POLICE allege a concrete worker was murdered on the job by a co-worker armed with a wrench and a sledgehammer before he then took off and was later found with a gun.
Patrick Allen Boon was initially charged with wounding with intent to murder, but his charges were upgraded to murder on Wednesday morning, after 57-year-old Fred Tuffs died from massive head injuries.
Mr Tuffs was allegedly set upon at the worksite for the new $41 million Cotton Seed Distributors off Culgoora Rd at Wee Waa on Tuesday afternoon.
The pair, who both were contracted for work for Queensland-based company, Boodles Concreting, were at the building site, operated by Richard Crookes Constructions.
Police from Strike Force Magna – the operation set-up by Barwon detectives to investigate Mr Tuffs’ death – recovered the sledgehammer as well as the wrench they allege Boon attacked his co-worker with.
Boon then allegedly armed himself with a .323 bolt-action rifle and went to the Imperial Hotel in Rose St, Wee Waa, triggering a siege with police.
Obviously police received calls for assistance to the licensed premises after the accused was sighted allegedly carrying a firearm in a public area in and around that licensed premises.Barwon Detective Inspector David Silversides
“Obviously police received calls for assistance to the licensed premises after the accused was sighted allegedly carrying a firearm in a public area in and around that licensed premises,” Barwon Detective Inspector David Silversides told The Leader.
He said police set-up a perimeter “for the safety of the general public and responding emergency service personnel”.
More than a dozen officers swarmed the hotel and cordoned off one block of the town as they tried to negotiate with Boon, who surrendered less than two hours later.
The firearm was not discharged, police said, and no charges have been laid in relation to the gun. The origin of the gun is one of the key areas of investigation for the strike force, so too the motive for the alleged attack.
“At this stage that forms part of our inquiries, we believe both parties were known to each other,” Detective Inspector Silversides said.
“[He suffered] head injuries which ultimately were the most significant injury which we would allege as a result of that assault by the accused on that victim.
[He suffered] head injuries which ultimately were the most significant injury which we would allege as a result of that assault by the accused on that victim.Barwon Detective Inspector David Silversides
“The motive of the attack is still part of the inquiries.
“There will be further analysis of exhibits and obviously a post-mortem to be conducted in the coming days.”
The death has rocked the construction site and the Wee Waa township with both the job site and the hotel given the all clear late on Wednesday after police combed the crime scenes.
Dozens of workers, including several Tamworth-based crews, have been working on the job site for months.
The Leader understands several were sent home as police were called in, but detectives are now interviewing workers who might have seen the alleged violent altercation.
Tributes are also flowing for Mr Tuffs who is being remembered as “a gentle and kind man”, and one who was popular with co-workers.
Boon did not appear in Moree Local Court when his case was mentioned on Wednesday morning and made no application for bail.
Magistrate Darryl Pearce formally refused bail and ordered the 37-year-old to remain behind bars until August with detectives ordered to compile the murder brief.
Richard Crookes Constructions and Boodles Concreting did not respond to requests for comment.