Detective Senior Constable Russell Sheehan receives a bravery award in 2000 for his work in arresting a violent offender in 1999.
Detective Senior Constable Russell Sheehan receives a bravery award in 2000 for his work in arresting a violent offender in 1999.

Suicide of career cop leaves pain

AMY Williams will gather with her sisters at their mum's Sunshine Coast home today to celebrate what would have been her dad's 54th birthday.

Russell and Kathy celebrate a friend’s wedding in Theodore last year.
Russell and Kathy celebrate a friend’s wedding in Theodore last year.

They will share a beach-themed cake she is sure her police officer father, Detective Senior Constable Russell Sheehan, would have loved.

She hopes they will be able to joke about the countless good times they had with their dad but knows the treasured sound of his raucous laugh will be sadly missing.

Det Snr Const Sheehan's suicide on December 23 last year shocked his family, colleagues and the wider community.

He had been based on the Coast for the past 12 years of his 33-year police career, predominantly with the Maroochydore Child Protection Investigation Unit and the Criminal Investigation Branch.

Mrs Williams, the eldest of Det Snr Const Sheehan and his wife Kathy's four daughters, said her family was still trying to adjust without their "rock".

"We never thought he would see that as his only option," Mrs Williams said.

"I THINK he got very good at the end at hiding exactly how he felt."

They knew he had been struggling in the past year and that he had sought help for depression through the Queensland Police Service and a psychologist.

Mrs Williams said she had frequently been asked whether her dad's experiences, such as being a first responder to the tragic Childers backpacker fire in 2000, had contributed to his mental health difficulties.

But she did not know.

"I know that Dad could not pinpoint one particular incident," she said.

"There were a lot of things that were distressing about the work and cases he did."

She described her dad as a very proud person.

SEVERAL POSTINGS: Det Snr Const Russell Sheehan during his time at Childers between 1998 and 2000.
SEVERAL POSTINGS: Det Snr Const Russell Sheehan during his time at Childers between 1998 and 2000. Contributed

"To admit he was struggling and not performing how he would like to be was hard for him," she said.

"He was trying so hard to be his old self but it wasn't happening as quickly as he wanted."

Mrs Williams said her father had always been happy at home during her childhood.

"His job was a stressful job, but he never brought it home," she said.

"But last year it became evident that was getting harder for him to do."

His career took his family to postings in Theodore, Childers and the Coast.

Mrs Williams said her dad was known for having a raucous laugh that would instantly make other people laugh.

She said some people would go to the old cinema in Theodore just to hear his laugh when he was there watching a movie.

"We really miss that."

She recalled how her dad had been able to find the humour in being bitten on the backside by an over-excited police dog during an arrest.

"Dad would always find the funny side of anything," she said.

"He had a very good wit and a very quick wit."

Police support since Det Snr Const Sheehan's death

has been "tremendous".

Mrs Williams said an assistant commissioner flew from Rockhampton on Christmas Eve to be with her family.

There has been a steady flow of support since then.

She has welcomed a charity bike ride being organised by her dad's former colleagues to raise money for Blue Hope, a police-run organisation dedicated to helping other police.

Ride for Russ, a 300km journey from Woodgate to Maroochydore, will be held on May 21.

"It's a wonderful way to honour Dad while raising awareness of suicide and depression in police officers," Mrs Williams said.

"I think it shows how much Dad's work colleagues loved and respected him, to go to those lengths."

More immediately, Mrs Williams said today's birthday celebrations were important to her family.

"We just don't ever want to stop remembering him. He is in our thoughts every day.

"As sad as these milestones are, they are bringing us together as a family."

Anyone with issues arising from this story can phone Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.


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