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Investigating the Rozelle Fire

In September 2014, three lives were lost when a massive deflagration and fire engulfed a convenience store and the apartments above in Victoria Road, Rozelle. Two years later, the convenience store owner Adeel Khan was convicted and sentenced to 40 years for the murder of Chris Noble and the manslaughter of Bianka and Jude O’Brien.

The vast crime scene was full of extreme hazards including asbestos and unsafe structures, yet locating every piece of evidence was crucial. How did the police and fire investigators go about the mammoth task of investigating this horrible and tragic event?

This presentation will feature talks from lead police investigator Detective Sergeant Richard Howe, lead crime scene investigator Detective Sergeant Philip Elliott and lead fire investigator Michael Forbes.

Detective Sergeant Richard Howe

Richard has been a police officer since 2002 and a Detective for over 10 years. Richard has spent the majority of his career in the investigation of major crime. Richard spent three years working within organised crime and was involved in major drug investigations and the investigations of serious and violent crimes. In 2009, Richard transferred to the Homicide Squad and spent four years involved in complex murder investigations ranging from an organised crime contract killing to infant deaths. In 2013 Richard took up his current role at the NSW Police Arson Unit. The unit investigates suspicious structural and bushfires across the State of New South Wales.

Crime Scene Investigator Detective Sergeant Philip Elliott

Detective Sergeant Philip Elliott has had a 25-year career in crime scene investigation, during which he has examined hundreds of crime scenes. He has received recognition for his work at the Broad Arrow Cafe following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, in Thailand following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, in Baghdad following the 2006 shooting death of Private Jacob Kovco, and on Strike Force Green, following the 2010 murder of Nomads bikie Neil Green. At the Rozelle Fire investigation, Det Sgt Elliott led the team of forensic investigators that painstakingly examined the complex scene over a number of days. Sgt Elliott provided ongoing expert advice to Detectives throughout the investigation and later gave evidence on the forensic examination of the scene and the cause and origin of the fire.

Fire Investigator Leading Station Officer Michael Forbes

Michael has been with Fire & Rescue New South Wales for 22 years. He was a firefighter at City of Sydney and Alexandria fire stations until he joined Alexandria Fire Communications. He was an operator there for 4 years before he joined the Hazardous Materials Response Unit (HMRU) and became a HAZMAT Technician. He was promoted to Station Officer in 2003 and relieved for a number of years before being stationed at Lidcombe. He then re-joined HMRU as the Station Commander in 2006.He joined FIRU as a Fire Investigator in 2007. His role is to research and investigate the cause of specified fires to determine their origin and cause in order to reduce the impact of fire on the community and to provide expert evidence for legal proceedings. He has attended over 500 fires as the Investigator.

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