The Mail is counting down the top 10 most read stories of 2016. Here’s what came in at number two:
- The Mail’s number 10: Manji digs deep for Chatley
- The Mail’s number 9: Drugs and weapons charges following Bridgetown early morning raid
- The Mail’s number 8: Juggling bluesman a viral hit after Bridgetown street performance
- The Mail’s number 7: Donnybrook marron fine for Busselton man
- The Mail’s number 6: Life changing drug gives hope
- The Mail’s number 5: Late night crash in Bridgetown injures 5 teenagers
- The Mail’s number 4: RAC rescue chopper sent to Bridgetown
- The Mail’s number 3: Combined control measures to remove Portuguese millipedes
March 21, 2016: Bridgetown Police investigated a wild brawl at the Freemasons Hotel in Bridgetown on Saturday March 12, which resulted in at least 11 locals being injured, with three taken to hospital by ambulance.
Police said about eight members of an outlaw motorcycle gang (OMCG) turned up at the Freemasons Hotel dressed in club colours at about 9.30pm and mingled with locals for more than two hours before the fight took place.
The brawl, which sent hotel patrons flying out the door and many fleeing in fear, has shocked the community and raised a number of concerns from local police.
Acting Sergeant Mike Smith said it was a horrifying incident and he was disappointed no one had contacted police as soon as the gang members entered the hotel premises. He was also concerned about the number of extremely intoxicated patrons at the hotel when police arrived.
"Under section 115 of the Liquor Control Act 1988, hotel management reserve the right to ask gang members to leave or take their patches off straight away. They also should immediately notify the Police that gang members are on the premises. Section 115 is a great piece of legislation because it allows hotel management and staff to protect their patrons, which it would seem did not happen in the lead up to this incident," Acting Sgt Smith said.
"Following a verbal altercation a gang member told a man to meet him outside, which he refused to do and this is when the fight broke out. According to witnesses and CCTV footage a number of locals have then gone to assist the man, resulting in a huge brawl which has spilled out onto the streets."
Police emergency were contacted close to midnight, requesting police attendance. Another call was received ten minutes later asking for police and ambulance attendance. The OMCG members departed together in a van before emergency services arrived.
St John Ambulance officers, Bridgetown and Manjimup Police attended shortly after midnight, followed soon after by two more police units and a dog squad unit.
Many frightened witnesses reported they were shocked by the incident, with some questioning why there was such a delay in police attending once the fight took place.
Sergeant Smith advised that Bridgetown Police were on their days off, with Boyup Brook and Manjimup Stations providing cover for the weekend.
"Staff at Bridgetown were not scheduled to be working that weekend due to executing a number of Misuse of Drug Act search warrants during the week as part of a South West District Operation," he said.
"This incident has highlighted the importance of community members needing to assist police with their duties whenever possible so as to help protect the community. Even though staff were on days off, had we been advised that gang members were in a hotel in Bridgetown we would have ensured police attendance as quickly as possible.
"We knew the OMCG members would be visiting Greenbushes on Saturday March 12 and staying overnight there in hotel accommodation and we were advised the gang crime squad would not have any involvement due to no expected risks. This information was shared with officers in charge at our neighbouring police stations, who were on duty to cover the Bridgetown and Greenbushes areas for the weekend," he said.
"We were not advised there would be any scheduled visit from the OMCG members to Bridgetown at all during the weekend. This attack highlights the extreme violence criminal motorcycle gangs use to intimidate the community.
"It is the intention of the WA Police and in particular officers from the gang crime squad to target and disrupt the unlawful activities of all outlaw motorcycle gangs. This can be done and will be made easier with community assistance.
"I strongly believe that if any community member or hotel staff had contacted police as soon as the gang members entered the Freemasons Hotel this incident would have been prevented."
Freemasons Hotel owner Michael Southwell was not available for comment, although hotel Duty Manager Wayne Liddelow said it had been a great night out until the incident occurred.
"Many of our patrons told me this was one of the best nights out in town they have had for a long time until just before midnight, when it all went wrong," Mr Liddelow said.
"As the duty manager it was my job to get the fight out of the pub and make sure our staff and other patrons were safe. Once the fight moved outside we locked the doors to make it safe for everyone left inside."
Investigations are continuing and police are very keen to hear from any witnesses they haven't already spoken to.
"At this stage we have had eleven victims who have made themselves known to Police," Acting Sgt Smith said.
"Three were taken to hospital and released later that night. There have not been any charges laid yet and investigations into this incident are continuing. At the very least we are looking at laying charges for disorderly behaviour by fighting. We are very interested to hear from anyone that may have information that can help us with this matter."
Police encourage anyone with information relating to the incident at the Freemasons Hotel on Saturday March 12 to contact the Bridgetown Police on 9761 1666 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Information received will be confidential and callers can remain anonymous.