Convicted killer’s secret hideaway
LAST month a UK national facing serious interstate drug charges thought he had found a way to escape through a tiny Queensland island.
His daring bid came undone when local law enforcement arrested him mudflats at a Torres Strait island.
He is just the latest fugitive to attempt anonymity in the remote and sometimes wild region of far north Australia.
"The remoteness and isolation that can come with living in parts of Far North Queensland can mean different things to different people," Far North police Supt Geoff Sheldon said.
"Most come to be close to nature and 'get away from it all'. A very small percentage appear to have come for reasons more sinister than that, and this is where they often make their mistake.
"It's easy to be 'faceless and anonymous' in a big city but officers in the country make a point of getting to know their community and everyone in it.
"This has often led to the downfall of people who have come to the north, thinking they could leave their past behind them."
These are some of their stories.
LUKE HUNTER/ASHBAN KADMIEL
IT TOOK a secret amateur sleuth to crack a 15-year-old national cold case in a tiny Far North town.
Convicted killer Luke Hunter was described as a "cold-blooded assassin" by a judge in 1990 while sentencing him for shooting his best mate in the head on a hunting trip near Newcastle in 1990.
He'd fallen for the wife of his mate Brian Phillip Nagle and taken her as his secret lover.
Hunter was part way through a 21-year jail sentence for the execution-style slaying when he broke out of the maximum security Borallon Correctional Centre, near Ipswich, in 1996.
He made his way north to Cairns, before changing his name and seeking refuge in a religious sect within the small Tablelands town of Herberton.
He got a job as groundskeeper and wardsman at the local hospital and lived a seemingly quiet, helpful life.
All the while authorities were trying to hunt him down, listing him as Queensland's most wanted and among Australia's most wanted.
Police are constantly bombarded by wannabe crimefighters adamant they have leads to solve cases which frequently turn into dead ends.
So when a call came in about Hunter's Far North whereabouts it seemed laughable, but as with all leads it had to be followed through and Far North police Det Acting Insp Ed Kinbacher said it came up trumps.
"What was interesting is the individual who put the information together," he said.
"We relied on information from members of the public in regards to this.
"It was some quite interesting sleuthing by that person who put it together and as it unfolded it became increasingly likely that he was the fugitive."
A three-day, 10-man covert surveillance team, dubbed Operation Blaze, brought him to justice and he was arrested while taking his morning jog on in February 2011.
Police said in hindsight that it may have been a falling out with the religious cult that bought him to Herberton which eventually became his undoing.
He had initially met members of the reclusive and polygamist Jesus Group in Cairns and they took him to their base in the upper catchment of the wild Walsh River.
The group had strict rules about associating with outsiders and had strongholds in Cairns, on the Tablelands, near Brisbane and at Parkes in NSW.
Hunter became a convert to the ancient order of an Aramaic religious sect - lived on the communal farm, tended orchards, fixed tractors, and joined the call to prayer sounded by the blowing of a ram's horn.
No-one suspected he was Queensland's most wanted criminal, a convicted killer, heroin junkie, and jail escapee.
He changed his name to Ashban Kadmiel. In Old Hebrew, it meant that of a Judahite who stole what was not his and was stoned to death.
"He was a quiet, helpful, pleasant man,'' his friend Max Enfield told media after the 2011 arrest.
"We were innocent to his crimes, totally unaware of his shame or his secret.''
"There was no hint of a violent past.''
A leader of the Australian chapter of the sect, millionaire property owner Daniel Landy-Ariel, said at the time they would not have taken Hunter in if they'd known he was a killer.
"We met him out on the street and he seemed like a genuine person and I really believe he is," he said.
"I'm not going to condemn somebody to hell just because they lied about their past to protect themselves.
"What happens when someone confesses their sins to a priest is up to the church, (as to whether) to dob him in."
Judge Milton Griffin, SC, sentenced Hunter to two-and-a-half years' jail for the prison escape.
He recommended Hunter, for his otherwise "exemplary good behaviour while at large from jail", be eligible for parole on November 12, 2022.