'A godsend': Fixated Persons Unit investigates 100 cases in two years


The NSW police unit dedicated to foiling attacks by extremist "lone actors" has completed more than 100 investigations, charged 40 people and seized 31 firearms since it launched two years ago, according to police.

But the man who allegedly murdered 24-year-old Michaela Dunn in a violent spree in Sydney's CBD on Tuesday was not on the radar of the Fixated Persons Investigations Unit.

Mert Ney is arrested after being detained by members of the public on Tuesday.

Mert Ney is arrested after being detained by members of the public on Tuesday.

Mert Ney, 20, was known to mental health services and was listed as a missing person several days before the stabbings.  Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said that although Mr Ney was found to have materials promoting "ideologies related to terrorism", he had no known links to terrorist organisations.

NSW Police formed its Fixated Persons unit in April 2017 to stop single attackers who show warning signs of dangerous extremism but fall below the threshold for investigation by the counter-terrorism command.

"The unit receives numerous referrals each week, which undergo a robust assessment by police and mental health specialists from NSW Health," a police spokeswoman said.

It comprises 17 detectives and acts alongside similar divisions within the Queensland and Victorian police forces.

Mick Fuller formed the unit when he was appointed to the role of commissioner.

Mick Fuller formed the unit when he was appointed to the role of commissioner.Credit:AAP

"These new units are a godsend," Professor Alfred Allan, a forensic psychologist at Edith Cowan University, said.

Professor Allan said private mental health practioners could now refer patients to specialised authorities more easily, even where they may not have committed a crime. While psychologists look out for patients with overwhelming senses of injustice, plans to commit harm and the resources to do so, referrals often came down to a basic judgment, according to Professor Allan.

"When you are starting to feel uncomfortable, when your intuition tells you there's a problem, that's when you need to consult a colleague," he said.

The NSW Fixated Persons unit was launched by Mr Fuller ahead of the findings of the inquest into the Lindt cafe siege, in which two people were killed.

Lindt cafe gunman Man Haron Monis was well known to police after a vitriolic campaign of writing letters to the relatives of dead soldiers, various public demonstrations, a string of sexual assault allegations and an accessory to murder charge.

In April, the Fixated Persons unit charged a man and a woman with a car bombing and intimidation in the Illawarra region south of Sydney, an alleged example of "grievance-fuelled violence". The campaign of threats allegedly began after the couple was beeped in a McDonald's drive-through.

Last June, officers from the unit arrested a 27-year-old Surry Hills man who had allegedly sent letters threatening to bomb law enforcement buildings, seizing a machete, knives and a chainsaw from his home.

A veteran psychologist, who did not wish to be named, told the Herald on Tuesday that people with mental illnesses are "far more likely to be the victims of violence than the aggressors".