Fox polarised police after testifying against officer

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DETECTIVE Chief Inspector Peter Fox made few friends when he stood in the witness box and accused a fellow officer of pointing a gun at him.

The man nicknamed ''the teflon fox'' is now the focus of national attention and, in some areas, acclaimed as a voice of conscience speaking out against child abuse and a culture of cover-up in the Catholic Church.

An open letter written two weeks ago to the NSW Premier, Barry O'Farrell, was seen as an act of personal courage that helped push state and federal governments to the royal commission into child abuse.

Dogged. Principled. A man who aggressively pursues his goal. All these qualities of Chief Inspector Fox's receive praise.

But, in April 2011, he put several of his colleagues offside when he gave evidence in an apprehended violence order application being taken out against a fellow officer.

Despite Chief Inspector Fox insisting he told his superior about the incident with the gun, his boss told the court he knew nothing of it. And the police officer involved, who later had the application against him thrown out, denied it ever occurred.

In a close-knit policing community, Chief Inspector Fox's testimony about a fellow officer was a polarising act by a polarising man.

''He's definitely got people off side,'' one senior officer told Fairfax Media this week. ''But then again, he's a cop and what cop hasn't?''

Before being thrust into the nation's spotlight, Chief Inspector Fox had a high profile in the Hunter region as an investigator of murders and child sex assaults. And even he readily admits you either love him or hate him.

''He's one of my heroes,'' homicide victims' advocate Martha Jabour said.

Ms Jabour worked with Chief Inspector Fox after the murder of Sydney mother Susan Park and her two young children in August 1997.

For 11 years, the three bodies remained in a cardboard box at the Newcastle morgue with no one to lay them to rest.

Having worked the case, Chief Inspector Fox's official obligations finished when they charged Mrs Park's husband with the murder, but the detective took it upon himself to ensure the victims also got a proper burial.

He flew to China, spoke with family and, when that failed, arranged a Buddhist funeral in Wollongong. In attendance that day in August 2009 was just Chief Inspector Fox, his wife, Penny, and Ms Jabour.

This perseverance has been the focus of a true crime book, Murder at Anna Bay. The book detailed how Chief Inspector Fox dedicated time each day for three years until he caught the killer in the 2000 murder of mother-of-three Judith Brown.

''He's the sort of cop that any victim would want on their case,'' said former detective and now Dubbo MP Troy Grant.

The Nationals MP briefly worked under Chief Inspector Fox, investigating child sex abuse cases involving the Catholic Church within Newcastle. Mr Grant was one of the first to come out publicly supporting his former boss's call for a royal commission into child sex abuse.

''I never gave it any thought as to whether or not he'd come out [alleging a Catholic Church cover-up] prior to him doing it but I certainly wasn't surprised when he did,'' Mr Grant said. ''I know how passionate he is about that body of work that he did.''

Chief Inspector Fox blames his willingness to speak out as a reason why he has made enemies in the force. Those who have worked with him say it is also because he is ''pugnacious'', at times too ''aggressive and full-on''.

His detractors also feel he has escaped untarnished despite a number of alleged incidents over the years, including his evidence that conflicted with his boss at the AVO hearing.

He was also ridiculed by some officers for taking the NSW Police Force to the Industrial Relations Commission earlier this year in a bid to get compensation after he slipped over at home while leaving for work.

Chief Inspector Fox, who is on stress leave, said he has been the victim of a smear campaign from within police ranks for speaking out about an alleged cover-up of child abuse and has also received threatening letters.

He declined to be interviewed, saying the attention should now be on the victims of child abuse and not himself. He has said he fears in speaking out he has ended his policing career.

Others are not so sure.

''He's got diplomatic immunity,'' one officer said. ''They'd be crazy to try and get rid of him.''

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox. Picture: Peter Stoop

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox. Picture: Peter Stoop


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