Naden search may top $10m

THE cost of the six-year hunt for Malcolm Naden, the country’s most wanted man, could easily surpass $10million.

Sources have estimated the cost of the operation could have topped $330,000 a day at its peak, in the days after Naden shot a police officer on December 7.

Wanted for questioning over the murders of two women, the sexual assault of a young girl and the shooting of a police officer, Naden is refusing to give himself up and is believed to be hiding in bush in the Barrington Tops area.

Read the Herald's editorial 'Long hunt for Naden' by clicking here.

Police have moved their Strike Force Durkin to new headquarters at Gloucester until at least March.

Northern Region commander Carlene York said the size of the operation showed their strong intention to nab their man.

‘‘Policing is a reactive job and we are prepared to spend sufficient resources to try and bring it to an end with the capture of Naden,’’ Assistant Commissioner York said.

Ms York said it was too early to put a dollar figure on the operation because bills for the massive amounts of overtime, food, equipment, helicopter maintenance and incidentals had not been tallied.

But she said it was the largest police operation of its type she could recall.

At the operation’s height, there were 90 highly specialised officers based at Nowendoc at any one time.

They included the Sydney-based Tactical Operation Unit officers, dressed in camouflaged gear and armed with high-powered rifles, and State Protection Support unit officers from the northern and southern police regions.

Analysts and intelligence experts working on pre-empting Naden’s movements were also involved.

And although Naden had never shown any inclination to speak with police, including when he bolted from a remote Niangala homestead just before Christmas, police protocol meant numerous specialist negotiators had to be at hand ready to go.

‘‘We contain and negotiate first and give the person every attempt to give themselves up first,’’ Ms York said.

The strike force needed to be fed and housed, helicopters needed fuel and regular maintenance and other more-sensitive parts of the operation were also extremely expensive to continue to run.

There have been numerous large searches across bushland from the Barrington Tops to west of Kempsey in the six years since Naden slipped a police net outside Dubbo’s Western Plains Zoo.

Naden’s fingerprints or DNA have been confirmed at more than a dozen break-ins, although he is suspected of scores of other similar burglaries.

Ms York again warned the public against thinking Naden was someone to be admired because he had used dense bush to evade capture for so long.

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