Michael's Dispatches

Man-tracking Success in Australia


17 August 2012

This is an interesting account of tracking and counter-tracking after an ugly murder in Australia.  It was sent to me by The Scott Donelan Tracking School.  It is very difficult to evade a skilled tracking team -- something I learned at the British tracking school in Brunei, on Borneo Island.  The man they were tracking was using shrewd counter-tracking but they still got him.

Great job:


Jonathon Stenberg is suspected of killing 54-year-old Edward "Ned" Kelly at his home in Broadwater, a small town on the NSW north coast, in what is believed to be a neighbourhood dispute.  It is believed that this occurred on the 21st of June 2012.

Kelly's headless corpse was found in his kitchen, with a hat placed on top of his body. His head has not been found.

Detectives conducted inquiries and identified Stenberg as a suspect in the murder.  Inquiries later suggested that Stenberg had travelled by vehicle into the Northern Territory (NT) and the NT Police were subsequently notified.

On the 26th of June Stenberg was observed by an off-duty Police officer driving his vehicle in the Berry Springs area South of Darwin, NT.  Stenberg drove his vehicle from the main road and onto a dirt track where he made an attempt to camouflage his car.

Members of the NT Tactical Response Group (TRG) arrived at the area a short time later in an armoured Bearcat and located Stenberg’s abandoned vehicle.  A search of the area was conducted which including the use of a tracking dog however Stenberg was unable to be located.  The vehicle was removed from the area and items located within it included a bolt action rifle, solar panels and food supplies.

Further searches were conducted over the following days utilising aircraft and ground searches.  Road blocks were maintained around the 45sq km search area.

image001-417Decapitated ... Edward "Ned" Kelly.image003-495Stenberg’s vehicle dragged from the bush track.

image005-1000A weapon allegedly found in Stenberg's vehicle. Picture: NT POLICE

image007-1000Supplies found at Stenberg's camp included a swag, matches, and solar panel. Picture: Northern Territory Police. Source: Supplied

image009-1000Accused – Jonathon Andrew STENBERG

Stenberg is a 46 year old male approximately 5 foot 5 inches tall of solid to heavy build with size 7 feet.

He served in the Australian Army as a combat engineer before discharging in the early 90’s.

He lists his achievements as a field engineer engaging in demolitions, laying of booby traps and being trained in reconnaissance and explosives.  He also completed a course in hand-to-hand combat and it is believed he recently worked in Afghanistan or Iraq as a security contractor with a private company.

It is believed he trained at the Kokoda Barracks where soldiers partake in a wide variety of combat and war games courses, many with a focus on survival skills, including how to find food, water and shelter.

He was also a keen hunter who possessed numerous rifles and pistols and rated himself highly as an experienced bush man.

Use of Tracking Team

Request for assistance:

NT Police made a request to the WA Police to provide additional officers and this resulted in several Tactical Operators being flown to Darwin.  5 of these officers were recently trained as Tactical Trackers by David Scott-Donelan of the Scott Donelan Tracking School.

The tracking Patrol:

On Sunday the 1st of July (Day 6 of the search) a team consisting of WA TRG trackers and one NT TRG member were given the task of providing a clearing patrol on the opposite side of the river to where Stenberg’s vehicle was located.  Up until this time a dedicated tracking team had only been used to examine tracks found on areas several kilometres away.

We parked our vehicle on the Cox Peninsula Road verge and walked down the track to where the vehicle had been located.  On arrival at the scene we could see shattered vehicle glass and a lot of tyre and foot tracks on the ground.

We confirmed with the NT member (a non tracker and the only NT member in our patrol) the direction where the previous patrols had been conducted.  During our initial search of the area one of our members located a fresh looking meat pie wrapper and sauce packet stuffed into a tree hollow.  At this point we developed a belief that the site had not been as thoroughly checked as we thought.  We were unable to obtain further information regarding any purchases that Stenberg had made from his petrol station stop prior to dumping his vehicle.

We then requested some additional time to look around the area and were subsequently granted permission.  As the previous search focus seemed to be towards the North West we commenced a patrol in the opposite direction towards a bridge on Cox Peninsula Road.


To begin with 3 of our trackers essentially alternated between conducting lost spore procedures and front flank security whilst 2 other members provided overwatch and rear security from the higher ground.  As we patrolled, the Darwin River was to our left and higher ground to the right.  We were moving in a South Eastern direction on the North side of the river.  We had previously been briefed regarding the danger of salt water crocodiles along the river and that it was extremely unlikely that Stenberg would spend any longer than necessary there.

After some time and approximately 100 metres from where the vehicle had been, we located some spore that appeared to be from a small work boot (Stenberg was a size 7 US).  There had been many other boot prints in the vicinity of where the vehicle had been however we felt that this spore was different and seemed to be of a person travelling alone.

Locating spore from this point and throughout the rest of the day proved a very tedious task due to the nature of the terrain and the careful manner in which the quarry moved around.  Most of the spore located consisted of stones out of place and scuff marks on branches and the majority of these marks were up to 6 days old.  There were very few partial boot prints and definitive marks left on the terrain.  The bulk of our time was spent micro-tracking and conducting the lost spore procedures that we were taught on our Tactical Mantracking Course.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rajesh Chaudhary · 9 years ago
    Good read. Really enjoyed it. :-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bert · 9 years ago
    All the trackers needed to do was look for that sign in the photograph that says, "Stenbergs Hideout" :-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ron USMC · 9 years ago
    too bad salt water crocks didn't get him first...save the NT Govt.money but an unsolved case..he would be listed as 'gone missing'

    Aussies are good fighters..grateful we are partners...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dale McGuffin · 9 years ago
    This guy must have been brave (or completely nuts) to hide in the water........ Were there any Seawater Crocodiles in the waterway?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Yi · 9 years ago
    Personally I rather be doing woman tracking than man tracking 8) .
  • This commment is unpublished.
    fds · 9 years ago
    if he was such a expert at survival, i wonder why he didn't go deeper into the bush. would have been much harder to find...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    C Good · 9 years ago
    Wow. Fascinating article. Thank you for posting it! :-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    ChrisG · 9 years ago
    OMG Jonathan Winters is a killer!!! :cry:
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Roy · 9 years ago
    Once did a short course by TTOS in Guam. Good job guys.

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