Police from the state’s outlaw motorcycle gang squad hope to find the gun used in a bikie-related shooting at Port Stephens more than two years ago, after new “valuable information” came to light.
Specialist police divers spent about an hour combing through waters of the Hunter River near the Hexham Bridge on Tuesday afternoon before a strong current forced them to suspend the search for the weapon.
While senior police wouldn’t confirm the nature of the new information that prompted Tuesday’s operation, Detective Inspector George Radmore said “police certainly believe it’s reliable”.
He confirmed investigators had also received “valuable” information from witnesses who were at the scene of the attack.
It came after Strike Force Raptor North – the investigation unit started earlier this year to combat bikie-related crime in the Hunter and northern NSW – reopened the investigation into a shooting believed to be part of an internal dispute between members of the Nomads.
Raptor North investigators picked up the inquiry after they secured new information soon after the strike force started.
Police were called to a Corlette home on the night of April 2, 2016, where they found Matt Eather, then aged 31, with a gunshot wound to each leg.
He refused to cooperate with police but detectives traced clues to Big Rocky Track, about 5km south of Nelson Bay, where they found evidence that the popular spot near One Mile Beach was the scene of the shooting.
Fairfax Media reported at the time that Eather had been an enforcer for the Nomads and it was understood the internal dispute involved an unpaid debt.
Inspector Radmore said on Tuesday the injured man had given “misleading information” to investigators.
He said police knew the type of gun they hoped to find, but would not confirm details.
“It’s a serious matter – a man has been shot,” Inspector Radmore told reporters while divers searched the river.
<p>Police speak about <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/nomads?src=hash">#nomads</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/shooting?src=hash">#shooting</a> in Port Stephens at the place it went down <a href="https://t.co/FtmnpkZVeI">pic.twitter.com/FtmnpkZVeI</a></p>— Max Mason-Hubers (@MaxMasonHubers) <a href="https://twitter.com/MaxMasonHubers/status/717602958016286721">April 6, 2016</a>
“There are members of outlaw motorcycle gangs in the community using guns and in this case, which we believe is an internal matter, they’ve used them against their own members.”
Inspector Radmore said there were “definitely persons of interest” that police had identified.
He said the search of the river would continue until police either found the weapon or cleared the area.
Divers are expected to resume the operation on Wednesday, if conditions allow.
“The community needs to have confidence that police will investigate these matters, whether they’re internal matters amongst outlaw motorcycle gangs or targeted against members of the community who are unrelated to outlaw motorcycle gangs,” Inspector Radmore said.
Read more: Bikie shooting search leads to dirt track
“We will be now pursuing this investigation to finality.”
Strike Force Raptor North is based in the Hunter and was established earlier this year, along with a southern counterpart based in the Illawarra, as offshoots of the elite Strike Force Raptor anti-bikie squad.
Police are appealing for anyone with information about the 2016 shooting at Port Stephens to contact Crime Stoppers – where tips can be given anonymously – on 1800 333 000.