On Monday, December 12, four Queensland police officers were ambushed after arriving at a remote property in the locality of Wieambilla, where they were searching for a missing man from New South Wales (NSW) by the name of Nathaniel Train, who was a popular primary school principal with a long career in education. In the end, two officers were killed by Nathaniel and two other gunmen, identified to be his brother Gareth and his wife Stacey.
Who Was Nathaniel Train?
According to the Brisbane Times, Train was respected and admired by his students and peers due to his work teaching at schools in predominantly poor communities. As one teacher that worked with Train described him, “He was for the kids.” In 2020, Train started work as principal at the Walgett Primary School in NSW after leaving another school for refusing to get a then-mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. Shortly after he started at Walgett, he raised the alarm over a potential cheating scandal involving standardized tests from the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). According to Train, a student related to a teaching assistant had somehow been helped with completing the testing and scoring almost perfectly. Train had tried numerous times to bring the issue up to NSW Education Department officials, but says he was ignored and the issue was swept under the rug. Train was also accused of being racist towards Indigenous students at this time as well.
Following The Trail
In August, 2021,Train suffered a massive heart attack while working at Walgett, which almost killed him. Following the medical emergency, Train became increasingly angry at school officials for lack of support and never returned to work. Over the next several months, Train’s mental health was said to have deteriorated rapidly as he continued to obsess over the cheating scandal and racism allegations, while also starting to subscribe to government conspiracies. On December 16, 2021, he was seen for the last time in the city of Dubbo, having left his wife, never to return.
The next day, on December 17, Train was spotted trying to breach an unattended Queensland border gate by a farmer in Goondiwindi. At the time, COVID-19 restrictions limited travel between regions by those who were fully vaccinated. ABC News, citing the famer, who requested to be unnamed, stated that Train was clad in camouflage when he attempted to ram his Toyota Land Cruiser through the gate. When that failed he tried to use an angle grinder to cut the gate, which also failed.
At this time, there was flooding in the area, which the farmer said “Old mate [Train] hit the first lot of water and touched the brakes and got through but then he hit the next section at about 60 kilometers and basically drowned the engine of the car,” adding that “He jumped out of the car and started ditching all the stuff out of the car and throwing it into the creek. I thought, ‘that looks sketchy.'”
The farmer and one of his workers approached Train, who told them “he was an ‘anti-vaxxer’ and had lost his job because he wouldn’t get vaccinated and couldn’t see his family in Queensland.”
“We towed his car into our yard because it was blocking the road and he asked us for a lift,” he explained, adding that “I arranged for him to be dropped about 6kms up the road towards Talwood, but there would still be some flooding to get through.”
Before Train left, the farmer said he was speaking “code” with someone on the phone while grabbing more weapons from his vehicle before being driven off the property and picked up by another unknown car in nearby Talwood. His vehicle was left on the property. The next day as the flood water began to recede, the farmer said he found numerous weapons and ammunition. Authorities were alerted of the encounter, who came to the property to take reports and confiscate the weapons that were left behind, but it appears nothing else was done.
When asked about the encounter, the Queensland Police Service (QPS) said “it would not be providing comment while the Ethical Standards Command conducted a major investigation into the incident,” according to ABC.
From then on, Train’s whereabouts were largely unknown, however, he continued to email NSW officials about the cheating incident, the allegations against himself, and other issues at Walgett. One Nation NSW leader Mark Latham told the Daily Mail that Train continued to email him, adding that “wasn’t ranty with me, but he was certainly bitterly disappointed with the education department.”
In March of this year, Train sent 16 emails to education department secretary Georgina Harrison, which Latham said “were urging the department secretary to do something about the worst school in the state which is not unreasonable for a departing principal to want,” however, “He wasn’t getting any response from that department. These emails were out of frustration. He said it had been swept under the carpet.” At around this time, Train was said to have officially resigned from Walgett.
Latham had been in contact with Train by phone and email until July, 2022, which he “assumed [Train] had just given up because he was sick and tired of hitting his head against the wall,” further adding “I just assumed he thought he’d done enough and it had become futile given the attitudes of the education department.”
