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‘Ocean of tears’ as Queensland honours officers

Police are massing for a service for two murdered officers due to begin soon in Brisbane.

Police are massing for a service for two murdered officers due to begin soon in Brisbane. Photo: AAP

Queensland Police, the public and grieving family and friends have massed in Brisbane for an emotional memorial service for murdered constables Matthew Arnold and Rachel McCrow.

Thousands of people crowded into the Brisbane Entertainment Centre for Wednesday’s service, which was conducted with full police honours, for the two early-career officers, aged 26 and 29 respectively.

They were gunned down at a rural property at Wieambilla on December 12, along with neighbour Alan Dare.

As they arrived, the Arnold and McCrow families paused for a moment at the two officer’s coffins at the front of the service.

Thousands of mourners packed into the building to attend the memorial. Among them were Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, state Opposition Leader David Crisafulli and Governor Jeannette Young.

Constable Keely Brough, who was with constables Arnold and McCrow when they were killed, fought back tears as she sat in the crowd with her colleagues in blue.

“There are no words that can heal this awful grief and crushing loss, which is why we come together today. Families, friends, colleagues, even strangers. From the smallest communities where Matthew and Rachel served, to our biggest cities. Even around the world,” Ms Palaszczuk said in her tribute address.

“We recognise and appreciate that every day, heroism of our police in this sea of blue on an ocean of tears. Across our state and around our country, we will shoulder this burden together. We will rededicate ourselves to their example of there being far more good than there is evil.”

Staff Sergeant Laura Harriss delivered the eulogy for Constable Arnold, saying it was “impossible for words to do justice to the brave, kind man”.

“It is overwhelming to see just how many lives he touched, and how many lives were made brighter having known him,” she said.

“Matt was so proud to be a police officer. And it was clear he found his true passion and purpose. We are so proud of the man he became.

“Matt — you deserved so much more from the public you lived to protect. You are a hero and will never be forgotten. May your name and memory never leave the mind of others. We love you always. We love you forever.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pays tribute

Senior Constable Melissa Gibson and Constable Freddy Hartigan followed with eulogies for Constable McCrow.

“Rach was simply one of a kind. She could literally light up any room on the darkest of days with her beautiful, infectious smile and those pearly white teeth.

“She was the kindest and most positive person I know. She had the purest of souls and the warmest of hearts,” an emotional Senior Constable Gibson said.

“To Rachel’s brothers in blue, who showed an enormous amount of courage to go in and bring her out, thank you for not leaving our sister behind.”

Police Chaplain Jeffrey Baills told the Arnold and McCrow families they should be proud of their son and daughter, but added: “Too early. Too early.”

“We have had a major attack on the police in Queensland but I want to say to us today we will not be broken. We will stand shoulder to shoulder in our honour guard after this service as a mark of respect, a mark of our unity, and as a mark of the regard that Rachel and Matthew deserved,” he told the assembled crowd.

“But we will, tomorrow, turn up to our shift and we will stand shoulder to shoulder again and seek to do the best we can to keep Queensland safe and fulfil our duties as outstanding men and women.”

queensland constables funeral

Police officers arrive for Wednesday’s service for the two young constables. Photo: AAP

Earlier, Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan said the force was grateful for the show of support from the public following the tragedy.

“I don’t think there is a single police station that hasn’t had a truckload of flowers delivered to it,” he said on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough week.”

Some 8000 free tickets were made available to the public to attend the service, which began at 10am.

Thousands of officers stood on Melaleuca Drive to salute as the two officers’ coffins passed into the grounds. The guard of honour included a police band, mounted unit, dog squad, police vehicles, motorcycles and helicopters.

The ceremony was broadcast in public places across Queensland. Crowds of up to 100 gathered to watch in the communities of Tara, Dalby, Chinchilla and Miles, near the site of the tragedy at Wieambilla, three hours west of Brisbane.

Ms Carroll read statements of service, paying tribute to both young officers and describing their deaths as a “tragic loss”. She awarded both National Police Service Medals and National Medals, as well as Queensland Police Service Medals and Queensland Police Valour Medal, the highest bravery award the state’s police commissioner can award.

“The Queensland community has been well and truly served by Constable Matthew Arnold and Constable Rachel McCrow. And the Queensland Police Service is a better organisation for having had Matthew and Rachel as our valued members. They are and will continue to be greatly missed,” Ms Carroll said.

Private funeral services followed Wednesday’s public service.

Last week, Ms Carroll has said the two constables didn’t stand a chance when they came under fire alongside two other officers, constables Keeley Brough and Randall Kirk, at the property.

They had gone to there as part of a missing persons check and were met by a hail of gunfire fired by Gareth Train, his wife Stacey and his brother Nathaniel.

Neighbour Alan Dare was also killed when he went to check on a fire lit to flush out Const Brough as she took cover in the bush.

The shooters later died in a firefight with specialist officers several hours after the four constables first arrived at the scene.

Investigators are yet to officially declare a motive but are examining known links between the Trains and extreme conspiracy theorist groups and forums.

-with AAP

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