POLICE from throughout Queensland gathered at Maroochydore on Wednesday for the funeral of a former senior detective whose career saw him take on some of the state's toughest and most controversial cases.
Jeff Oliphant, who retired as North Coast Regional Detective Inspector at Maroochydore in 2002, was rated as one of Queensland's finest investigators, his career involving everything from the arrest of a judge to tracking down the perpetrator of the horrific Childers Palace Backpackers Hostel fire in 2000 which claimed the lives of 15 people.
He passed away at 70 after a battle with cancer, and is survived by his wife Kaye, three children and grandchildren.
After joining the service in August, 1967, 'Oli', as he was to become affectionately known by those with whom he served, rose quickly through the ranks to become a plain clothes officer at the Brisbane Criminal Investigation Branch in 1973.
He had met Kaye in mobiles division where she had been first on the scene of the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub fire that also claimed 15 lives.
The couple married in 1974 and had their first taste of Sunshine Coast life with Det Inspector Oliphant's transfer to the then one-man Caloundra CIB in 1977.
At that point he, Bob Atkinson in Tewantin and Roy Wall in Maroochydore were the Coast's only detectives. The region is now staffed by 70 investigators.
Det Inspector Oliphant's mettle was well and truly tested in dealing with a case of sexual molestation at Dicky Beach which led to the arrest and trial of then Judge Underhill who became known as Judge Underpants.
Promoted to Detective Sergeant 2/c in 181, he served first at Ipswich, then at the Brisbane C.I. Branch before joining Redcliffe C.I. and then Woolloongabba before helping form the Sexual Offenders Squad.
It was while there that he was seconded to a Fitzgerald Inquiry drug-related investigation which led to a series of arrests including the infamous Hector Happeta.
From a posting as Detective Senior Sergeant at the Redcliffe Juvenile Aid Bureau in February 1990 he was further promoted to Detective Inspector in 1991 to Crime Operations heading up the Fraud and Homicide Squads.
Superintendent Darryl Johnson said it seemed to matter little where he served, Oli always left behind a unit that was productive, cohesive with staff who, more often than not, reflected his core values.
The shift back to the Sunshine Coast came in 1995 with his appointment as Regional Crime Coordinator to replace the retiring Neil Magnussen.
It was a much-sought-after role Detective Inspector Oliphant was to hold until retirement cost the service one of the best investigators of his generation.
"He was a man who cared about his staff - who had the ability to guide them through some complex situations and who would never chastise an officer when a mistake was made - he simply moved on, no grudge held, but the lesson had been learnt," Superintendent Johnson said.
Former Commissioner Bob Atkinson described Jeff Oliphant as one of the finest detectives in the history of the Queensland Police Service.
"One of his many attributes was his belief, rightly, that the laws applied to everyone regardless of their status or position," Commissioner Atkinson said.
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