HE found himself standing over a body in a driveway and looked up, realising the gunman who had already killed two was 50 metres away with a rifle in his hand.
Just how he walked away with his life that day in the 1980s during a siege in the Blue Mountains is not something Albury police acting Superintendent David Cottee has the answer to.
“Providence,” he said.
“And it was probably a disbelief on his behalf that I walked that way.”
How many times he came close to becoming one of the thousands of officers that police across the country remember in services marking National Police Remembrance Day yesterday is not something he likes to think about.
But that day vividly comes back to him if he is asked.
“That’s just one story from one person and there are countless other stories from every operational police officer and they go about their business from day-to-day and we’re very grateful to have those men and women and the families that stand behind them,” Supt Cottee said.
“It reminds me of how lucky I am to have a wife that is supportive of the job we do because they’re the ones who are so affected by not knowing what’s going to happen to their partner when they head off to work.
“My wife’s greatest fear is seeing another policeman walking up the driveway in uniform.”
Supt Cottee joined colleagues from both sides of the border at a service in Sacred Heart Church in Wodonga yesterday.
About 150 police officers, military personnel, firefighters and civilians, including a group of school children, paid tribute to officers who lost their lives.
North East Victoria’s Superintendent Paul O’Halloran had two police officers in the forefront of his mind.
Sgt Gary Silk and Sen-Constable Rodney Miller were his colleagues at the time they were gunned down by Bandali Debs and Jason Joseph Roberts during a stake-out of Silky Emperor Restaurant in Moorabbin.
Supt O’Halloran had nominated Sen-Constable Miller for his appointment into the undercover unit he was working for when he was murdered.
“It was like the whole police force were punched in the stomach,” Supt O’Halloran said.
He moved to the North East to take on the region’s top job in January.