MANHUNT: Heavily armed specialist police search for Malcolm Naden in Nowendoc yesterday. – Picture by Nick MoirThe reward for information leading to the arrest of fugitive Malcolm Naden has more than doubled to $250,000.
Nanjing Night Net

Police minister Mike Gallacher announced this morning that the reward for information leading to the capture of Naden had more than doubled.

Mr Gallacher this morning met with Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to discuss increasing the reward.

Below, two computer-enhanced images, supplied by police, showing how Naden may now look.

For more pictures of Naden, his alleged victims and the police operation, click on the image above.

So as dawn broke on Wednesday, police must have felt their hunt was coming to an end as a small team set off on the final few metres to front fugitive Malcolm Naden as he camped just metres from a creek bed near Nowendoc, north of the Barrington Tops.

Bush experts claim Naden would have heard them coming ‘‘from miles away’’.

As he was cornered by the highly trained and heavily armed police, one Tactical Operation Unit officer was shot in the shoulder – some suggesting it could have been a ‘‘head shot’’ that missed its target – and their target was gone.

Locals estimate that, by this morning, Naden could have covered more than 100kilometres since he shot the officer. And his direction is anyone’s guess.

‘‘He could even be 150kilometres away and with the sort of terrain we are talking about, they will have Buckley’s,’’ one expert bushman, who would only be identified as a pig hunter, said yesterday.

Victim’s father’s long search for answers

Senior police now fear that they have missed their biggest chance to nab Naden, who has now shown he will shoot police if he is cornered after running on the only other occasions that he had been confronted.

It has caused many to theorise that if he is ever caught, it will not be alive.

‘‘The fear is that he knows he can now sit back and pick them off one by one,’’ one senior police officer said.

‘‘They will never get him out alive – he will either be shot or shoot himself, and there is nothing to suggest he wants to shoot himself.’’

Mick Peet, the father of missing mother Lateesha Nolan, wants Naden caught alive so he may finally have questions answered about what happened to the Dubbo woman nearly seven years ago.

‘‘We want him to have his day in court so we may finally be able to find Lateesha, the kids need to know, I need to know,’’ Mr Peet said yesterday.

Despite police denials, the Newcastle Herald continued to report last year that Naden was criss-crossing an area between Gloucester and Kempsey to evade police, identifying more than two dozen break-ins around the Barrington Tops that could be traced back to the fugitive.

He had stolen only what he needed: non-perishable food, camping equipment, warm clothing. And guns.

Although most targeted landholders have reported losing small-powered rifles such as a .22 calibre, which Naden could use to hunt without causing two much noise, the Herald understands some unregistered firearms have also been taken in the break-ins, including an SKS assault rifle.

Naden has also made countless camps throughout the bush, including what locals still believe was one on a ridge east of Scone despite police rubbishing their claims last year.

The pig hunter says they may be lucky to get close to Naden again.

‘‘He is literally a wild animal,’’ he said. ‘‘They have startled him now and he will head off and go missing again.

‘‘He could cover 30kilometres in 12 hours easy, maybe more considering the adrenalin that would be pumping through him because he knows the cops are on his tail.’’

Other landholders believe their concerns about safety have now been justified and have welcomed widespread warnings from Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to keep an eye out but not to approach Naden.

Poor weather yesterday grounded search helicopters and police were unable to access some rugged areas.

‘‘We are obviously assessing the validity of the operation regularly,’’ Assistant Commissioner Dave Hudson said.

‘‘If unfortunately we don’t locate him on this occasion, I’m quite confident in the future we will locate him.’’

Police could call off the search based on several factors, including the ‘‘threats to our officers’’. This is at least the seventh time they have tried to capture him.

Mr Hudson said officers were searching specific areas Naden is believed to have frequented instead of deploying a blanket approach.

‘‘He’s totally self-reliant and very well-crafted at living off the land,’’ Mr Hudson said.

Police are prepared to shoot if Naden again uses a firearm to escape.

‘‘That’s obviously a major concern after what happened,’’ Mr Hudson said.

Naden probably shot the bulletproof vest-wearing police officer with a rifle.

His appearance is likely to be very different from that depicted in old photos.

‘‘We believe that he is very unkempt,’’ Mr Hudson said. ‘‘He has lost weight from our last visual sighting of him.’’

There’s a $100,000 reward for his capture and conviction.

Video of the press conference