DOCTOR CHARGED OVER GUN STASH
Paul Doneman & Michael Madigan
Courier Mail (24-10-05)
Queensland doctor has been charged after an arsenal
of banned weapons was found in a purpose-built
underground bunker on his luxury property.
The doctor's chicken pen was the
cover for a stockpile of military-style weapons
allegedly hidden in wall cavities and under the
floor of a bunker, vault and shed in bushland near
The walk-in bunker – sniffed out by
Customs firearms and explosives detector dog
"Maverick" – was professionally built and had a
steel, safe-like door.
Inside a nearby shed, several more
guns were found secreted in a wall cavity. More
weapons and ammunition were found in a vault and in
a safe in the man's garage.
Police yesterday confirmed they
seized 51 firearms, including four fully automatic
assault rifles, two Uzi sub-machine guns and 100,000
rounds of ammunition following raids at the doctor's
residence and business in Innisfail over two days.
Parts of the Uzis are believed to
have been received in the mail from overseas.
Silencers, a bullet-proof vest, M60
machinegun belt ammunition and other firearm
components were also found.
Dr John Di Palma, 53, was charged
with 46 weapons-related offences, including
possession of restricted weapons and possession of
unlicensed weapons, and is expected to appear in the
Innisfail Magistrate's Court on November 14.
Police said yesterday there were no
links between the doctor and extremist groups.
Health Minister Stephen Robertson has
ordered an urgent review of Di Palma's position as a
government medical officer and whether his services
would still be required.
Di Palma is not a Queensland Health
employee but as a government medical officer he
performs autopsies and issues death certificates.
Medical Board of Queensland executive
officer Jim O'Dempsey said the board would meet
tomorrow night about whether it should take action
against Di Palma.
Mr O'Dempsey said it was unlikely the
board could act unless the offences related to Di
Palma's professional practice or he was deemed a
risk to patients.
Police said some of the outlawed
weapons had been collected over the past several
Ballistic experts will examine the
weaponry and try to track their origins through
It is one of the largest arsenals
ever uncovered in the north Queensland region, but
police say the guns' alleged owner is just a firearm
enthusiast who may have got carried away.
"Nothing more than a very avid gun
collector," Far Northern Region crime co-ordinator
John Harris said.
"He certainly doesn't collect model
"(But) there is no evidence of
connection to any sort of group or organisation."
Detective Inspector Harris said
police and Customs officers raided both a private
residence and a business at Innisfail, just south of
Cairns, last Thursday and Friday.
"We had to use tools to remove a
portion of the wall to locate these guns," Insp
He said the owner had appeared very
"professional" in the manner in which he looked
after his weapons, none of which was left lying
around the property.
"He's looking after his toys."
Insp Harris said there was nothing to
suggest the man was connected to community militia
groups which have been known to operate in the far
But he suspected that more charges
might follow once all forensic testing had been
"The scientific and ballistic
examination is going to take some considerable
time," Insp Harris said.
"There may be further charges."
Police refused to reveal any details
of how the man obtained so many guns, but Insp
Harris said the Internet might have played a part.
Innisfail Mayor Neil Clarke said Di
Palma was a well-respected member of the medical
fraternity and his arrest would come as a surprise
to many people.
"I can't believe it . . . He's been
(in Innisfail) for such a long time," Cr Clarke
Di Palma is a member of the Arms
Collectors Guild of Queensland, whose website
describes the group's aims as "the pursuit of the
preservation of military and sporting firearms,
edged weapons, and accoutrements of all eras"