SMH: (WA) Police clear Mandurah sergeant over wife’s series of COVID conspiracy posts

WA Police have cleared a Mandurah sergeant of any wrongdoing after an inquiry into an Instagram page, on which his wife had been sharing COVID-19 conspiracy posts.

Former WA Police excellence award nominee Gary Benzies and his wife post new-age health advice and motivational images on the ‘Paleonutter’ Instagram account. However, since March his wife has uploaded several posts critical of the global response to COVID-19.

Police were notified of the page after a series of now-deleted posts from the Paleonutter account emerged on other social media sites, where they declared support for embattled COVID conspiracy theorist Pete Evans, and questioned the severity of the virus and the need for masks.

Other posts contained the hashtags ‘scamdemic’ and ‘plandemic’, associated with online conspiracy theorist movements that believe the coronavirus is being used in a secret plot by billionaires such as Bill Gates and the political class to gain money and power.

WA Police are the boots on the ground for the pandemic response in the state and are tasked with enforcing quarantine and rounding up those who breach it.

One removed post levelled criticism at people for “falling for” government rhetoric and “mainstream media bullshit” and said people regularly died, especially in aged care homes.

“There are no bodies to step over outside the supermarket. Initially this was all about flattening the curve. Nothing more. The hospitals are not overrun,” the post said.

“The mainstream media are owned by the same people that own the drug companies that own the big food companies that are all ultimately owned by the Rockefellers.

“People die. Especially in aged care homes. No one lives forever. But less people have died in 2020 than died in 2019 worldwide. During a ‘pandemic’. Go figure. It’s all politics.”

Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to the virus, which has ravaged aged care homes throughout the pandemic. Of the 909 deaths in Australia related to COVID-19, 685 of those were in aged care homes.

Another post in June under a meme where a father tells his daughter he survived the coronavirus by going to work without a mask and built up antibodies, the Paleonutter said they did not use masks or sanitiser.

“No mask for us. I don’t think we even washed our hands any more and we never use sanitizer (sic) because it often contains triclosan,” the post reads.

The posts ended up on the anti-Pete Evans Facebook page ‘Blocked by Pete Evans’ on January 1 with members raising concerns whether Mr Benzies agreed with the posts, and questioned whether that conflicted with his police role.

“Are his superiors aware of the obvious conflict of interest between his sworn duty to enforce the law (including public health directives) and his support for the Covid-denying cook,” one commenter said.

Shortly after WAtoday approached WA Police about the Paleonutter page on Sunday, most of the posts had been deleted and on Tuesday references to Mr Benzies being a police officer on a health coach website were also removed.

When contacted for comment, Mr Benzies said it was his wife who made the posts.

WA Police said their inquiry found the person behind the posts did not work for them.

“A number of social media posts were reported to the WA Police force,” a WA Police spokesman said.

“Inquiries were conducted and it was deemed that the contributor to the posts does not work for the WA Police force.”

Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller said WA Police and other government bodies charged with the COVID-19 response needed to treat any concerns about these opinions in their ranks seriously.

Mr Benzies lost out the 2020 individual police excellence award to a multilingual officer who aimed to stop COVID-19 misinformation during the pandemic.

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