It's been 21 years since Senior Constable Neil Scutts' life changed forever, after he was shot in a terrifying bank robbery that nearly claimed his life.

On the morning of March 24, 1999, a single bullet, fired into the then Constable Scutts' groin at the Browns Plains branch of the National Australia Bank would spark the start of a two decade long investigation to catch his attempted murderer.

Now, with a little over five years until Sen Constable Scutts' retirement, The Courier-Mail can exclusively reveal the reward for Australia's only unsolved police shooting investigation will today be doubled to $500,000, while an appropriate indemnity from prosecution will also be recommended for any accomplice, not being the person who actually committed the crime, who first gives such information.

Senior Constable Neil ‘Scuttsy’ Scutts was shot in an unsolved bank robbery in 1999. Picture: Peter Wallis
Senior Constable Neil ‘Scuttsy’ Scutts was shot in an unsolved bank robbery in 1999. Picture: Peter Wallis

Backed by his colleagues and friends at the Queensland Police Service, along with today's announcement of an increased reward, Sen Constable Scutts' is hopeful of closing the case, and as he says, "arresting the prick and putting 'em in the bin for what they've done."

 

THE INCIDENT

Sen Constable Scutts, or "Scuttsy" to his mates, had only been an operational policeman for two years at the time of the incident.

In an exclusive sit down interview with The Courier-Mail, Sen Constable Scutts recalled the horror he was confronted with when he entered the NAB bank at Browns Plains about 8.25am on the morning of March 24, 1999.

Two offenders carrying two-way radios and wearing surgical style gloves and off-white plastic masks - reminiscent of those from the Friday the 13th movie - were in the middle of an armed bank heist with NAB staff inside when Sen Constable Scutts, and another officer, who was travelling separately, attended the scene.

A historic photo of the NAB Browns Plains branch. Picture: QPS
A historic photo of the NAB Browns Plains branch. Picture: QPS

"I couldn't see any activity at the bank, which I thought was a bit strange, but not completely unusual," Sen Constable Scutts said.

He said once inside the bank, a glance over his shoulder revealed the severity of what he'd walked into.

"I looked over my shoulder and I saw an offender in the back," Sen Constable Scutts said.

"From that point on, there was nowhere to go. And there was no way to take any action at that point in time because there's just too much risk (to the staff inside)

"Basically my hands went up away from my firearm … I started to say something and then: gunshot - bang - down, and that was it.

"All I remember from that point on is pain. And I did say something about needing a doctor, and the response I got was 'shut the f**k up,' or something like that."

Once Sen Constable Scutts was on the ground, one of the offenders stole the officer's firearm.

Today, The Courier-Mail can reveal the QPS issued firearm, a Sturm Ruger .357 six-shot revolver, has never been recovered.

 

The stolen police firearm, a Sturm Ruger .357 six-shot revolver is yet to be recovered. Picture: QPS
The stolen police firearm, a Sturm Ruger .357 six-shot revolver is yet to be recovered. Picture: QPS

The incident coincided with the other officer positioning himself at the rear of the premises. At that time, the offender/s discharged their firearm/s twice and the projectiles exited through the rear window narrowly missing this officer, who was sprayed with glass particles.

The offenders then fled on foot, taking two NAB staff members as hostages, before, at Browns Plains Rd, they stole a car at gunpoint.

The vehicle was later abandoned at Park Ridge.

 

THE INVESTIGATION TO CATCH AN ATTEMPTED MURDERER

Despite decades of unanswered questions and battles with both the physical and psychological aftermath from the trauma of being shot, Sen Constable Scutts is as tough as they come and as determined as ever to get the case solved.

"Like every victim, I have my own thoughts on punishment and things like that, but ultimately, I would like to see somebody actually arrested and charged before the courts before I retire," Sen Constable Scutts said.

"Every so often things pop up and I wonder where (the investigation) is at and wonder if they're going to catch the prick."

 

Policeman Neil Scutts wonders if “they’re ever going to catch the prick”. Picture: Peter Wallis
Policeman Neil Scutts wonders if “they’re ever going to catch the prick”. Picture: Peter Wallis

With a little over five years until Sen Constable Scutts' retirement, and only one year until the retirement of Assistant Commissioner (AC) Michael Condon - who was the officer in charge of the Logan District CIB at the time- the pair are hopeful the increased reward and passage of time would finally lead to an arrest in the case.

"These are 500,000 reasons why people who know what happened on that day and could assist us - 500,000 reasons why they should come forward and allow us to bring these people to justice," AC Condon said.

"Police officers are driven to the point of obsession to close cases that mean a lot to them …

"On the day, the police officers were just doing their job, responding to a very serious incident - trying to keep the community safe.

"The community expects these cowardly acts to be fully investigated and these offenders brought to justice no matter how long it takes. Police will never give up and we have new information that is very promising.

"The answers are out there, the public and close associates of those who shot Neil Scutts, they know what happened.

"Anyone that shoots a police officer can't help it, they'd be bragging about it."

"We urge anyone who may have any information in relation to this matter to come forward and contact police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000."

 

HUMOUR IS THE BEST MEDICINE

Sen Constable Scutts said even 21 years later, it's the little, often unexpected things that will set him off.

He calls them his 'triggers.'

"The trigger can be anything," he said.

"I could be watching a bloody movie and it'll be something I've seen 1000 times, but one particular moment can just come out of the blue.

"There's no specific time or specific incident, but just something will trigger it."

However, following the shooting that would leave Sen Constable Scutts out of action for about three months with a significant injury to his groin and buttocks, it's the humour sprinkled throughout the trauma that he seems to reflect on most.

The now married Sen Constable Scutts, who has two daughters with wife Deb, recalled his stint in hospital following surgery for his wounds.

"The funny thing was that because gunshot wounds at that time were few and far between, and the PA Hospital is literally a training hospital, I had all the doctors and all the nurses come through prodding and poking me, which was a little overwhelming when the injury is to your groin," he laughed.

"The chief doctors comes in with everyone behind them and they're like 'this is a gunshot wound,' and they're lifting your sheets and lifting your gown. And it's like, seriously guys, have a little bit of decorum please."

 

A freshly inducted Neil Scutts. Picture: QPS
A freshly inducted Neil Scutts. Picture: QPS

He said the support and humour provided by his wife Deb, who he was dating at the time he was shot, has helped to see him through.

"Over the last 20 plus years, every time a trigger sets me off, Deb just looks at me and goes, 'get over it you big sook," he laughs.

"Like, 'you're a big softie,' and I'm like: 'leave me alone."

Above all else though, Sen Constable Scutts, his wife, and friends and colleagues at the QPS are all pushing for the same outcome.

"It'll be five years in February (of 2021) until I retire, and I'd really like to see someone hit the bin before then. That'd be nice, it really would be," he said.

 

Originally published as Who shot Scuttsy? $500k reward to catch gunman



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