Gunna keep it, thanks

• John Doohan. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

• John Doohan. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

WILLAGEE pensioner John Doohan had a visit from the police after an electrician installing power points spotted a handgun in the bedroom.

The gun is a replica, which is not illegal, as long as it stays in the house.

“Instead of asking me about it [the electrician] went away and rang the police,” the 86-year-old says.

Reliant on a walking frame to get around the frail pensioner told the young coppers they were wlecome to look in the bedroom. One stayed with Mr Doohan (perhaps in case he legged it).

Minutes later there was a loud bang as the blanks in the replica gun went off, causing minor damage to the policeman’s face. The pair left, assuring Mr Doohan there was no problem, but at 8.30 that night the copper who’d shot the gun off was back, this time in tow with a plainclothes policeman, to demand the gun be handed over.

Mr Doohan’s daughter Cathleen rushed over after an urgent call for support. Formerly convenor for the Human Rights and Civil Liberties Watch committee, Mr Doohan refused to part with the replica pistol.

“[The policeman] started to lose his good guy attitude, and said he would come back with a warrant,” he says.

Bolting his door and vowing it would have to be broken down before he’d hand over his property, Mr Doohan and his daughter kept vigil until 1am.

The following morning Mr Doohan rang Fremantle police.

“They knew all about it. I said ‘what is going to happen?’ and he said ‘we are going to drop it’.”

Police media’s Samuel Dinnison says the pistol would have been useful for occupational health and safety purposes, seeing as the officer injured his face.

“As photos had been taken of the toy gun, police were satisfied that no further examination would be necessary,” Mr Dinnison said.

Mr Doohan purchased the replica after receiving death threats in the 1970s. He keeps it close to hand at night, worried about being assaulted in his own home.

Decorated for his WWII navy service, the peace activist has a long history with national security dating back to the 1960s, when he’d campaigned fiercely against the Vietnam war.

Feeling threatened by security agents in Australia he took his family to live in Russia for a short time, only to be targeted there by the then-KGB.

He returned to WA under ASIO surveillance, which he says continues.

For years the spy agency denied it had a file on Mr Doohan, but following a 30-year-battle it was eventually released.

“There are probably a lot of ordinary people who are under surveillance and don’t even know it,” Mr Doohan told the Sunday Times in 2006.

Less than two years ago officials from the Cold War-era sounding State Security Investigations Group subjected Mr Doohan to a 90-minute grilling to determine whether he posed a danger to the Queen during her visit for CHOGM. If it had deemed he was a threat he would have been banned from entering the Perth CBD throughout the visit, as a number of other WA citizens were.

Mr Doohan is continuing to push for a spotlight to be turned on what ASIO knew about the sinking of the HMAS Sydney, something he says would rewrite Australia’s history books.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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