PETER Wallis was the human face of an atrocity which rocked Australia, but he refused to let it define his life.
The Ballarat man, who died last month aged 67, was the survivor of the National Crime Authority bombing in Adelaide in March 1994 which killed Detective Sergeant Geoffrey Bowen and left Mr Wallis with burns to 40 per cent of his body and saw him lose an eye.
But while the incident was undoubtedly life altering, those closest to him have told the story of a man who was devoted to the ones he loved.
Partner Marilyn Schmidt, who met Mr Wallis in 1998, said she would always remember his passion for life.
“He was loving and kind, I loved his passion for the law, for books and history,” Ms Schmidt said.
“I was working full time and I would always ask his expertise. We lived a quiet life, did a little bit of travelling, we never had any children together but instead of children, we had two beautiful cats that he adored.”
A Ballarat solicitor by trade, Mr Wallis took up a position at the NCA Adelaide office in the late 1980s.
On March 2 1994, Detective Sergeant Bowen was opening a letter in front of Mr Wallis when it exploded, killing the officer.
Mr Wallis’ daughter Genevieve Manley, who was just eight years old at the time, said it was a miracle he survived the attack.
“There’s no doubt the emotional scars will live with us for the rest of our lives,” Mrs Manley said.
“He briefly went back to work in Adelaide, but it never felt like a safe place after that, there were too many bad memories so we moved back to Ballarat.
“When something happens like this, your perspective on life is turned upside down.”
Mr Wallis died suddenly on November 23 from a brain aneurysm. He had not been unwell until the day when he had complained of a bad headache.
Mrs Manley said she would remember her father as a great man.
“We’re heartbroken. I’ve got three children of my own now and his next phase would have been to spend life with the kids and we’ve missed out on that,” she said.
The bombing of the NCA became one of Australia’s longest running investigations.
It took until February this year for Domenic Perre, 61, to be charged by South Australian Police with the bombing. He is due to appear in court later this month.
Perre was initially arrested and charged after the bombing, but those charges were later dropped.
His re-arrest this year followed a two-and-a-half year investigation involving South Australian Police, Forensic Science SA and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.
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