By Darryl Mason
The Australian Federal Police have stopped denying one of their aerial surveillance vehicles was used in the search and rescue of missing Victorian government minister Tim Holding, but only after "The AFP went so far as to say they did not own any aircraft."
The Age runs a photo of a (manned) GA Airvan, as an unnamed source claims such a plane was/is used by the AFP in operations over Australia :
So a source tells The Age the spy plane is a GA Airvan....but "sources" tell the Herald Sun the spy plane :
The Age has been told that the equipment that produced a thermal image of Mr Holding was a US-made Star Sapphire Forward Looking Infra-red Radar system capable of finding a human body from well over two kilometres away.
The system can be used to track criminal fugitives, terrorists or missing people through darkness or cloud in forests or at sea at a considerable distance.
...could be a Cessna 208 Grand Caravan or a Britten Norman Defender, which had been heavily modified to conduct covert operations at high altitude.No Australian mainstream media appears to be entertaining the idea that the spy plane could be, and more than likely is, a UAV. Not yet anyway.
Incredibly, The Australian backs the AFP respin :
The Australian Federal Police -- which was linked to the plane in some news reports yesterday, but actually has no aircraft -- deflected inquiries back to Victoria Police, while the Defence Force said none of its aircraft was involved in the search.And that's after the Herald Sun reported :
Shhh, it never happened. That occasional buzzing noise you might hear over your city at 3am is probably just some angry wasps. The Australian Federal Police do not have spy planes, even if the AFP chief authorised the loan of a spy plane to find a Victorian government minister lost in the wilderness.
AFP chief Mick Keelty, on his second last day in the job, offered the use of the plane to search for Mr Holding.
Victoria Police mentioned the plane on its website when it announced a campsite used by Mr Holding was seen on Monday night by a plane using sophisticated night vision equipment.
"Police located minister Tim Holding just after 10am this morning after an AFP plane located a possible camp site overnight," the statement said.
The statement was later amended to remove all mention of the AFP.
Melbourne radio ranter Derryn Hinch thinks the rescued Tim Holding is "an arrogant, self-centred turd" and weighs in on the spy plane controversy :
Why all the secrecy about the Australian Federal Police spy plane with its secret heat-seeking, and night surveillance equipment?At least the AFP spy plane controversy distracts a little from the rising chorus that Holding's rescue was treated as something very, very special indeed by the Victorian Labor government. The deployment of a previously unknown Australian Federal Police surveillance aircraft being just the start of "special treatment". There is a nasty 'us vs them' belief spreading fast, along the lines of "Look what they do for one of their own! They'd leave us poor fuckers out there to die of exposure!"
Premier Brumby boasted at first it was used. And Victoria Police put out a press release referring to an ‘AFP planer’ and then tried to withdraw it and the Federal Police flatly denied they had any such planes. Which is a lie.
So, the high tech plane was successfully used to pinpoint Holding’s location. Was such a plane offered in New South Wales when that British tourist was missing for 13 days? No.
This attitude is fusing with suspicion that Tim Holding staged his own disappearance for publicity reasons, best exampled by a pungent little punnet of conspiracy theories found on the most paranoid and conspiracy-laden mainstream media blog in Australia :
"Call me a cynic but his political career needed a boost and he thought that this sort of publicity was one way of doing it."
"Tim Holding is a publicity hound and all round media bitch. This incident has done wonders for his profile."
The next time anyone goes missing in the bush, in the desert or on a snow-slashed ridge, we can expect the deployment of (formerly top secret) spy planes, from the Australian Defence Force and/or the Australian Federal Police, to help find them. And within 72 hours, just as was done for Tim Holding.
Obviously pizza-scoffing, infuriatingly dim, British backpackers will be left to fend for themselves.