Peter Haydon was 14 when his dad was shot and killed in Lake Macquarie by a man who was on the run after murdering two people in Sydney.
Almost 40 years later, Sergeant Keith Haydon has been posthumously awarded the National Police Service Medal.
He was recognised for distinguished service at Belmont Police Station on Tuesday during a remembrance ceremony for the seven officers who have died in the line of duty in the lake area during the past 155 years.
Peter remembers being dropped at school on November 24, 1980 – the day Sergeant Haydon died – and hearing news later that day that a police officer had been shot and killed.
But he didn’t realise his father had taken the fatal bullet.
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“I thought dad had the day off, but later that day some kids at school were talking about a policeman who was killed,” he said.
“I thought it’s not dad, because he’s got the day off. As I found out later, he had swapped his days of work with the other policeman there at the station.”
Sergeant Haydon was in his mid 30s and based at West Wallsend when he heard reports of shots fired at Mount Sugarloaf soon after midday on November 24, 1980.
He drove to the mountain alone to investigate and found the culprit, who shot and killed him.
Word soon went out on the police radio that an officer had been gunned down.
The man, who was later found to be the person wanted for a double murder at Bondi, then shot Beresfield police officer Constable George Pietruszki in the stomach and seriously injured him.
On Tuesday, Sergeant Haydon and six others – Sergeant Ross Jennings, Sergeant Rhoderic Lindsay, Senior Constable Douglas Eaton, Sergeant William McKie, Constable Frederick Martin and Constable Henry Rucker – had plaques unveiled for a new remembrance wall at Belmont Police Station.
Peter Haydon described his father as “gregarious, a real character” who was community-focused.
“The medal is certainly a recognition of dad’s commitment to his job,” he said.
“Anyone that knew my dad could see that commitment. Being a country policeman, I saw it first-hand how involved he was in the community and I think it’s a fitting reward.
“He wouldn’t get hung up on medals. He was a simple guy, he loved fishing and footy and his family. But he’d be chuffed I’m sure.”
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NSW Police northern region operations manager Superintendent Wayne Humphrey said although he didn’t personally know Sergeant Haydon, he could remember the impact his death had on him as a young police officer who had been in the job for seven months.
“I remember, clearly, that day. The old Telex machine went off and it turned out that one of our own was shot and killed and, in fact, another officer was shot that day,” he said.
“I remember later speaking with my parents and the impact that death brought home to everyone in my family… you have to understand when you go to leave for work on any particular day, you don’t know whether you’re coming back. It’s never really brought home until it actually happens. That’s what is so impactful.”