Wieambilla shootings: killers’ daughter speaks out about their descent into world of conspiracies | Wieambilla shooting

A woman whose parents killed two Queensland police officers and a neighbour before dying at a remote property has spoken for the first time about their descent into conspiracy theories and ultimately, violence.

Madelyn Train’s father, Nathaniel, mother, Stacey, and uncle Gareth were killed by police in the incident that left six people dead at Wieambilla last month.

She spoke to Guardian Australia this week about how they spiralled into increasingly conspiratorial thinking, to the point where she had to mute notifications from them, and the “evil” crime they carried out.

Legacy of trauma

Nathaniel and Stacey separated when Madelyn was about three. Her mother then left to start a relationship with Nathaniel’s brother, Gareth.

She considered both men to be her father, and says the trio remained amicable, as far as she could remember, for her sake and that of her younger brother.

“The important thing for all three of them was us. Irrespective of their own relationship, they always put it aside to look after us.

“Because in their own childhood, they were not the priority.”

All three had become estranged from their extended families because, Madelyn said, they believed they had been exposed to a paedophile while they were children. No allegations against any individual were ever proven, Madelyn said.

But she believes the trauma of that upbringing weighed heavily on the three people she considered to be her parents, even though they remained committed to Christianity.

Gareth worked for a time in child protection, and Nathaniel and Stacey both pursued careers as teachers, and Madelyn said they always prided themselves on believing allegations of abuse raised by children.

As a child, she said she mostly lived with Gareth, or Gary as she called him, and Stacey, but would occasionally stay with Nathaniel, including times when she had become a handful at her regular home. She later attended boarding school.

Descent into conspiracies

Despite the circumstances, Madelyn, 26, considered her childhood to be normal; she recalls moving frequently for her mother’s work, sometimes because someone in the small towns where Stacey was typically employed made an unkind comment about her leaving Nathaniel.

Gareth took on much of the responsibility for the children, and housekeeping, she said, though would often apply unsuccessfully for work. Eventually, she believes this idle time became problematic.

Gareth Train with a young Madelyn Train and her brother.
Gareth Train with a young Madelyn Train and her brother. Photograph: Madelyn Train

After she and her brother left home, and as Stacey continued to work, Gareth spent time researching theories online, and watching videos on YouTube.

By the time Covid-19 hit Australia in early 2020, Madelyn said it had become all-encompassing.

Their religious beliefs meant they already believed in the apocalypse and the end of the world, and the pandemic brought these fears into sharper focus.

All three of her parental figures started to spiral, to the point where she muted notifications from them, and asked them to communicate in written form, rather than calling her. They were all vehemently opposed to vaccination.

“They would call me randomly just to talk about weird shit and I [felt] like I can’t do this … you need to like send me an email so that I could access it on my own time.

“I hated it, I would mute all the notifications because I rarely got a text, I get excited it was them, and then it was not nice.”

Madelyn believes all three of her parents should have received mental health treatment. After the shooting, she has since suffered with her own mental health, and is advocating for an increased understanding of how trauma can impact people’s lives.

In 2021, Nathaniel suffered a heart attack at a school he was principal of in Walgett, in western New South Wales.

He became even further opposed to vaccination and traditional medicine, Madelyn believes, saying the aftermath of the heart attack also isolated him from his partner, a fellow teacher, who Guardian Australia has decided not to name.

Nathaniel left western NSW later that year, and started camping near Gareth and Stacey’s property, in Wieambilla. The ABC has reported that he crossed into Queensland in December 2021.

Nathaniel told Madelyn he had decided to simplify his life and live in the bush to become closer to God.

He would stay in sporadic communication with his children, by phone or letter, and occasionally via Gareth and Stacey.

Gareth told Madelyn that his brother was planning on “blowing the whistle” on matters within the NSW education department that involved the NSW police, and had spoken to a reporter, and to Mark Latham, the upper house MP. Latham told the SMH in December he last heard from Train five or six months earlier.

Gareth and Stacey Train.
Gareth and Stacey Train. Photograph: Madelyn Train

In an email seen by Guardian Australia, Nathaniel’s partner told Madelyn and her brother on 4 December 2022 that she had been speaking informally to a police officer in Walgett who told her to report him as a “low risk” missing person.

“I need to find Nate,” she wrote in the email.

“It has been a year now and I am worried that he has made up his own narrative about the last conversation we had.

“The only way I can help him is with the help of the police as Gareth and Stacey have made it clear that they won’t help me in any way.”

Nathaniel Train was reported missing that day.

An ‘evil’ act

Eight days later, four young police officers pulled up outside Gareth and Stacey’s property on Wains Road, Wieambilla.

It was 6.34pm on 12 December when Madelyn had the last contact she would ever have with the three people she considered her parents.

Gareth texted her that people had been sent “to kill us”.

By this stage, the trio had shot dead constables Matthew Arnold and Rachel McCrow, and their neighbour, Alan Dare.

Police were rushing to the scene, which had been cordoned off, and by later that night Gareth, Stacey and Nathaniel would also be shot dead.

“What does that mean Gary?” Madelyn responded, straight away.

“Are you and Stacey alright?”

“I love you both.”

It was not until the next morning that she discovered that Nathaniel had been there too, and that none of them had survived.

Train knows that her mother, father and uncle died committing an act of evil.

Slain Queensland police officers Constable Rachel McCrow and Constable Matthew Arnold.
Slain Queensland police officers Constable Rachel McCrow and Constable Matthew Arnold. Composite: Queensland police

Arnold was a triplet described as having a “broad cheeky smile” and as “a big man with an even bigger heart so filled with love for everyone around him” and McCrow was remembered a warm-hearted person whose smile “could light up any room on the darkest of days”.

Dare was killed when he tried to help police.

She does not want this act to define her family, but struggles to describe what has happened.

“The last action of 40-something chapters of their life was definitely evil, but … every other chapter they did the most good they had with what they were capable of doing, having experienced their own trauma.

“Any judgment made really should be reserved for God on good and evil, and that’s where it will be done.”

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