By Rory Callinan and Lucy Stone
A camouflage-clad Nathaniel Train, driving a black 4WD carrying loaded guns and military knives, broke through the New South Wales border gate into Queensland in December last year.
The Covid-19 border breach – along with other evidence that the former school principal potentially broke laws relating to the possession and disposal of weapons during the same incident – was reported to Queensland police less than a year before Train was involved in a deadly shooting that resulted in the deaths of two young police constables.
The revelations raise questions about how much Queensland police knew before they sent four officers to a remote Western Downs property on Monday to follow up a missing person’s report about Nathaniel Train.
On arrival at the property, two officers were ambushed and shot dead while two others were wounded by shots fired by Nathaniel, his brother Gareth and his wife Stacey, who was also previously married to Nathaniel.
Neighbour Alan Dare was also killed by the trio, which was later shot dead by a specially-equipped police team.
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll has said she did not have the “full extent of information” about whether the Trains were known to police, what weapons they had or details of domestic violence allegations.
Now an ABC investigation has confirmed Nathaniel Train broke through the border gate on the Boongangar Bridge over the Macintyre River to enter Queensland in December 2021, months after his resignation from Walgett Community School.
The state’s land border had opened just days earlier but only to people who were fully vaccinated.
‘Sketchy’ sighting of Nathaniel Train
A Queensland farmer in the Goondiwindi region who asked not to be named said he had contacted police about the incident after finding Train on a flooded road near the border.
The farmer said Train had tried to ram his black Toyota LandCruiser through the border gates.
When that failed, the farmer said Train used an angle grinder to cut the padlock on the gates and drive into Queensland.
He said Train’s border breach had coincided with a major local flood that saw many roads cut from the bridge to the nearest Queensland town of Talwood.
“I saw him in a vehicle on a road,” the farmer said.
“Old mate [Train] hit the first lot of water and touched the brakes and got through but then he hit the next section at about 60 kilometres and basically drowned the engine of the car.”
The man said he watched Train as he began dumping items from his car into floodwaters.
“He jumped out of the car and started ditching all the stuff out of the car and throwing it into the creek. I thought, ‘that looks sketchy’.”
Local recalls Train speaking in code
The farmer said one of his workers asked Train what he was doing after spotting him on the road as he drove out the gate.
“He [Train] said he was an ‘anti-vaxxer’ and had lost his job because he wouldn’t get vaccinated and couldn’t see his family in Queensland,” the farmer said.
“We towed his car into our yard because it was blocking the road and he asked us for a lift.
“I arranged for him to be dropped about 6kms up the road towards Talwood, but there would still be some flooding to get through.”
Train returned to his vehicle to take guns, a bow and arrow and some military-style “Rambo” knives before getting into their vehicle, the farmer said.
“It was all very sketchy and I thought the best thing was that he got off our property and moved on,” he said.
The farmer said Train borrowed a phone and was heard speaking to someone in what sounded like code.
He said Train was then dropped off up the road near the Talwood reserve where he was picked up by someone “on the other side”.
The farmer said he found documents near where the vehicle had been, including some that identified him as Nathaniel Train and outlined his work history at a NSW school.
He said he contacted police about the vehicle and the border breach, fearing the car might have been stolen.
Police told him because the vehicle had not been stolen, there was nothing they could do, he said.
Weapons strewn across flooded creek bed
Hours later when water began receding beside the vehicle, the farmer said they began finding weapons.
He said that among the items Train had ditched in the creek were at least three firearms – “short scrub sort of weapons” and ammunition.
He said the firearms were retrieved from the water and found to be loaded.
He said he contacted police about the weapons and they were eventually taken away.
“They were short-range weapons,” he said.
“There was also a lot of hunting gear, camo gear and there was a bow and a target for shooting things.
“We assumed they were either stolen or unregistered. I rang the police a day after to report it.”
As of this Friday, Train’s Toyota LandCruiser 200 series was still on the farmer’s property.
Checks on the 4WD’s registration plates have revealed the vehicle had been registered in NSW until 28 October, 2022.
In the nearby town of Talwood, which has a population of about 170 people, some locals confirmed they had heard of the incident.
Shop owner John Miorandi said he had heard of someone who had “smashed through the gate and was coming to Talwood”.
“We heard, there was Fijian farm workers out there and when the flood went down … they said, ‘Hey look at all this stuff next to the fence’.
“There was a heap of stuff there, like a lot of stuff and when the water was going lower and lower they started finding guns.”
Among the paperwork from his time at Walgett Community College were medical records relating to a heart attack he is believed to have suffered shortly before resigning.
The farmer said police had told him to do what he liked with the rest of the stuff found with the vehicle.
“We had it on a pallet in the shed for a while and then we disposed of it,” he said.
The farmer said he reported the border breach and damage to the border gates to authorities, including the Goondiwindi Council but did not hear of anything happening as a result.
He said that was the last he heard of the incident until police showed up at his property on Thursday this week.
“They were looking to see if there was any paperwork left. But we chucked it all out,” he said.
The farmer said Train’s former wife, who lives in NSW, now wanted the vehicle back.
Border breaches caught on camera
Goondiwindi Mayor Lawrence Springborg, whose shire encompasses Talwood, said he had been aware of an incident where someone had cut the lock on the bridge over the McIntyre River in 2021.
Springborg said the council would have reported the breach to police.
He said there was also a camera on the bridge, which would have recorded the incident and supplied the footage to police.
“That’s how the police apprehended quite a few people,” Springborg said.
“We had vehicles ramming them [the gates] and people passing people over the gates … we wouldn’t have known the names but we supplied the information to police.”
Springborg said the cameras captured vehicle number plates but on some occasions, drivers would find ways to take out the cameras.
The Queensland Police Service (QPS) said it would not be providing comment while the Ethical Standards Command conducted a major investigation into the incident.
“This is a complex and thorough coronial investigation overviewed by the Crime and Corruption Commission and will be reported to the state coroner,” a QPS spokesperson said.
“Family liaison officers have been appointed and are working closely with the families involved in this tragedy.”
NSW police said all queries about the incident were being handled by Queensland police.
Queensland and NSW have strict laws around the handling and storage of firearms, with loaded firearms only permitted to be carried in public in certain circumstances.
Other laws require firearms to be disposed of and transported across state borders in secure conditions.
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz