Thursday, March 04, 2010


This is, as they say at posh broadsheet papers, a bit of a read: patience will be rewarded by a mention of the beautiful was in the POST last week...

A DEEP-WATER SWIMMER was stopped, searched in his boardies and picked up by police.

Soon afterwards the Cottesloe man received a visit from a police inspector with an apology, and then a big compensation cheque.

An hour after emerging from the surf at North Cottesloe Beach, Denys Martin (54) was arrested and taken to the East Perth lock-up where he was strip-searched and held for six hours.

He had refused to provide two armed police officers on the beach with his name and address and was whisked away in the back of a paddy wagon.

But he still has no idea why the police wanted to talk to him.

“What did I do wrong? I was swimming in the ocean,” he said. “I am deeply sceptical about the new laws.

“What really concerns me is that it happened under the current laws of stop and search,” he said.

“And that makes me deeply sceptical about the proposed new laws, which are still before Parliament.”

Mr Martin contacted the POST after reading last week's report about Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan saying people would not be stopped and searched on Cottesloe Beach.

On January 4 Mr Martin went for a long swim at North Cottesloe.

“I did about 3km – I'm not scared to go a long way out,” he said.

A North Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club lifesaver was concerned, though, and swam out to speak to him.

“I told him I was fine and I'd been swimming for 30 years,” Mr Martin said.

But when he got back to the beach two officers from Cottesloe police were waiting.

“One started to lecture me about swimming in the ocean,” Mr Martin said. “I was disoriented and dehydrated and needed water – but he started being gung-ho.”

The situation deteriorated: the officer asked Mr Martin for his name and address; Mr Martin refused to provide these, the officer then arrested him and he was taken to the station.

When Mr Martin was again asked for his name and address, he asked what he would be charged with.

Eventually he provided his surname on the understanding police would give him some water.

He got the water, but was then put in a hot van and taken to East Perth.

“They took fingerprints, photos and there was a full body search – humiliating,” Mr Martin said.

He was released after six hours and given a train ticket so he could get back to Cottesloe, still wearing his boardies.

Seven weeks on, Mr Martin is feeling more positive about police.

He says senior officers stepped in and took him and his complaint seriously and promptly.

“I was very impressed with an inspector who came to my house, listened to my story, and apologised on behalf of police – that was very professional,” he said.

He believes police will destroy the fingerprints and other details they collected during the day.

But he still wants answers from North Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club and Surf Life Saving WA.

Mr Martin said he was considering legal action against the two bodies for what happened.

He says he is not against the proposed new stop and search laws, but is worried about the potential for them to be abused.

Mr Martin's brush with police is similar to that of eccentric would-be Rottnest swimmer Herbert Voigt 42 years ago.

The German immigrant became famous for his deep-water swims, towing picnics and beer hundreds of metres out from the beach.

The press nicknamed his Mr Sharkbait.

In 1968 the City Beach surf lifesaving club called police after its lifesavers failed to coax Mr Voigt back to shore.

Eventually a police officer followed him to his old car, where, after a scuffle, he was arrested and handcuffed.

Later in court, Mr Voigt alleged that the officer had sworn at him so he pushed him away.

"Is there any law to stop me swimming out to sea?" the swimmer asked the constable.

"Yes, you have caused inconvenience to the lifesavers and concern to the public," the policeman said in evidence.

The magistrate threw out a charge of creating a disturbance and cautioned him for refusing to give his name and resisting arrest.

He was fined $50 and had his licence suspended for dangerous driving on the way to court.

A few months later Mr Voigt left Cottesloe Beach alone to swim to Rottnest – but never arrived.

Three weeks after he was last seen an escaped convict found a skull at Eglinton, and the coroner ruled it was Mr Voigt's.

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