The British man who tried to flee Australia on a jetski while armed with a crossbow left a note on his abandoned four-wheel drive before his dash for freedom, telling people he was “not coming back”.
David James Jackson, 57, was arrested by police on Monday after travelling almost 150km (93 miles) across the Torres Strait in an apparent bid to flee Australia for Papua New Guinea.
There is an outstanding warrant for his arrest of serious drugs charges in Western Australia.
Jackson was reported by locals to Bamaga police in Cape York after they spotted him setting out from Punsand Bay on a jetski loaded up with supplies, extra fuel and what appeared to be a crossbow.
According to the Courier Mail, he also left a handwritten note in his abandoned Subaru Outback, which said: “If I’m not back by Wednesday, I’m not dead, but I’m not coming back.”
The paper also reported that a local became suspicious when Jackson asked him about the ferry to the tip of Cape York. The man replied it was $120 for a return ticket on the ferry, to which Jackson replied he only needed a one-way ticket.
“I said has he got a job there and he said no. So that rang alarm bells in my head,” the man told the Courier Mail.
Jackson made it to Saibai Island, which is part of Australia, though just 4km south of Papua New Guinea. He was arrested on the mudflats on the eastern side of the island.
“He gave it a red-hot go,” said Jock O’Keeffe of Queensland police. O’Keeffe confirmed the man was in possession of a crossbow throughout his journey but did not have a weapon with him upon his arrest.
Police celebrated Jackson’s arrest as a triumph of community involvement, saying locals and Torres Strait Island police support officers (unsworn community police liaison officers) had played a crucial role, informing the police of Jackson’s suspicious behaviour and movement through the islands.
“It’s a bit unusual to try and get from Punsand Bay all the way to PNG. He stuck out like the proverbial,” said O’Keeffe.
The Australian Border Force cutter Roebuck Bay was deployed with officers from the three agencies on board.
After his arrest, the man was taken on board and transported to Thursday Island. He is due to face court on Friday over extradition to Western Australia. The jetski was towed to Saibai Island.
Border Force commander Jo Crooks said the outcome should be a warning to those who thought they could flee Australia through the Torres Strait.
“Anyone who thinks they can either enter or leave Australia through the region without detection should think again,” he said.
An Australian federal police spokesperson said: “This arrest sends a strong message to would-be fugitives – our reach across Australia is second to none and we will use all our contacts and relationships to find you and bring you before a court.”