The Sherlock Holmes of Noosa

Garry Maher in training. Photo: Dave Gleeson, Surfshots.

By Ron Lane

The book laying on the table was entitled Investigating Made Simple and on the third page, the author, Garry Maher made two simple statements; statements telling me that here indeed was a man of integrity; but above all a man whose answer to a question would always be straight to the point.

“What I have learned over nearly forty years about the art of investigating could fill a book. What I have yet to learn about the art of investigating could fill a library.”

These statements also made me aware that the author was a man with a very inquisitive mind and a person who loved a challenge. Now at the age of 76 years with a career embracing family life, police work, study, teaching, writing and finally the practice and study of martial arts he can be described as someone who grabbed life with both hands and held on for the ride.

Born in Darlinghurst Sydney in 1943 Garry was educated at Saint Partricks Christian Brothers College but as a result of his father being badly injured in an accident his education came to an abrupt end in the intermediate year. Then in 1965 with his family now living in Canberra he made the decision to join the Canberra Police Force.

The training involved two months at the Police College then 12 months as a probationary constable. “During those 12 months,” said Garry with a grin, “I saluted everything that moved and polished everything that didn’t. After being accepted I was partnered with a senior officer in what was referred to as the Buddy System: I was fortunate enough to be paired with very good men and women which meant I was learning all the time.’’

In 1966 Garry met a young public servant named Bernadette who worked for the Department of Army in Canberra. They started dating and married in 1970 and soon became the proud parents of a son who they named Dominic. ‘’After leaving high school Dominic chose teaching as a profession and this saw him accepting a position on the staff at Nudgee College in Queensland. But now,” said Garry, “he lives in Denmark and is happily married with three children. It’s a long way away but happily we all keep in close touch.”

After five years he was transferred to the CIB (Criminal Investigation Branch) and appointed to detective rank and from then “the investigative work was full on.” After some time he was sent to Russell Street, Melbourne for a wider range of work experience in the field of criminal investigation; it was then on to Saint Kilda Police Academy for a close look at their system.

But at 43 the then Senior Sergeant Garry Maher experienced a setback when he suffered a mild heart attack. This was eventually to result in major surgery requiring a quadruple by-pass. “I ended up with a chest full of by-passes; more than the Bruce Highway”, he said laughing. The convalescence went well but on returning to his Canberra base he decided to resign. “I had eighteen good years in the force, eighteen years of doing something that I loved. Following my resignation I decided it was time to do something about my education, so I enrolled at the University of Canberra and obtained a degree in Adult Education and a Diploma in Technical and Further Education.”

However while at University an incident occurred that was to have a big influence on Garrys future career.

‘’The Taxation Department requested the Uni to run professional courses for Taxation Education and because of my background I was invited to run the course. Working in the Center for Professional and Vocational Education (known as PAVE) as an Associate Director and Visiting Scholar, I was basically required to teach Taxation Agents the principals of investigative techniques.’’

This was to be the start of what was to become a very successful new and gratifying career. For in the years ahead he would mentor numerous police, military and other government educators in the development of their respective “internal investigation and professional development training programs.” Also down through the years, to further his studies and research he would take it upon himself to visit such places as United Kingdom, Ireland, Europe, United States and Canada.

“Perhaps one experience that was different occurred when a course student from Papua New Guinea (PNG) expressed a desire for me to look at becoming the author of courses to suit the New Guinea Constabulary. For this project I worked on a fly in fly out basis for several weeks. It was a totally different culture and resulted in me visiting such places as Mt Hagen and Ok Tedi, site of the huge gold and copper mine.

Then in 1998 we moved to Noosa and despite the move I was still able to run my business as all I needed was a phone, fax and an airport. It was at this stage that through my Uni connections I was able to participate in courses entitled Cultural Diversity and Communication. This was a New York Police Department. (NYPD) course based in New York City.

As a result I visited New York and once again found myself in a totally different environment. It was not long after the Serpico scandal, a scandal that came about when a young New York detective named Frank Serpico blew the whistle on corruption in the NYPD and all hell broke loose. I also couldn’t help but notice that all the detectives wore guns; some on their hips and some in shoulder and ankle holsters. It was certainly a different atmosphere.”

After years of teaching and a wealth of experience Garry realized that he had collected a massive pile of notes, enough maybe to write a book. The seed was planted and in 2004 the first edition hit the shelves. Now in its fifth edition the demand is still good.

But in 2007 the inevitable happened; Garry Maher former Detective Senior Sergeant, corporate trainer, academic and author of a Government endorsed textbook, hit that brick wall known as retirement.

“Early one morning while sitting at a table at Gibson’s Café enjoying a coffee it hit me; I was 64 retired and at 103 kg was grossly overweight, with absolutely nothing planned. However my thoughts were being repeatedly interrupted by noises coming from the karate club situated on the floor above. My investigative mind took control and I went for a look. As I walked up the stairs I was wondering what a karate club could possibly offer a 64 year old overweight retiree with a heart problem.

“I quickly discovered it was a Karate and Fitness Institute. A handshake with someone called a sensei (teacher) a good 20 minute discussion with management staff and I was hooked; I had discovered something that was not only a sport but as I was soon to learn a way of life.” The massive mental void that Garry had unintentionally stumbled into was about to vanish.

Four years after what can only be described as some very intense training sessions Garry (then down to 84kg and fit)stood in front of his sensei to sip the traditional ceremonial glass of Saki and received his coveted Black Belt; a belt which is awarded after a grading conducted over a period of two days.

“Sometimes I would train three times during the week then go again on Saturday morning. I did this because I really wanted to earn my black belt and at the end of the four years I felt I had. Also at this stage Bernadette had,” he said with a smile, “accepted the fact that she was on the way to becoming a karate widow.” Over the years Garry has won several medals some at state level competing at tournaments in the Masters Kata division; something that has given him a sense of pride.

In an effort to study karate more in depth, Garry applied to the Australian Sports Academy to attend special and very intense courses. He was accepted and successful. This enabled him to teach Advanced Skills of Martial Arts. From the sometimes dark world of detective work where he became involved with criminals of all levels, to the life in the dojo where boys and girls of six could be in his care was indeed a complete turn- about. ‘’It is not only karate that we teach but also good manners and being respectful to their sensei, family and friends. Also for the older kids it gives us the opportunity to get them off the streets and most important (as an ex-cop) away from the world of the drugs and the Cowards Punch. Indeed a very gratifying step in life.”

To lead a life of such extremes requires a man of determination, fortitude and above all an open mind. Such a man is Garry Maher.

During his journey through life both as a detective and an academic he has received various awards and amongst those were; National Police Service Medal, the associate membership of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Washington D.C.U.S.and a commendation from the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory. Proud to say Garry, is One of our People.

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