WHEN two Portland police officers responded to what appeared to be a routine complaint of illegal shooters in the Capertee Valley in November, they were not to know that among them were two men who were to become the most reviled Muslim extremists in Australia.
The complaint related to gunfire that had been going on for quite some time on private property on Crown Station Road in the valley.
There were four men and a small boy.
That now seven-year-old boy, innocuous at the time, was to become the symbol of international revulsion last week week when photographs appeared of him holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier.
It was that image, described by US Secretary of State John Kerry as stomach churning, that confirmed the madness of the conflicts that began in Syria and have spread with devastating impact to a war-weary Iraq.
It also brought home to Australia the realisation of the extreme undercurrent existing in this nation and, at least on this occasion, in the Lithgow area.
The boy’s father, Khalled Sharrouf, fled Australia on his brother’s passport less than a month later to join with the brutal extremists seeking to establish an Islamic state.
His Australian-born wife and five children later followed him to the warzone.
Sharrouf posted the sickening photo on social media with the equally-sickening comment “that’s my boy.”
It was Sharrouf and that unfortunate little boy in the party who confronted the police officers that afternoon in the Capertee Valley.
With them were two other men on the nation’s terrorist watch, one of whom has also since been prominent in social media posts from Syria, plus a fourth man who, up to that time, was below the radar.
Sharrouf is on federal authorities’ most-wanted list but is not expected to return to Australia.
The men did not cause problems for the police and two were charged with firearms offences.
Another of these, Mohamad Elomar, has since fled the country, also to join the jihadists in Syria, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
The Capertee alarm had its sequel in Lithgow Local Court last Thursday when one member of the party faced two charges relating to the unlawful use of firearms.
The matter was adjourned without any evidence being taken to be relisted in the same court on October 17.
Owner felt uneasy
AT the time of the Capertee incident Sydney media quoted landowner Michael Landry as saying he was accustomed to shooters on his property, but for some reason felt uneasy about this group.
He said that about 400 rounds had been fired in an hour from “large guns”.
It was reported the men were being investigated by counter terrorism authorities. Mr Landry said a man known only as ‘Jack’ had booked the cabins on his property and had done so on previous occasions.