Mission for justice: Family fights for name on memorial
IT'S been nine years since a former Warwick police officer disappeared in bushland south of Townsville without a trace and this year his family is making one last desperate attempt for closure.
Senior Sergeant Mick Isles was born and raised in Roma, with the branches of his family tree sprawling to St George, Chinchilla and beyond.
The respected police officer served in Warwick until 1989, before shifting to Ayr Police Station where he worked until his disappearance.
Mick left home on September 23, 2009, to drive to a training course in Townsville.
He never arrived and his vehicle was found abandoned five days later. He was 58 years old.
In 2012 the Queensland coroner ruled Mick had died from suicide - 18 months before he was due to retire from the police force.
A body has never been found and Mick's son Steven, who is a former Warwick resident and police officer, said he refused to believe his father killed himself, unless it could be scientifically proven.
"The problem with that is, that was used by police against my mother to demonstrate that she could not take any action for wrongful death because what had occurred was inconclusive," Steven said.
"They've also used the flip side of that and said he can't be memorialised because suicide is excluded."
The last words Mick spoke to his son weren't particularly memorable but Steven believes they were meaningful.
"He actually said, 'Steve, my sunglasses have a blemish on them, do you mind if I swap them with yours?' If he was truly driving somewhere to take his own life, would that really have mattered?"
Steven said his father had also made arrangements to purchase a car from Cairns.
"I got on a bus to Cairns and drove that vehicle back to Ayr and that was their planned vehicle to tow a caravan around Australia in his retirement," Steven said.
"He disappeared three days after I brought that vehicle back.
"The only person ever interviewed over the disappearance of my father was me.
"My father was targeted, there were warrants executed on him in an attempt to push him out of the job. He fought through, was fully exonerated and it was only after 13 months that he returned to work.
"He was on his third day back when he disappeared.
"They (Queensland Police) were concerned that if it was in fact foul play, they had to turn to questioning themselves."
Through Steven's efforts, on March 27 this year a Federal Senate Inquiry was announced into the mental health conditions experienced by first responders.
"There are 13 officers already recognised on the National Police Memorial for having taken their life through PTSD suicide," he said.
"If my father was in Tasmania, Victoria, NSW, the Northern Territory or Western Australia, he'd already be memorialised through having died in the carriage of his service, without question."
In a letter to Queensland police commissioner Ian Stewart in 2016, then-MP Andrew Cripps said he empathised with the Isles family, supporting the proposal for Mick to be included on the National Police Memorial Honour Roll.
"They cogently argue the need for rules and regulations with respect to these matters, not to discriminate or differentiate the consequences resultant from mental health issues rather than physical ones," he wrote.
On March 12 this year, Steven wrote to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
"There is no grave or ashes and yet Queensland Police Senior Sergeant Michael Isles has not been recognised ... Ms Palaszczuk, I ask can you provide sound reason why Queensland Police Senior Sergeant Michael Isles has not been, or should not be, recognised," the letter said.
Steven said the Premier had until May 31 to respond to his question or they would "go all the way to Federal Court".
Warrego MP Ann Leahy said she was waiting for correspondence from family members within her electorate.
"I'd like to have all of that information together and then I'd be happy to write to the police minister and make representation on their behalf, particularly for the constituents of my electorate," she said.
One of those constituents is Cathy Isles, of St George. Cathy's husband, Keith, is Mick's cousin.
"There isn't a police officer who deserves it more," Cathy said.
"He was fair, approachable and I hope to God, for everybody's sake, they put him on the memorial."
Steven said that after nine years, his family was just looking for closure.
"My father's property has never been returned," he said.
"My mother has been kicked to the kerb as a 34-year wife of a police officer.
"We're trying to move on but Mum struggles because she's not afforded any kind of closure. This is a partner who went to work one day, signed on to his shift and never signed off. And she's meant to accept that he vanished on duty and no one's going to recognise it.
"The very least that should be done by the Queensland Government is - the new memorial that's just been announced at Mt Cotton - for my father's name to be recognised there so that my mother can see that his 36 years of dedication and his disappearance on duty amounts to something."
If this story raised any concerns for you or someone you know, phone Lifeline on 131114.