2 Mar 2024

Alleged murders of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies cast sombre shadow over Sydney Mardi Gras parade

10:41 am on 2 March 2024
Luke Davies, left, and Jesse Baird have gone missing in Sydney.

Jesse Baird and Luke Davies were allegedly murdered two weeks ago. Photo: Supplied/Instagram

By Isobel Roe, ABC News

Today is often one of the most joyous days on Sydney's calendar.

Hundreds of people on colourful Mardi Gras floats will glide down Oxford Street, while glitter and stray pieces of feather boa rain down on crowds lining the streets.

But for many in Sydney's queer community, as well as their wider networks, this year's Mardi Gras will not feel the same.

It has been almost two weeks since young couple Jesse Baird, a TV presenter, and Luke Davies, a Qantas flight attendant, were allegedly killed in Baird's Paddington home.

A NSW Police officer, who had a brief intimate relationship with Baird, has been charged with murder, allegedly shooting them with a police hand gun.

After a frantic search spanning more than 300 kilometres, on Tuesday police found two bodies in surfboard bags dumped on a property near Goulburn.

The event has shattered their families, the city's gay community, and their former colleagues and peers in Sydney's media and at Qantas.

Channel 10 journalists have had to report on the death of a friend and former colleague.

It has also distressed police officers who were tasked with investigating one of their own.

Baird and Davies would have likely been celebrating at Mardi Gras tonight. The parade will honour their lives instead.

Beau Lamarre-Condon is in custody, awaiting the court process and Commissioner Karen Webb has not ruled out charging more people in relation to the attempted cover up of the alleged crime.

In the meantime, there are several questions yet to be answered about the protocols of the NSW Police Force - which some experts believe failed Baird and Davies.

Police gun protocol under scrutiny

NSW Police will allege Lamarre-Condon signed his police gun out of Miranda Police Station on Friday, 16 February to attend a "user pays" event two days later.

It will allege the "user pays" job - where officers are hired to police a private event - was a protest on Sunday, 18 February.

Former police officer and Macquarie University criminologist, Vincent Hurley, said officers had to be sighted and signed off by a supervisor before entering the gun room.

"If you're going to use your firearm for 'user pays', you normally collect it on the day and at the beginning of the shift," he said.

"Every shift, a police officer in charge of the station, or the shift supervisor, goes and physically checks every gun in the gun safe to make sure they're all accounted for."

Deputy Commissioner David Hudson told media the gun may have been checked back in at Balmain Police Station after the alleged shooting on Monday, 19 February before being returned to Miranda the following day.

The whereabouts of the gun over the weekend before the incident is under investigation.

Victoria Police Commissioner Shane Patton will lead a review of his NSW colleagues gun handling processes.

Commissioner Webb has already admitted there are questions to be answered, telling the ABC's 7.30 programme: "Clearly something's gone wrong."

Should have responded faster to triple-0 call?

A week after police allege Baird and Davies were killed, NSW Police revealed a triple-0 call had been made from Davies' phone.

It was four minutes after gun shots are alleged to have been fired inside the Paddington terrace home.

Police say the call disconnected before anyone spoke to the operator, and they do not know who placed the call.

Australia's triple-0 service has new Advanced Mobile Location (AML) technology, which is meant to help police track the location of the mobile making the call.

The service's website said the technology was "capable of providing a caller's location within a five-metre radius outdoors and a 25-metre radius indoors".

NSW Police said they did send a car to Paddington, as per protocol, but officers were not able to trace the exact location.

Police have access to the address a mobile phone is registered to, and so they said officers went to check Davies' home in Waterloo in inner Sydney, but saw nothing of concern.

Dr Hurley said the technology was not perfect, and it was hard to say whether NSW Police could have done more to find the pair.

"It would really depend on what the triple-0 call had in it. It may not necessarily raise concerns that this was a shooting or something similar," he said.

"So you'd have to listen to the triple-0 call to make some type of determination."

Shining a light on domestic violence

NSW Police have alleged the accused man, Lamarre-Condon, had been in a relationship with Baird.

But friends of Baird have told the ABC the pair never dated.

Some friends have described it as a short friendship, or a casual but brief intimate relationship.

The LGBTIQ Domestic Violence Awareness Foundation will have a float in tonight's Mardi Gras parade, and its Managing Director Ben Bjarnesen said he hoped to shed light on the issue of domestic violence in gay relationships.

He said it often goes unrecognised.

"When we look at the usual portrayal of domestic and family violence, we're most often talking about heterosexual men perpetrating violence against a heterosexual woman," he said.

"It is so important that people understand that domestic and family violence affects our LGBTIQ communities at disproportionate rates.

"The most recent survey found that over 60 percent of LGBTQ people had experienced domestic or family violence in their lifetime. And when you look at reporting rates, they're incredibly low."

Police divulge 'surprising' amount of information

One of the unusual elements of this story is the amount of information NSW Police have volunteered about an investigation where someone has already been charged.

When Commissioner Webb and her deputy, David Hudson called a press conference last Monday, they detailed dozens of allegations about the accused's movements, which the ABC has chosen not to report.

Such information is usually considered sub judice, which means it can prejudice a fair court process.

Media organisations can be held liable for contempt of court.

Commissioner Webb was asked on the ABC's 7.30 program whether her choice to reveal more information was because the man charged was one of her own officers.

"I think it's important that the public knows that I'm happy to be transparent as I can be about this," she said.

University of Tasmania Professor of Policing, Nicole Asquith, said Commissioner Webb was dealing with multiple issues involving its relationship with the LGBTIQ community, including the recent findings of an inquiry into gay hate crimes.

"I think the lead up to Mardi Gras, the alleged murders, as well as the Sackar inquiry have made New South Wales Police critically aware of their communication with the community," she said.

She said there was some risk in publicising so many allegations.

"Whether that comes back and bites them I don't know at this stage. But it is quite surprising."

This story was originally published by the ABC.

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