NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has praised the quick actions of officers who thwarted an alleged attempted bombing of a western Sydney police station and pulled a 61-year-old man from the burning vehicle.
The man is currently under guard in hospital with serious burns after the dramatic Thursday night incident, in which he drove his car -- which was found to contain a gas bottle and petrol -- at the station. Scipione said on Friday morning that the car drove onto the footpath outside the station and "detonated and self-immolated inside the vehicle what was a flame that... was quite devastating."
"From that point forward, police engaged and in engaging they managed to secure that vehicle. The vehicle then rolled down the driveway and while still on fire, it rolled into the wall and then further into the garage door. At that stage, police intervened. They actually made an entry. They managed to extinguish the flames," Scipione said.
"I have got to pay tribute to the highway patrol officers that came from the police station and certainly went above and beyond, using fire hydrants and extinguishers. They put out the flame and removed a gas bottle that had been opened and was inside the vehicle at the time. They then secured the vehicle again and managed to recover some petrol that was in the vehicle and then ultimately they removed the driver who at that stage was seriously burned and he was extracted and sent to hospital."
Nine News is reporting that the incident may have been sparked by an ongoing family dispute with his brother, over an apprehended violence order. Initial fears overnight that the attack on the police station may have been a terrorist incident were quickly allayed.
Scipione said security at the Merrylands station was already "very very high" and that a large sum of money had recently been spent there to beef up its defences.
"In fact it is over $320,000 that was spent to secure that one police station behind me and if we need to find more, that's the recommendation I'll make to the Government. I'm not prepared to do anything less than all that we can to make these locations safe," he said.
Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford told media on Thursday that "there's still a lot of unknowns" but that it was not linked to terrorism, that there was "nothing to indicate that he is linked to anyone else".
The man was known to police, and it is believed he may have mental health issues. Police raided the man's home on Friday morning, and neighbours said the man had been upset in recent days.
Officers have been on high alert after a series of attacks on police stations in Sydney. Merrylands station was recently fortified after a threat was uncovered to "shoot up" the building.
Police accountant Curtis Cheng was shot dead at nearby Parramatta police station, and in the wake of his murder, threats were allegedly made towards officers at Merrylands.
Clifford said that the incident began on Thursday around 7pm when police noticed the car in the driveway of the police station underground car park.
"As police approached the vehicle, the interior of the vehicle ignited," Clifford said.
"The man then drove that vehicle down the driveway and collided with the roller shutter door underneath the police station. He was unconscious for some time.
"Police extinguished the flames and extricated the person from the vehicle. He has been treated by ambulance and conveyed to hospital in a serious condition, with what I understand are very serious burns."
The police arrested the man at gunpoint at around 8pm on Thursday night and he was subsequently taken to hospital. Officers from the Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit were brought in to examine the man's car, which they confirmed contained an accelerant but tests were still being carried out to determine what was used ignite the blaze.
Man involved in Merrylands incident known to police but not believed to have had any known links to a terrorist org, police source says.— Nick Ralston (@NickDRalston) July 21, 2016
Some FB pictures of Merrylands Police Station where police operation is underway pic.twitter.com/NxLTPIDH7C— Rashida Yosufzai (@Rashidajourno) July 21, 2016