allegedly fired once, hitting Constable Crews. Police fired four shots back at Mr Nguyen and, tragically, it is believed, one of those bullets may have hit Constable Crews. The young officer, who was struck in the head and neck, died in hospital several hours later.
It is not known which bullet was responsible for his death.
Mr Nguyen then fled back into the apartment block. He and another man, Geehad Ghazi, were arrested and charged. Six others in the Cairds Avenue apartment were interviewed then released.
One of those six was Jihad Murad, the sergeant-at-arms of the Ibrahim family-associated gang, Notorious.
Mr Murad has a history with police. In late April officers from the anti-bikie unit, Strike Force Raptor, arrested him at gunpoint in his Blacktown home, following allegations of a vicious assault. Later that night, after being released on bail, 12 bullets were fired at him as he was driving with his girlfriend. Neither Mr Murad nor his girlfriend was hurt.
Yet another person with a history involving guns is the brother of Mr Ghazi, Rehmi.
An associate of senior members of the Parramatta chapter of the Bandidos outlaw motorcycle club, Rehmi Ghazi was raided by the same unit within the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad that Constable Crews was working with earlier this year. On that occasion at least one gun was seized.
Rehmi Ghazi outraged grieving police the morning after Constable Crews's death when he turned up to his brother's court appearance wearing a T-shirt that read ''No Remorse''.
Meanwhile, Constable Crews is being mourned by family and friends. ''A champion bloke, a champion friend, the best and bravest cop I have ever known - you will never be forgotten mate and will always be in our hearts - RIP Crewsy,'' one colleague wrote on his Facebook page.
Friends from Constable Crews's hometown of Glen Innes are struggling to come to terms with his death.
''Bill's death has been an awful shock to everyone here, but in one sense it doesn't surprise me as he would have been at the front of any raid without thinking of his own safety,'' said Andrew Grob, 20.
Constable Crews and Mr Grob were brought up on adjoining rural properties in Shannon Vale, 20 kilometres from Glen Innes, and were volunteers in the local fire service. Last summer Constable Crews drove from Sydney with six friends to help fight bushfires which had started in the area.
''As soon as Bill heard about the fires he jumped in his car and headed straight up from Sydney and brought a load of his mates who I think were all in the police as well,'' Mr Grob said..
''They didn't have any protective gear and the others weren't trained, but we gave them each gloves and a rake and away they went, clearing the bush and creating firebreaks.
''It's back-breaking work - the sort of job you give to somebody you never care to talk to again - but Bill and his friends didn't complain. They just rolled up their sleeves and got on with it.''
Mr Grob also recalled Constable Crews's keen sense of humour. ''He was always joking around, having a laugh, but it was always good natured.''
Schoolteacher Russell Meehan remembers Constable Crews as a child with an easy smile.
''I taught him in his final years of primary school and we had this running joke on his name, where I'd look at him and say, 'Bill, you are cruising for a bruising'.
''He was the sort of kid you could have a laugh and a joke with and he matured into a good man. It's very hard to think about what happened to him the other day.''