Jim*, a disabled pensioner living in the Tweed, was paid a surprise middle-of-the-night visit on Friday (May 25) by local police to inquire as to his ‘mental state’ and whether or not he had imported the euthanasia drug Nembutal.
Jim told Echonetdaily two police shone torches through the windows of his duplex and banged on the door at around 10.30pm while he was in bed asleep.
A carer answered the door and then had to bundle Jim out of bed and into a wheelchair so he could answer their questions.
Jim, who is a member of Exit International, said he was ‘groggy’ after being woken up and ‘caught off guard’ by the police’s ‘concern for welfare’ visit.
He told the male and female officers his mental state was fine –it was his physical body that was deteriorating. He also denied importing the drug.
Exit members targeted
Nembutal is a drug advocated by Exit for people with terminal and advanced illness who wish to end their lives in relative comfort. It is not available in Australia and is illegal to import.
Jim was one of at least three Exit members who were visited by police in Qld, Vic and NSW over the weekend, co-ordinated by the Australian Federal Police.
Jim said that when the police came to the door his first thoughts were ‘my wife of my children might be in trouble’.
‘They asked my friend if I was here and when he said I was in bed he said ‘we want to know if he’s purchased a euthanasia drug’.
‘They then wanted to know how my mental state was, and he said I was fine.’
Jim then had to be wheeled in to answer the police questions.
No police ID
He said the officers, who were in police uniform, didn’t identify themselves and, still half asleep, he was feeling too groggy to ask.
‘I didn’t ask them for any ID but if they were impersonating police they were doing a damned good job of it,’ he said.
Jim said the male officer did all the talking while the female officer ‘looked daggers at me’.
He said the officer was ‘nice enough’.
‘He mentioned an amount of Nembutal that had allegedly been purchased and a date – and I said “I don’t think I want to say anything”.
‘He asked if I had a terminal illness then asked me how I was: “Are you OK? We’re just here to check and see if you’re all right”.
‘He said he’d got an email from the Australian Federal Police’ asking him to check up.
Jim recently attended an Exit meeting at Robina but the group doesn’t believe its records have been compromised.
Elaine, the Gold Coast convenor of Exit, says she believes police have ‘followed the money trail’.
‘Suspects could be identified by their payment method,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘There was a case in New Zealand recently where Western Union handed over their payment records which resulted in a woman being charged with assisting suicide and importing an illegal drug.
‘She was not convicted on the first charge but was convicted on the second and fined $7,000,’ Elaine said.
She added that members here were frightened that police might return with a search warrant.
‘They told one member they would now “report back and take whatever actions necessary,”‘Elaine said.
Greens MP and Justice spokesperson David Shoebridge said it was ‘hard to imagine something more disproportionate than night time raids on… elderly people who are in extreme pain or suffering who might be contemplating ending their lives’.
‘If the police have real reasons to suspect breaches of the law they can attend properties in the daytime, with appropriate warrants to make their inquiries,’ he said in a statement.
‘In the absence of an offence, police are skating perilously close to declaring membership of [Exit] a thought crime.
‘Police wellness checks should not be used to advance political ends as appears to be the case here,’ Mr Shoebridge said.
The Greens are calling on the Police Commissioner ‘to urgently review any and all NSW Police involvement in these events’.
Welfare concerns: AFP
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) deny co-ordinating the times of the visits, however, and have declined to indicate why they thought Jim and the other targets of their interest might have imported the drug.
A spokesperson made the following comments to Echonetdaily:
‘The AFP has not conducted warrants in relation to this matter.
‘Once the AFP became aware of potential importations of a restricted substance, the AFP acted in a coordination role, and requested assistance from state and territory police to conduct visits to individuals potentially involved in importing the substance.
‘These visits were focussed on ensuring the health and welfare of the individuals,’ the spokesperson said.
*Jim’s real name has been withheld on his request.