SPECIAL REPORT: Bumbling crooks or a sophisticated criminal network which struck bad luck? Jared Savage goes inside the events which led to suspicious locals in the Far North raising the alarm, a quick thinking young constable stopping 500kg of methamphetamine, and two police investigations which uncovered who was behind the smuggling operation.

When the sun came up on Ninety Mile Beach to reveal an unfamiliar boat abandoned on the sand, the first instincts of police officers were to get in the air.

Survivors who had been tipped out of the vessel might be bobbing in the dangerous west coast waters. Or, in a worst case scenario, their bodies could be retrieved.

It was a Sunday morning, 12 June 2016, and Constable Thomas Nankivell had just started his shift.

"There was a boat which just looked like it had been driven hard up onto the beach," Nankivell would later tell a jury.

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"The

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A new crime wave

'A big boat at sea'

'It just doesn't add up'

'It was all over from there'

'They are the real heroes in all this'

OPERATION FRONTIA

OPERATION VIRUNGA