Ex-Dunedin man foils would-be bomber

Detective Sergeant Jeffrey White outside of City Central Police Station in Sydney. White foiled an attempted bombing of Sydney Eye Hospital. Picture Craig Greenhill/Daily Telegraph
Detective Sergeant Jeffrey White outside of City Central Police Station in Sydney. White foiled an attempted bombing of Sydney Eye Hospital. Picture Craig Greenhill/Daily Telegraph

A former Dunedin man turned Sydney-based policeman helped foil a would-be bomber from exacting revenge on a doctor he blamed for his blindness.

Detective Sergeant Jeffrey White hit the headlines in Australia last week after details emerged of how he foiled a bomber from detonating two bombs packed with ball bearings, nails and pieces of chain outside a Sydney hospital.

New South Wales police declined a request from the Otago Daily Times to interview Det Sgt White, who was born and raised in Dunedin before leaving for Australia in his early 20s.

Last week the Daily Telegraph published a front-page story on how Det Sgt White tracked down the bomber with less than 48 hours before the bombs were detonated.

On March 28 last year, he read an anonymous tip that a man was trying to kill a doctor either with a bomb or knife.

That tip included information that the man was a former patient of the doctor, was blinded and details of his last known address.

The man warned the attack would happen around April 6-7, before hanging up.

Det Sgt White told the Daily Telegraph: "There was something about it, it just bothered me.

"A lot of the guys said don't worry, it's nothing, but I didn't think so.''

He began calling to see if any medical specialists were having problems with patients.

His perseverance paid off with confirmation a doctor had a patient who was obsessive and blamed him for his blindness.

That man was David Lia, who blamed ophthalmologist Dr Andrew Chang for his incurable eye disease.

Detectives were sent to his address but Lia had fled the country a day later.

Four days later, Lia's wife rang police after finding two home-made devices.

The bombs had the potential to wreak more havoc than the Boston Marathon bombs, which exploded just days later, the paper reported.

The 3kg bombs were attached to propane gas cylinders and stuffed inside two duffel bags.

One had a timer set to go off at 1.49pm on April 6.

"We think he planned to go to Sydney on the Monday, hide the bags and catch a taxi to the airport,'' Det Sgt White told the Daily Telegraph.

Lia was arrested on his return to Sydney, and in his bags detectives found PCP piping and documents on how to make black powder.

"He said he had tried to do it the right way and Australia had left him no choice but to do it the wrong way,'' Det Sgt White said.

Last week, Lia (43) was sentenced in Wollongong District Court to three years and two months jail after pleading guilty to making explosives with intent to injure.

Then-Rocks acting crime manager Detective Inspector Damian Loone told the paper:"There is no doubt that if White had not sent those police to knock on his door there would have been bodies in the street''.

"He did a fabulous job and doesn't give himself enough credit.

"A lot of people would not have followed through on a tip like that. But he kept digging and digging.''

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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