Surfer murder prompts calls for tough knife search laws

Luke Costin and Aaron Sheldrick |

A man has died after being found with significant injuries near Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club.
A man has died after being found with significant injuries near Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club.

The stabbing death of a surfer minutes after he emerged from the waves in a regional NSW town has added to calls for tougher knife search laws.

The 22-year-old had significant injuries when found still in his wetsuit beside his car near the Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club about 6.40am on Thursday.

Paramedics treated him at the scene before taking him to hospital but he later died.

Coffs Harbour detectives are still hunting the killer, for whom a description has not been released.

Avenues of inquiry include whether the surfer came across someone breaking into his car and what, if any, relation a confrontation at a second beachside area on Thursday morning had to the homicide.

“We’ve identified some items of interest at a campsite around the jetty area,” Detective Chief Inspector Guy Flaherty told reporters on Thursday.

“This area may or may not be related but at this point we’ve declared a crime scene.”

The park next to the surf club is a popular, picturesque spot for families with safe swimming in Coffs Creek that flows into the sea.

But the area has a dark side with a nearby illegal encampment and drug issues.

Coffs Harbour stabbing
Paramedics treated the man at the scene but he died later in hospital. (Flavio Brancaleone/AAP PHOTOS)

Local surfer Adam Cole said there were suggestions among the tightknit surfing community the man could have stumbled across someone high on the drug ice trying to break into his car.  

“Growing up here, the Park Beach area has always been a bit of a danger,” local surfer Adam Cole told AAP. 

“There are few facilities for the homeless or rehabilitation centres in the Coffs area, so nowhere for them to go.”

The surfer’s uncle Ralph took to Sydney radio to pay tribute to his “lovely young” nephew.

“More than anything else, he just had a heart of gold, he really did,” he told 2GB on Friday.

“A gentle, caring nature was his greatest asset. We’re just broken.”

He added his voice to calls to adopt Queensland’s “wanding” laws that permit police to use hand-held metal detectors in designated public places to uncover concealed knives.

Named for a teenager stabbed to death on the Gold Coast, Jack’s Law has taken more than 500 weapons off the streets since March 2023.

“How long do we have to wait here in NSW? This will save lives,” Ralph said.

“He was just coming back from the surf, stabbed eight times. What on earth is going on?”

Premier Chris Minns, a fortnight ago, said he was looking at adopting the law in NSW after a spate of high-profile knife attacks that shocked Sydney, including a  attack in the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre where six people died last month.

Police, emergency services and transport unions have backed the change and decried the “appalling incidence of youth knife crime”.

But the Council for Civil Liberties warned of a knee-jerk response to “violent and distressing but isolated” incidents and worried police would disproportionately search marginalised communities.