NSW police commissioner criticised for quoting Taylor Swift while defending response to alleged double murder

<span>NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb, referenced a Taylor Swift lyric in response to questions over her handling of the Jesse Baird and Luke Davies case.</span><span>Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP</span>
NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb, referenced a Taylor Swift lyric in response to questions over her handling of the Jesse Baird and Luke Davies case.Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The New South Wales police commissioner, Karen Webb, is facing fresh criticism for referencing a Taylor Swift lyric in a media interview where she attempted to defend her response to the alleged murders of Sydney couple Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

Webb was asked on Seven’s Sunrise program on Tuesday about her delay in speaking publicly after the alleged murders and whether she should face criticism over her handling of the case.

“There will always be haters. Haters like to hate. Isn’t that what Taylor [Swift] says?” Webb told the program.

“This, though, of course is a complex matter. All we need to do now is find Jesse and Luke so their families know where they are. That’s my priority.”

NSW police had been searching for the bodies of Baird and Davies who were allegedly murdered by a serving police officer. Police said on Tuesday that they had located two bodies at a property in Bungonia, south-west of Sydney.

Webb also told Sunrise she had the confidence of the state premier and that the ongoing investigation was about Baird and Davies’ family and friends, “and the gay community who are all wondering what has happened here … We’re all looking for the answers”.

Webb also came under fire for her choice of wording about the alleged murders, which she described as a “crime of passion” during her first press conference about the case on Monday.

“What I did say was it is a crime and of course [it is] domestic violence, stalking and murder,” she told Nine’s Today program.

“What I was intending is to say that it’s actually not a gay hate crime.”

When asked whether her Swift comment was an appropriate response, Webb told Sky News: “This is not about me. This is really about Jesse and Luke’s family ... If they’re watching this program, I want them to know that the efforts of the NSW police force are focused on finding their family members.”

At a press conference on Monday, Webb responded to questions about taking three days to publicly respond to news of the alleged double murder and whether the delay was because of questions over her leadership.

“No, and that’s offensive,” she told reporters.

Webb said she was in parliamentary budget estimates on Friday, the day the couple’s alleged killer, Sen Const Beau Lamarre, handed himself into Bondi police station. She said she was then in public engagements on Saturday, and on Sunday, she spoke with Baird’s family.

Spokesperson for the Pride in Protest advocacy group, Charlie Murphy, said Webb’s choice of phrasing, quoting Swift in the context of a double murder investigation, was “disgusting, it’s appalling”.

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“There have already been multiple failures on their part in relation to recent events and it appears that the police’s number one concern is their own PR,” she said.

But the premier, Chris Minns, stood by the commissioner on Tuesday, saying Webb’s job is “very difficult”.

“I think even the harshest critics would say that [Webb’s leadership is] professional, that she’s got experienced people in the most senior positions, and it has been effective right across New South Wales. And that is the primary performance indicator for any police commissioner in the state,” he said.

The key objective of the commissioner is the investigation of crime, he said. “And Karen Webb does that very well.”

Police have been asked not to march in Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade on Saturday after Lamarre was charged with the alleged murders.

A NSW police spokesperson confirmed the decision by the board of Australia’s premier LGBTQI event on Monday night.

“The NSW police force has been advised that the board of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has decided to withdraw the invitation to NSW police to participate in this year’s event,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.