Slain police officer Damian Leeding's boss wishes he'd said one more thing to his mate a couple of hours before his death: Don't be so brave.
Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Procter told mourners at Senior Constable Leeding's funeral today that he had touched base with the 35-year-old detective just hours before he was fatally shot.
‘‘Last Sunday night at around 9pm, I called Damo before I went to bed,’’ said Senior Sergeant Procter, who was Senior Constable Leeding's superior at Coomera Police Station.
‘‘We only spoke for a couple of minutes. Had I known this would be the last time I would ever speak to Damo, I would have had so much more to say.
‘‘I would have told him to be safe; to look after himself; and to not be so brave.’’
Commissioner Bob Atkinson told a packed house at the 6000-capacity Gold Coast Convention Centre that Senior Constable Leeding had been posthumously awarded the Queensland Police Service's highest honour - the Medal of Valour.
Mr Atkinson invited those gathered to applaud Senior Constable Leeding as he would have been had he received the award in life.
After the funeral, an 800-metre long guard of honour was formed along the Gold Coast Highway.
Senior Constable Leeding, or "Damo" as he was known, died last week after being shot in the face trying to foil an armed robbery at a tavern at Pacific Pines.
His wife Sonya, also a police officer, and mother to Hudson and Grace, was consoled by family throughout the service.
Sonya's father, Garry O'Brien, chose to have a "chat" with his son-in-law, rather than read a formal speech.
He told "Damo" he was amazed at the huge crowd he had pulled.
"I'm having trouble letting you go at the moment. You put us through hell and high water," he said.
Mr O'Brien said he had thought about the dangers of policing when his daughter joined the service, but he had never expected such an event to happen to his family.
"You made us proud. You made Queensland proud. You made Australia proud," he said.
Chantelle Leeding sobbed as she bid farewell to a brother who had become a "father figure" to her.
"He was the type of person who could make any situation better. It is hard to imagine how we will go on without him," she said.
"He will live on within our hearts and minds."
His colleague and close friend Warwick Brown told mourners this morning Senior Constable Leeding was the nation's hero.
"Damo you are a hero," Senior Constable Brown said, choking back tears.
"You are a hero to all the nation. Hudson and Grace will grow up knowing what a hero you were."
Family friend Tracey Wilkinson, who first spoke on behalf of Senior Constable Leeding and Sonya at their wedding, farewelled a dear friend.
She described Senior Constable Leeding as a romantic, who prided himself on surprising Sonya with his craftsmanship around the house.
His childhood friend and triathlon training partner Tim Calver said he would miss Senior Constable Leeding's smile and easygoing ways.
The detective's coffin was draped in a police flag and adorned with white and purple flowers.
Officers from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police travelled to be at the funeral today.
A hundred-strong contingent of Queensland Ambulance paramedics was also there to show their support.
Before the service, Mr Atkinson said the worldwide support for the Leeding family demonstrated the far-reaching impact of the death of the father-of-two.
"Damian's tragic death has seemed to ignited a response in the community," he told 612 ABC radio.
To Senior Constable Leeding's colleagues, Mr Atkinson said: "No matter how good the police officer ... sometimes the dark forces combine at once in the worst possible situation."
This morning, mourners told brisbanetimes.com.au they were there to farewell an officer and a friend.
Family friend Julie Nagy and her three sons, gathered to say their final goodbye to "a fine man".
"He was such a lovely man," Ms Nagy told brisbanetimes.com.au this morning."It's a huge loss.
"My thoughts are with Sonya now and I'm sure she'll get through today with the support of [her parents] Margaret and Garry."
Ms Nagy's son Steven said the loss of their family friend was "big".
"It's great to see all the support from the community," he said.
Shayne and Eddie Ditcham, meanwhile, did not know Senior Constable Leeding or his family but chose to pay their respects today and show their support for the police force.
"They've lost one of their own," Ms Ditcham said.
"We're letting police officers know that we're here as a community [for them]."
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