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Fatal shooter's 'venom' towards Qld police, inquest told

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A man who peppered a police car with automatic gunfire that killed Queensland officer Brett Forte had expressed “a lot of venom” towards police, an inquest has been told.

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Ricky Maddison also had “bitter views” about police after he was charged with domestic violence-related offences that were later discontinued.

The 40-year-old opened fire on Senior Constable Brett Forte’s vehicle in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, on May 29, 2017, with the officer dying at the scene.

The following day Maddison was shot dead by police after being asked to surrender more than 80 times during a 20-hour siege.

The deaths of both men are the subject of an inquest before the Coroners Court sitting in Toowoomba.

Maddison would often talk about his problems with police, especially after having a few drinks, his friend of 15 years Adam Byatt told the inquest on Tuesday.

“He did have some pretty bitter views towards the police,” Mr Byatt said.

“He had expressed a lot of venom towards the police.”

Maddison also talked about a police husband-and-wife team he was “particularly upset about”.

Byatt later assumed he was referring to Sen Const Forte and his wife, fellow officer Susan Forte, who provided support to Maddison’s former partner when she accused him of domestic violence offences.

Maddison didn’t speak about plans or intentions to confront the couple, but “in drunken conversations, would say things like, ‘Wait, they follow me, maybe I should follow them’,” Byatt said.

The inquest is expected to look into communication between police officers ahead of the fatal shootings, with the court being told about text messages between Forte and his wife.

When she asked how the search for Maddison was going, he replied: “Who knows. I’m in the B team, we get told zip.”

Asked about different groups in the tactical crime squad, Senior Constable Andre Thaler denied there was a “secret squad”, telling the inquest there was no A and B team but “people working in different roles.

Thaler told the inquest he had a “brief encounter” with Byatt near the property where Maddison was staying while going to a national park to go bushwalking 11 days before the fatal shooting.

The conversation raised his suspicions there was criminal activity in the area.

Thaler discovered the identity of Byatt after the encounter, but officers didn’t draw a connection between him and Maddison.

Police had issued an alert to be on the lookout for Maddison in March 2017 after he reportedly brandished a firearm at his ex-partner’s property.

But attempts to track him down were unsuccessful because Maddison went “off the grid” for months before the siege, the inquest has heard.

Maddison phoned police at 1.16pm on May 29, first speaking to Forte before asking for a senior officer.

During a conversation lasting more than 30 minutes with tactical crime squad team leader Sergeant Peter Jenkins, an agitated Maddison described himself as a “broken man” who had lost everything, the court heard earlier.

Shortly after Maddison abruptly ended the call, police spotted his utility in Toowoomba and began an authorised pursuit.

While numerous vehicles from neighbouring police stations were involved, officers were warned to be careful during any “take-down” because Maddison had been involved in firearm offences.

Officers followed Maddison for at least 20 minutes, continuing when he veered off the main road and onto Wallers Road, which was accessible only to four-wheel drives.

Forte and Senior Constable Catherine Nielsen were in a vehicle just behind Maddison when he pulled over next to a shut gate, got out of his ute and opened fire on the officers with an automatic weapon.

The police vehicle was peppered with 27 bullets as it reversed up an embankment before rolling, trapping the officers inside.

The two officers were helped from the rolled vehicle before their colleagues realised Forte had been shot.

The two-week inquest before State Coroner Terry Ryan is expected to hear from about 30 witnesses.

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