Mick Willing hasn’t been keen to do interviews about his promotion.
As the incoming head of the NSW Police Force’s counter terrorism squad, he would prefer to keep a bit of a lower profile.
In an age where terrorism is in the subconscious of even the most hardened person, it’s a fair call too.
But he made an exception for this one.
Because, while he may have left town about 10 years ago, the Dubbo born and bred Assistant Commissioner still has a remarkable sense of pride for his home town, a pride he sums up in seven words.
“Dubbo made me who I am today.”
And while he doesn’t want a song and dance made about what he is about to embark on, the fact that the 45-year-old is about to take on such an intense and prestigious role is one of our city’s greatest success stories.
Because, you see, when Mick Willing left home to go to university he was studying archaeology, and when he went to the police academy at Goulburn in 1990 he had an ambition of being a Detective Sergeant within his home base – Orana Local Area Command.
“I suppose I’ve been lucky that some doors have been opened for me but I’ve had to walk through them,” he says.
“Sometimes life is about taking risks. Being Crime Manager of Orana LAC was massive for me, then later I got the chance to lead up Homicide. And now this has happened.
“But I firmly believe it was what I learnt from so many great people along the way, predominantly there in Dubbo, that has made me the person and police officer I am today.”
Assistant Commissioner Willing may not have lived in this city for the past decade, but his ties to the community are still strong.
A large portion family still lives out here, a lot of colleagues he worked with are still stationed here, and the case that resonates most with him from his time in policing happened not all that far from where he grew up.
As Commander of the NSW Homicide Squad for the past six years, he’s come across multiple hideous crimes.
And his new role has already incorporated some work involving recommendations stemming from the horrible Lindt Cafe siege of December 2014.
But the one matter that will always be etched in his mind is the one that involved a man who for many years was Australia’s most wanted fugitive
“Malcolm Naden was an important one, mainly because of how important it was to Dubbo,” Assistant Commissioner Willing said.
“It was around the time the Gordon Estate stuff was happening, and there was a real sense of fear in Dubbo that was exacerbated by the murder of Kristy Scholes and the disappearance of Lateesha Nolan.
“The city had a bad rap and that probably didn’t sit real well with me because I was the Crime Manager in my home town.
“Having that knowledge of the case from my days in Dubbo, and then of course carrying on with the investigation when I moved into Homicide, it was an important one for sure.
“To be able to come full circle with it last year, when Lateesha’s remains were found, and be there with other officers who had worked so hard on the case when her family got a chance to say goodbye, it doesn’t get much more rewarding than that.”
And while he got to see that case through to the end, and get some closure, there is also one unsolved matter that will stay with him.
One that he hopes will come to a head sooner rather than later.
“Of course you’d love to solve them all, but William Tyrell is the one,” he said.
“It’s such a sad case. For his family to not know what has happened to that smiling, happy little boy after all this time. I’d love to be able to change that.
“But there’s good people working on that case, and they’re working hard. And I have faith that they will make the breakthroughs they need to solve it.”