Train broke off contact with his wife in October, 2022, where she then filed a missing persons report on December 4, which started the authorities’ investigation into his whereabouts.
Lead Up and Warning Signs
At this point, Train was believed to have been living at his brother Gareth’s remote property in the locality of Wieambilla, along with Gareth’s wife Stacey, who Nathaniel was also previously married to. Both Gareth and Stacey were known online for their beliefs in conspiracy theories against the government, mainly pertaining to false flag narratives. They were also known for their stances against COVID-19 mandates and vaccinations. Stacey also resigned from her position as head of curriculum at the Tara Shire State College for refusing to be vaccinated around the same time Nathaniel had disappeared. ABC News, citing neighbors, said the Wieambilla property had been seemingly abandoned until a vehicle arrived a week prior to the shooting.
On December 8, Gareth posted a now deleted video to YouTube calling out NSW police, stating individual officers by name and phone number, which were likely from them calling to inquire about Nathaniel’s location. Gareth stated that he would not be returning any of the calls. Nathaniel’s wife was reportedly threatened by Gareth after filing the missing persons report due to being contacted by police.
On December 10, another video was posted to Youtube, which has since been taken down also, where a distorted voice that was likely Gareth reads out details of Nathaniel’s missing persons report while the song “Bad Boys” plays in the background. In the video, the voice claims Nathaniel is a “whistleblower” for “high-level corruption” within the NSW Department of Education. According to the Guardian, the video’s description read “You attempt to abduct us using contractors. You attempt to intimidate and target us with your Raytheon Learjets and planes. You send covert assets out here to my place in the bush,” adding “What is your play here? To have me and my wife murdered during a state police ‘welfare check’? You already tried that one … eat shit and die.”
On December 12, four Queensland police officers arrived at the property upon request from authorities in NSW to aid in their investigation into Train’s whereabouts. At approximately 4:45 pm local time, the officers were fired upon by Nathaniel, Gareth, and Stacey, who were all wearing camouflage. Two officers were wounded, identified as Rachel McCrow, 26, and Constable Matthew Arnold, 29, while a third officer was grazed. The gunmen then executed McCrow and Arnold at close range, took their weapons, and started a grass fire to drive out the other two officers. A neighbor who came to the property to investigate the fire, identified as Alan Dare, was also shot and killed.
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— ? (@BlakGreenRed) December 17, 2022
Following the initial gunfight, Gareth and Stacey posted a now deleted video to YouTube at 7:39pm, in which they stated “They came to kill us and we killed them,” adding “If you don’t defend yourself against these devils and demons, you’re a coward.” The video ended with “We’ll see you when we get home, Don.” Don has been identified by the Guardian as a Arizona-based conspiracy theorist who responded to the video by posting his own, which said “The devils came for them to kill them, and they had to kill the devils themselves and are now on the run. It is no different for us. The devils come for us they fucking die, it’s just that simple.”
The Guardian reported that interactions between Gareth and Don highlighted their shared beliefs into Sovereign Citizen ideologies and Christian fundamentalism. “Don” later claimed in a video that authorities were trying to kidnap Nathaniel because “he was on the verge of revealing the extensive corruption which affected children.”
Following a six hour standoff, Special Emergency Response Team operators breached the Train’s residence at 10:30 pm, shooting and killing Nathaniel, Gareth, and Stacey.
The Queensland Police Union (QPU) announced on December 20 that they intend on buying the Wieambilla property so that it won’t become a memorial for extremists. Union head Ian Leavers told the Courier-Mail that “The QPU would never want to see this land fall into the hands of any other anti-vaxxer, pro-gun conspiracy theorist, sovereign citizens who may seek to utilize the reputation of this site to promote their own dangerous and warped views,” adding “That is why the QPU has an obligation to safeguard this property to protect the memories of the police who gave their lives.”
McCrow and Arnold were posthumously awarded the Australian National Police Service Medal, National Medal, Queensland Police Service Medal, and Queensland Police Valour Medal during a memorial service held for them on December 21.