Airport accused was on police radar
WELL before he allegedly caused an unprecedented shutdown of Brisbane International Airport on Saturday night, the 50-year-old man behind the fake bomb threat had been in the sights of police.
Commissioner Ian Stewart confirmed yesterday that the man, of Middle Eastern descent, was known to police following domestic violence complaints.
About 9pm on Saturday, in front of dozens of terrified onlookers, the man allegedly pulled a "huge serrated knife" on his partner as she attempted to go to her gate.
The Courier-Mail is prevented from naming him for legal reasons.
It is understood the man had travelled from the Gold Coast in a bid to stop her from leaving him.
Before specialist police from the Public Order Response Team took him down with a non-lethal beanbag round, he placed a package - resembling a bomb - on a table in the food court.
He allegedly threatened not only to blow up the airport but Bruce Bishop Car Park at Surfers Paradise, near where the couple lived.
Police were quick to swoop on the car park where they searched units and cars, but found nothing.
No one was hurt during the three-hour ordeal.
"I have absolutely no doubt that it was an absolutely terrifying experience for those that saw that," Assistant Commissioner Peter Crawford said yesterday.
"The words that had been used by the alleged offender in this matter, his behaviour and the statements that he's made caused us to need to look at a number of vehicles and residences to ensure there were no IED (improvised explosive devices) or anything of concern."
After being shot once in the torso with the beanbag round, the accused was taken to Brisbane watchhouse where he was questioned before suffering a medical episode.
The man was taken to a hospital where, at a bedside hearing, he was charged with two counts each of making a false statement about a plan to damage or destroy a commonwealth air navigation facility, make a bomb hoax, and common assault.
He was also charged with one count each of contravene a domestic violence order, stalking with a weapon, stealing and serious assault police.
Police will wait on the man's health before determining when he will be arraigned in court.
Mr Stewart praised the work of his officers, who had devised a plan to take the man down without anyone getting hurt.
Part of that plan saw an officer who spoke the accused's native language of Arabic called in to negotiate with the man.
"I think this photo (of the fake bomb) clearly indicates the extraordinary lengths that a person has gone to to create a perception of risk, threat and fear," Mr Stewart said.
"We've taken the unusual step of showing the device that the alleged offender had on him at Brisbane Airport last night - this is to show you what our officers faced and to reinforce that we don't shut an international airport lightly."
Meanwhile, relieved travellers at Brisbane International Airport expressed gratitude yesterday to the police officers who peacefully resolved the bomb scare.
Mother and daughter Sue and Emily Hartfield, who were bound for Fiji, were glad the incident had not affected their holiday.
"It's definitely scary that I'm in the airport where it happened," Emily said.
"I guess my reaction was that shooting him with rubber bullets was good, I guess, in a busy airport," Sue said.
South American tourists Nehuen Ramirez and Rodrigo Beteta had only just escaped wild weather in Townsville when they landed in Brisbane hours after the airport reopened.
While the pair, travelling in a group with two other friends, had noticed the airport was quiet upon arrival they had had no idea the circumstances they had narrowly avoided.
"I definitely wouldn't expect any story like this in Australia," Mr Ramirez said.
"It's scary stuff, so I think I would have loved to be here to see it.
"In Argentina we never have any terrorist attacks or things like bombs, but I didn't expect this in Australia."