MORNINGTON police have promised to “follow up” after a 65-year-old man – recently released from hospital – was allegedly threatened, abused, harassed and intimidated while taking a stroll in Tanti Park last week.
Charles Smith*, who is in a weakened state while recovering from cardiac surgery, is so fearful after the frightening incident that The News will not reveal his real name.
About 6pm, Monday 12 November, Mr Smith was on his daily walk and admiring colourful plants in a front yard of a court-side house when he was accosted by the resident who demanded: “What are you doing nosing around MY court, ya big bastard?”
Mr Smith attempted to explain that he was just out walking and admiring the garden but the intimidation escalated, even while he attempted to diffuse the situation by explaining his poor health condition – to no avail.
He was told: “Boo hoo. I’ll get rid of those scars for ever – I’ll bloody kill ya!”
Two neighbours arrived and the threats continued: “You’d better get outta here before he kills ya!” one reportedly said.
Fearing for his life, Mr Smith started walking from the court and dialled 000, hoping to be connected to Mornington police who – he hoped – would arrive quickly.
Just then the first man returned with a camera which he “shoved” in Mr Smith’s face while attempting to take his picture. All the while the threats, jeering and abuse continued. “Go ahead, call the police. They won’t come. I shot up Frankston police station once and they didn’t come…”
Mr Smith’s partner, who was “disgusted” with the men’s actions, said the abuser even yelled out his address “loud enough for police on the other end of the line to hear”.
“Needless to say, the [police] would have heard my partner’s distress as well,” she said. “He pleaded for them to come …”
But they didn’t. Inexplicably for a man fearing for his life, Mornington police did nothing other than transfer the call to the ambulance service, who arrived soon after.
“The paramedics brought him home a broken man,” his partner said.
“They came in to let me know what had happened and to collect his clothing and medical history. We spent seven hours in the emergency rooms of the Frankston Hospital before he was able to come home.”
The next day Mr Smith’s partner personally reported the incident at Mornington police and relayed their disappointment at the lack of response – but was “fobbed off”.
“I didn’t even get an apology,” she said.
She was told there had been only one van available that evening and it had been tied up at an incident right outside the police station. “Why did they need a van?” she asked. “What could have been so bad that they needed a van’s presence for more than two hours right outside the police station?”
A second visit to Mornington police was fruitful, with senior police “more sympathetic and understanding”. Mr Smith was offered counselling which he accepted even though he was “getting agitated and anxious simply by revisiting the incident in his own mind”.
“Our major concerns here are not only the lack of a physical [police] response but their attitudes,” his partner said.
“There was no explanation for their inability to respond, no concern for his welfare [initially] and no apologies made.
“My partner was transferred to the ambulance service without warning and without mention of a police presence on its way.
“They tried to fob me off, denying my partner was on a call to the local [Mornington] police during the incident, insisting that he must have been talking to the call centre.
“They could have potentially had a death on their hands. What would the ramifications of that have been?”
For the past two weeks The News has been reporting on community concerns of a possible shortage of police officers and resources on the Mornington Peninsula in the lead up to summer. Senior police deny there is a numbers or equipment “crisis” but incidents like this stretch the credibility of that claim.
Mr Smith’s partner pleaded: “We need a bigger police presence in our community with training in dealing honestly and fairly with the public.”
Senior Sergeant Jeremy Michau, of Mornington police, said police would start “knocking on doors” in the Tanti Park court to establish a base for possible charges.
“We will speak to the neighbours and, hopefully, they will assist us,” he said.
The [alleged abuser] needs to know that we are aware of the incident and that we are investigating.
“After speaking with Mr Smith I’ve no doubt that there was an altercation.”
(*not his real name)