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Community & Business

30 September, 2021

CASE BREAKER - An extended sit-down interview with Detective Senior Sergeant Brett Devine

When crime breaks across the Tablelands region invariably one of the first people tasked with providing an investigative response to the case is the Detective Senior Sergeant and Officer-In-Charge of Tablelands Criminal Investigations Branch, Brett Devine.

By Michael Warren

Brett Devine has spent countless years covering and solving crimes in Far North Queensland.

When crime breaks across the Tablelands region invariably one of the first people tasked with providing an investigative response to the case is the Detective Senior Sergeant and Officer-In-Charge of Tablelands Criminal Investigations Branch, Brett Devine. 

After years on the job across the Tablelands, Express journalist Michael Warren sat down for a fascinating chat with the Detective in which he provided interesting insights into the trials and tribulations and life and times of working the beat in Far North Queensland. 

It’s well known that, rightfully, given the nature of his profession he rarely approves or grants interviews of this nature. 

The Express thanks both Brett and the branch for their help with this piece.

Interview

Detective, in a nutshell can you tell us about your association with the Tablelands, how long you’ve served as a leading detective in the region and what specifically motivated you to want to be a detective?

I was raised on the Tablelands and been here as the Officer-in- Charge since 2006. I consider being a detective an interesting part of Policing. It’s certainly very challenging at times. After 35 plus years, you need to maintain an interest in what you do, so you can keep turning up to do it. 

How do you regularly decompartmentalize from the things you see and hear as a detective? In any one day you may investigate criminals like Frank Wark, hear graphic details about crimes and deal with matters that carry the full gamut of human emotions… Do you simply walk in the door at home and the stresses of the role stay at the office?

Certainly some incidences have (weighed heavily on me). You wouldn’t be human if they didn’t. I think with age and experience, you learn to deal with work stresses a lot better. The last thing I do is walk in my front door and tell the family what’s happened to me during the day.

What do you consider to be the most baffling case you’ve worked on? Whether it be a missing person, a homicide, arson, drug case or something else? What case keeps you awake at night?

Certainly in this position the disappearance of three women on the Tablelands (Hildegard Elizabeth Falkenberg, Karen Belinda Leesye and Katie O’ Shea) - those cases have certainly proven difficult to investigate, there is nothing to suggest they are connected in any way. The Katie O’ Shea case in particular… I have a longstanding relationship with her daughter (Lily Parmenter) who rings me quite regularly, regarding any updates etc. So yes, that specific case has been one of the harder cases I’ve worked on. I would really like to find out what happened to Katie so that her daughter may have some type of closure. 

What’s proved the most challenging / rewarding case you’ve ever worked on that you ended up solving?

Nothing overly notable; solving a murder doesn’t necessarily make it fantastically rewarding for us. What is more rewarding is finalizing a case that’s taken a long time and a lot of effort. It may not have received headlines in the newspaper, but it’s the complexity and the longevity of that investigation which is more rewarding a lot of the time. 

Knowing what you know now what would you tell a fresh 30-year-old Brett Devine about to begin his first few days as an up-and-coming detective? 

The importance of a good work/ life balance. Our current Police Commissioner is very pro that type of lifestyle. One of her main ethos is to have a life outside of work.

As a detective how do you view life? Has the job hardened you over the years? Have you lost faith in humanity doing what you do for a living or are you able to separate what you see and hear in your role and continue to look for the positives in life? Optimism v pessimism etc 

Without a doubt it hardens you. Some of the things we see are pretty horrific and you have to be able to go home and sleep after that. I can do that now. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. Not too much shocks me, now. I like to think I surround myself with good people and I consider that really important. 

Pressure and Expectation; is this something that is a serious factor in your role? You would regularly experience contact from victims’ family members, media, and other stakeholders wanting answers to crimes. How much of this weighs on your shoulders as you go about solving and investigating crimes? 

There’s both of those in this role. We face pressure from a range of areas. At the top, from our superiors – there’s always a massive amount of pressure. There’s also pressure from the victims and witnesses as well. Sometimes you’re the meat in the sandwich without doubt. I have always tried to have a victims’ based philosophy and mindset. The old lady who has had her house broken into is very important to me and all of the detectives on the Tablelands, the millionaire who had his jaguar stolen because he left the keys in it, that’s probably not as important to me. It’s the vulnerable, the weaker people in society I think we should have a greater emphasis on. Youth crime now is a massive issue. It’s everywhere, in every country. What shouldn’t be lost is that there are victims to that youth crime, that’s the way I think of it. 

The surge of interest in true crime Netflix documentaries and podcasts… As someone who solves and investigates crimes for a living what do you make of the huge popularity of true crime junkies who simply can’t get enough of this type of genre?

I don’t think it’s ever been any different. It’s probably just more readily available now. There’s always been people that are fascinated by it. From a personal point of view I’m not a big consumer of it. 

Lastly, if you could clarify one big misconception about you or more broadly about detectives what would it be? 

I think in general a lot of people have the misconception that we’re undercover. We’re certainly not. We wear plain clothes and our cars aren’t undercover. So much of what we do now is computer based. A realistic misconception is people think we can race out and arrest an offender regardless of age and chuck them in the watchhouse and move on to the next one. The time it takes us to do an investigation, find someone, charge someone and prepare the appropriate court documents is a considerable undertaking.

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