Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras organizers ask police not to march at the annual parade

Feb 27, 2024



MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australian police on Tuesday found the bodies of a couple shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend, who happened to be a police officer, hours after he admitted to killing and hiding them under rocks and debris on a rural property.

The remains of former television reporter Jesse Baird, 26, and his flight attendant partner Luke Davies, 29, were found in the same surfboard bags that police allege the killer used to carry the bodies from Baird’s Sydney home last week, New South Wales Police Force Detective Superintendent Daniel Doherty said.

The bodies were found at a property near Bungonia, a town 200 kilometers (124 miles) southwest of Sydney, only 20 minutes drive from another property where police divers had spent days scouring waterways.

Senior-Constable Beau Lamarre-Condon, who dated Baird until late last year, was arrested Friday and charged with murdering the couple, but he had previously refused to answer police questions. The breakthrough came when he spoke to detectives on Tuesday and told them where to look.

Police suspected Lamarre-Condon first dumped the bodies last week at a property that officers later searched. But fearing that a traveling companion might reveal where they went, he returned alone on Feb.22 to move the bodies. Police say the acquaintance, who has not been named, was unaware they were transporting bodies and was not an accomplice.

Detective Sergeant Sasha Pinazza, who is in charge of the investigation, said the search ended Monday without finding any clue to the bodies’ location.

“I am exhausted. I barely have eaten or slept. We went home last night extremely deflated, but it’s not in our nature to give up,” Pinazza told reporters. She said they rallied again the day after and were able to find the remains.

The allegation that a police officer committed murder using his service pistol has shocked the nation and prompted Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras organizers to ask police late on Monday not to march at their annual parade this weekend.

Handgun ownership is highly restricted in Australia. Police are reviewing the gun handling procedures that enabled Lamarre-Condon to sign out his pistol to allegedly use in a violent crime while off duty.

“We’re in this position that a police firearm was used and that can never happen again,” Police Commissioner Karen Webb said. “We have to look to ways to mitigate that risk in whatever way we can.”

Webb, who has taken part in the annual march in 2006, met with the Mardi Gras board on Tuesday to urge them to reconsider.

She later described the meeting as “fruitful” and “very respectful,” but police remained excluded from the parade on Saturday.

“There’s some positives that could come out of participating in Mardi Gras on Saturday, but it’s early days and we’ve got a few days left to work through this,” Webb said.

The Mardi Gras’ board said LGBTQ communities across Australia had been devastated by the loss of the couple, who had planned to celebrate at the parade.

“The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Board feels that having the NSW Police march this year could add to the distress within our communities, already deeply affected by recent events. The Board has taken the decision to request that the Police do not march in the 2024 Parade,” the board said in a statement.

“This decision was not made lightly, especially considering that many NSW Police members who participate in the Parade are also members of the LGBTQIA+ community and are navigating the impact of this tragedy alongside us. However, we believe that their participation at this year’s event could intensify the current feelings of sorrow and distress,” the board added.

State opposition lawmaker Jacqui Munro said the state government should withdraw funding from the event, which is a major tourist draw, over the exclusion of police.

State Premier Chris Minns said he hoped police would be allowed to march, but ruled out withdrawing government funding.

Other floats would have boycotted the parade if police were allowed to march due to grief and extreme anger in the community, a Queer rights activist said

The Mardi Gras began in 1978 as a Sydney street protest against homosexual discrimination that was violently broken up by police. Uniformed police officers have been marching since 1998 as a gesture of respect and support.

Sydney-born Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said relations between police and the LGBTQ community had come a long way since 1978.

“I think it’s been very good that the police have marched,” Albanese said.

“The relationships have been turned around and have been positive, but I understand that the Queer community in Sydney, in particular, are grieving what is an enormous tragedy,” he added.

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