Original article no longer available
1 May 2005
The last call: ‘Mum, I shot a policeman’
The man who shot Senior Constable Tony Clarke was a bomb waiting to go off, reports Peter Ellingsen.
JUDITH BAILEY was at work in an aged-care home in Mooroolbark when the call came on her mobile just after 2am. Her only son said: “Mum, something really bad’s happened . . . I shot a policeman.”
He said he was going to shoot himself, and when his mother tried to talk him out of it, he cut her short. “Do you know what it means?” he said. “I killed a policeman. I get life. I’d get raped and bashed.” Mark Bailey kept repeating: “Mum, I’m so sorry.” He said: “I don’t know why I did it.”
His mother asked him how the policeman had died. In her statement to police, Mrs Bailey said her son told her: “I made him lie on the road and shot him in the head.” The statement goes on: “I said, ‘Mark that is so awful’, and he kept saying, ‘I’m sorry’.”
Bailey mentioned speeding and drink-driving. His mother can’t remember if he said he had snatched the policeman’s gun, or if she made that assumption. She said her son told her: “I shot him. I just wanted to say that, Mum, I love you and I’m so terribly sorry. And I just want you to know that you and Dad did nothing wrong.”
She said her son told her the policeman had a wife and children and “the children don’t have a father any more”. Bailey said: “Mum, I’m going to kill myself.” “I said: ‘How are you going to do that?’ He said: ‘I will shoot myself.’ I said: ‘Mark don’t do that. The Christian teaching is that we must take responsibility.’ He said: ‘Please Mum, don’t make it any harder.’
“He told me again he had shot that policeman and his life was over. It was as though he thought I didn’t know the gravity of it. I said: ‘Not everyone gets raped and bashed. You can live for Jesus in the prison too . . . With good behaviour maybe it wouldn’t be life. Your life can still have purpose.’ ”
Bailey told his mother he was crouching in the bush and the noise she could hear in the distance came from a police car or cars and a taxi pulling up. “He said: ‘Please Mum, pray with me.’ So I did. I think I asked God to have mercy on him and forgive him. And that Jesus died for sinners, not just little sinners, but big sinners also. I told him to ask God for forgiveness. He said: ‘Lord I am so sorry, so sorry.’ I said, ask him to forgive you, Mark. He said: ‘Lord, forgive me.’ That’s it. I said: ‘Please Mark, ring your father, talk to your father.’ He said: ‘I hate this life. I want to die.’ And: ‘Mum I wanted to come to you, to the hostel, but it was not to be.’ ” Bailey did not ring his father. He shot himself with the police revolver.
Mark Bailey was a bomb waiting to go off. His parents knew it, his sister knew it, and some of those who treated him either knew or suspected it. But despite being bounced through a swathe of mental health outlets in the years since he first became ill, no one was able to defuse him. He could have ended up, like so many others, festering away out of sight in a bedsit, or sheltering awkwardly within his family.
But last Sunday, Mark Bailey dramatically exploded, taking with him an innocent bystander, Senior Constable Tony Clarke. It was a foul murder. Clarke, 37, married with a 19-month-old son, was made to lie on a lonely road near Launching Place, north-east of Melbourne, while Bailey fired three shots, two of which are believed to have hit Clarke.
The weapon was Clarke’s .38 Smith and Wesson handgun. No one knows how the smaller and weaker Bailey wrested the revolver from the policeman, or why precisely he felt the need to kill. But kill he did, creating devastation for Clarke’s loved ones, and shock and horror for his own family.
It is a terrible story, but one that, while not predicted, was hinted at in a string of violent events and despairing words.
Going back to the moment about five years ago when he told his mother, “My brain is my enemy”, Bailey, 27, was clearly a man in trouble. And yet, when he rolled the family Commodore in Wonga Park, north-east of Melbourne, after sharing a litre of Southern Comfort and Coke some years ago, his parents struggled to find effective treatment.
Noel and Judith Bailey say they stood in the emergency department of Maroondah Hospital in 2002 unable to get attention for their son. Maroondah, which will get additional funding in this week’s state budget, was, according to its director of emergency services, Dr Peter Archer, then so stressed it had to dole out “sub-humane care”.
This, the Baileys say, was just one of many incidents in which they tried to get help for their disturbed son, only to be shrugged off, offered inadequate treatment, or care so short-term as to be useless. “They never really found the key,” Mrs Bailey, 65, says.
