Record reward tests loyalties for Malcolm Naden

THE new heat being applied to fugitive Malcolm Naden has pundits predicting that the expert bushman may throw in his solitary life and turn to friendly contacts for help.

As teams of heavily armed and camouflaged police continued to track the state’s most wanted man through thick bush north of Barrington Tops yesterday, senior police were quick to convince Police Minister Mike Gallacher to introduce the nation’s largest bounty ever placed on a criminal – $250,000.

Desperate days: The famous fugitive file

In an exclusive interview with the Newcastle Herald yesterday, Mr Gallacher said the ‘‘dynamics had changed’’ since Naden showed he would do anything but surrender after shooting an officer in the shoulder on Wednesday morning.

It also meant that the 33-year-old fugitive, who has been suspected of being aided by supporters intermittently while on the run, may start to rely more heavily on their goodwill as more and more police jump on his trail.

Police computer imagery showing what Naden could now look like.

And the $250,000 carrot for information that leads to Naden’s arrest may also change the mindset of people whom he once considered allies.

‘‘The environment that he controlled 48 hours ago has changed because he is now being hunted,’’ Mr Gallacher said. ‘‘If he tries to contact people, and that is a real chance, then they should be alerting authorities.’’

VIDEO: Fog clears on Naden hunt

Naden has been on the run since 2006 after he became a suspect in the murder of Kristy Scholes, the disappearance of Lateesha Nolan and the sexual assault of a girl.

He has criss-crossed a large section of remote bushland from Barrington Tops to Kempsey, staying a step ahead of authorities by breaking into remote properties and stealing necessities.

Naden is the first man to have a bounty on his head since Jimmy Governor, who became famous in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, was hunted down outside Wingham in 1900.

Governor was shot and arrested in bushland that is only about a day’s walk from the small campsite where Naden was staying when police approached just after dawn on Wednesday.

The increase in the reward has been criticised by some landholders, who fear an increase in bounty hunters believing they can make a successful arrest.

But Mr Gallacher warned against amateur sleuths, with risks including coming across switched-on specialist police who know their target will shoot at them.

‘‘The last thing we want is for police to come up against people while they are looking for this man,’’ he said.

‘‘This is about providing information that will lead to his arrest, not taking it upon yourself to arrest him.

‘‘It is about bringing this person to justice before more damage is done, damage to the community and damage to individuals.’’

And Mr Gallacher also warned against elevating Naden’s reputation because he had been able to use his supreme bush skills to elude capture for so long.

‘‘This guy is wanted for murder, child sexual assault, the disappearance of another person and the shooting of a police officer,’’ he said.

‘‘We should not, for one moment, entertain any suggestion of glorifying this man as anything but what he is – a violent, desperate criminal who needs to be caught.’’

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