Thousands of well wishers turned out for the funeral of Queensland policeman Damian Leeding who was gunned down in an armed robbery.
Five officers, bearing the flags of Australia, Queensland and the state’s police service, marched to the beat of a single drum, towards his casket, draped in blue.
But within moments the silence was gone, replaced by a wall of electric sound as pop princess Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” reverberated around the auditorium. “… baby you’re a firework, come on show ’em what you’re worth. Make ’em go ‘Oh, oh, oh!, as you shoot across the sky-y-y.”
For those who didn’t know the detective senior constable, it might have seemed a peculiar choice.
But his wife Sonya, who knew him best, knows it’s what he would have wanted. “Sonya said he would have wanted a simple and light ceremony,” the priest officiating at the ceremony told mourners.
“We may have to settle for a mixture of laughter and tears.”
The priest told those who’d gathered to remember the 35-year-old, shot in the face during a tavern hold-up just over a week ago, that an evil act had claimed his life. But Tuesday’s service would be a celebration of his life, and would give a glimpse of “Damo, the man”.
Coomera police officer Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Procter told of his mate and colleague’s determination to fight crime.
“The Damian I known is not the triathlete, not the (former) carpenter. The Damo I know is the hard working officer,” he said. “He was the sort of bloke you wanted to be around, work with and become friends with, a quintessential detective.
“He often came in daily, dragging a dealer off the street. He had a distinct dislike for anyone dealing with drugs.”
He said he went about his job quietly, never seeking recognition or the spotlight but received accolades nevertheless. “He was the ultimate quiet achiever,” Det Snr Sgt Procter said.
He spoke of his larrikin spirit, and his habit of planting rubber snakes at crime scenes and how he dissolved into laughter at the reaction of his panicked colleagues.
He said he had spoken to his friend about football on the Sunday he was shot but regretted the things he had not said. “I would have told him to be safe, look after himself and not be so brave.
There are so many things I would have told him,” Det Snr Sgt Procter said. He said the police family would always look after Sonya, his son Hudson, 2, and baby Grace, three months.
“We will honour you by staying strong and keeping the community safe,” he said. “Last Sunday night our world stopped.”
Another colleague Senior Constable Warwick Brown said the police family would make sure Hudson and Grace knew what an exceptional man their father was.
“Damo you are our hero .. a hero to all the nation,” he told the congregation.
“We will ensure that Hudson and Grace will grow up to know what a hero their dad was. We will miss you, I will miss you mate.”
Friend Tracey Wilkinson said the last time she’d spoken formally of Damo was at his wedding. “None of us thought the next time would be at Damo’s funeral,” she said.
She spoke of his romantic nature, and his proposal to Sonya on a hot air balloon ride, and of his willingness to serve as a taxi driver when Sonya went out for drinks with her girlfriends.
Then there was Damo, the builder, the trade he learned before joining the force.
“He was always building something and renovating,” she said. But it was the police force where he found his true calling.
“It was something he was very passionate about.” In the end, the realities of that job took him from his children.
“They were his proudest accomplishments in life,” Ms Wilkinson said.
“He loved nothing more than kicking back with a Corona watching the football and relaxing with his family.”
Police Chaplain Father Columba MacBeth-Green told mourners Det Snr Const Leeding’s death had generated a wave of love, and that must be his legacy.
“I think the events of the last week and a half we have seen a lot of real love,” he said. He spoke of brotherly love, empathy, and the love of common humanity.
“Damo’s tragic passing has brought this out in our community again,” he said.
He spoke of floral tributes piled up for the slain officer, the outpouring of messages of support for his family, and the community’s determination to support Sonya and the couple’s children.
He spoke too of the love colleagues had shown.
“We saw Damo’s mates at the hospital, staying there … often for quite a long time, they didn’t want to leave.
“They stayed there in vigil, they were hurting but they come together to look after each other in their hurt.”
Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson paid tribute to an exceptional officer, whose loss was being mourned at simultaneous services across Queensland.
“The Queensland Police Service has lost an outstanding officer,” he told the congregation.
But his family had lost so much more. “Although we try, words are inadequate to express that loss.”
The congregation was told Det Snr Const Leeding would be posthumously awarded the valour medal, the Queensland Police Service’s highest award.