‘He was staring into space … like no one was there’
The family of a game hunter who shot two police officers has described how they tried to reason with him moments before he fired.
Eric Newman, 74, stood on his balcony and fired his long-arm rifle at police before turning the gun on himself - after he had tried to strangle his wife as she got ready for bed.
Police said on Sunday the officers targeted in the shooting, as well as two neighbours who helped them, would be considered for bravery awards following the incident at Glen Innes on Friday night.
The shooter's wife, Lesley Ann Newman, 59, returned to her Church St home briefly on Sunday for the first time since the shooting.
Mrs Newman was getting ready for bed about 9.50pm when her husband - an avid hunter and registered firearms owner - walked into her room and tried to strangle her.
She managed to wriggle out of his grip and run outside screaming for her daughter, who was in a granny flat on the property, to call police.
She ran across the road to a neighbour's home where she called her sister, Kim Blythe, and waited for the paramedics to arrive.
Mrs Blythe has described how she approached the house and saw Mr Newman sitting on the balcony.
"I said 'Ricky, it's Kim, it's Kim, talk to me'," she said. "He said 'No … f … off'. He was staring into space, it was like no one was there. I realised he had a gun and I exited."
In the meantime, NSW Ambulance called NSW Police and three officers - Sergeant Mark Johnston, Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie and Probationary Constable Samantha Petty - arrived.
Witnesses said they approached the house and called out to Mr Newman to drop his gun before he fired a single shot.
It hit Sen-Constable McMurtrie, a highly-respected local officer and mother, in the neck while fragments of the bullet also hit Sgt Johnston, a father and recently retired firefighter, in the cheek.
Two men from next door ran outside after hearing the commotion and, along with Constable Petty, helped the injured officers.
One of the neighbours, known only as Bryce, held his fingers over Sen-Constable McMurtrie's neck wound until paramedics arrived. Both officers were flown to Gold Coast Hospital.
Mr Newman died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
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Police sources confirmed the officers involved and the two neighbours who rushed to their aid would be put forward for bravery awards.
Acting NSW Police Commissioner Gary Worboys, who visited the injured officers yesterday, praised the neighbours.
"These two young men went above and beyond a dangerous situation and they've put themselves there to help police," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Newman's devastated wife thanked everyone who helped her that night. "Everyone has been terrific and especially to the officers that have been injured," Mrs Newman said as her twin sister Mrs Blythe comforted her.
"Oh my God, I pray for them, I pray for them."
Hours before the shooting, Mrs Blythe said she had enjoyed a couple of drinks with Mr Newman and the mood was jovial.
"It's a shock to everyone especially Lesley," she said. "We were together a couple of hours prior and everything was good. We were laughing so we don't know what's done it, we just don't know. It was just a family argument and we don't know what's caused it.
"We understand now people who have been through it before."
Amid reports about Mr Newman's gun collection, Mrs Blythe urged people not to judge her family.
"Lesley was married to the man for a long time and she had no idea this was going to happen," she said.
"It's a fine line and something has gone terribly wrong and you can't judge people.
"Even though he was a hunter, that was his sport … It's like a tennis player, they are fanatical on tennis."
The couple moved from Sydney to Glen Innes several years ago. Mrs Newman worked in home care and Mr Newman worked at a pie shop in Church St until it closed down recently.
Friends say he was interested in fitness and had renovated his property from a pizza restaurant into a home.
Former colleague Juan Godoy said he saw him on Friday, a few hours before the shooting.
"It was about lunchtime and he was walking past me towards the RSL," Mr Godoy said. "I can't imagine Rick would end up in this situation and endangering people's lives."
Police graduate thrown into life-and-death situation
Exclusive by Ava Benny-Morrison
Four weeks after graduating from the Police Academy, Samantha Petty was thrown into a life-and-death situation.
Shadowing two senior police officers in Glen Innes, Probationary Constable Petty watched as a man shot her colleagues before turning the gun on himself.
Inexperience was no barrier as Constable Petty dragged Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie from the driveway and sheltered behind a paddy wagon. Despite nursing a gunshot injury himself, Sergeant Mark Johnston also helped get his colleague to safety.
In the wake of Friday night's shooting, police sources confirmed Constable Petty - who graduated in December - was doing very well and had been offered counselling but was still working. Police Minister Troy Grant described her as an "absolute champion".
"She's got her colleagues around her and family as well to help her comprehend this incident," he said.
Sgt Johnston was in good spirits in hospital yesterday, Mr Grant said, while Sen-Constable McMurtrie was still recovering after surgery.
"It's a miracle and it's so lucky they're alive," he said.
"They are doing remarkably well given the circumstances."
Sen-Constable McMurtrie was placed in an induced coma on the weekend amid concern about swelling around her wounds and was in a serious but stable condition yesterday afternoon.