“Nothing worked.” She thinks the psychiatrist she had to privately engage – there is a shortage in the Maroondah catchment – would have made progress if her son had not used marijuana. At times he spent $50 a day on the drug and drank to excess, explaining to his father, “the thought of drink never leaves me”. It jolted his non-drinking, non-smoking parents.
But after a time, they came to see the pot that he kept in his room, along with his surfboard, fishing rod and fast-car posters, as a way to lessen anxiety. “It was self-medication,” his mother says, “and it worked for a while.”
But the sublime moment, when his first joint provided enough quiet in his brain for him to hear the birds in a nearby park, soon subsided into vindictive outbursts, recriminations and, on several occasions, violence. It was a new element for a family whose lives revolved around their local Baptist church.
Mental illness is not synonymous with violence or crime. Those suffering the most severe forms, such as schizophrenia, are more likely to commit violent acts than the general population, but the risk is very small, unless substance abuse is involved. According to Professor Paul Mullen from Victoria’s Institute of Forensic Mental Health, men in their 20s who abuse alcohol and drugs are the group most likely to cause problems.
Bailey, a toolmaker who lived with his parents in a quiet Croydon cul-de-sac, was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a less severe form of mental illness, not linked to violent crime. But he did have a history of rages and was convicted in NSW for assault after an altercation with family members.
Ironically, it was this conviction, and the subsequent short spell Bailey had in Sydney’s Silverwater and Long Bay jails, that influenced the tragedy that occurred on Warburton Highway last Sunday. Bailey saw an inmate bashed while on remand, and was so affected by it he had nightmares.
His only serious suicide attempt occurred while he was in jail and he had, his parents say, a morbid fear of prison. When pulled over by Senior Constable Clarke, Bailey was still serving out a good behaviour bond arising from his Sydney conviction, and believed he would be returned to jail should he seriously re-offend.
This, his father thinks, was the critical trigger. “Being picked up (for drink-driving) would mean breaching the bond and so the whole little world he had built up – his new job, Lilydale Baptist, all that – would just collapse,” Noel Bailey says. “That policeman would have seemed like the devil himself to Mark. But the policeman was only doing his job.” Bailey was stopped twice by Clarke on Saturday night/Sunday morning.
The first time was relatively minor, and led to Clarke giving him a $205 speeding ticket for doing, his parents have been told, 93 km/h in an 80 km/h zone. After being booked, Bailey drove to Warburton’s Wesburn Hotel to down some five or six pots with an old friend. The friend told Mrs Bailey her son was not angry about the fine, but was annoyed that the policeman had apparently accused him of having a “hoon’s car”.
His red, 1989 Nissan Skyline had alloy wheels and a customised exhaust. After two hours, Bailey unexpectedly drove off, leaving his friend – and the lift that had been organised for him – in his wake.
It was about 1am, and Bailey had had a busy day. He had been to a Bible class, fiddled with the mountain bike he loved, and attended a non-alcoholic 21st birthday for one of the congregation from the family’s evangelical church in Kilsyth. Now he was on the road with a belly full of beer, and about to be pulled up a second time by Clarke, a well-liked and experienced member of Knox traffic unit.
Mr Bailey long suspected he would bury his troubled son. “I imagined I would be at my son’s funeral one day, but not like this. I don’t think he would have done the shooting if he had not done the drinking,” Mr Bailey, 66, says. “For some time, we’ve seen Mark as an accident going somewhere to happen, like a bus going downhill without brakes. We tried all the gentler methods, but they did not work. It left us thinking that he is going to have to crash somehow, but we did not know how he was going to crash. The events of last weekend exceeded our worst fears.”
Noel and Judith Bailey believe the system failed them, and will fail others unless some form of secure containment can be created for people like their son. “The places supposed to help him just handballed him on,” Mr Bailey says. “Treatment was not good.”
At the end, all that they had to deal with his dangerous moods was the phone to call the police or the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team, Valium to calm him down, and the anti-depressant Aropax [paroxetine].
Sitting in their son’s bedroom the night before his funeral, the Baileys say they will now look to the future, buoyed by their faith and their surviving child, Hannah, 23. No one on either side of their family has had a mental illness, or the taste for alcohol or drugs, and they don’t know what caused the problem for Mark.
“His life was such a painful experience. I’m so glad that he’s relieved of it,” Mrs Bailey says. “It is just sad that another innocent family got caught up in this terrible tragedy.”