A former police officer who was photographed by an insurance company investigator "appearing to smile" at his son's football game has revealed his identity and spoken publicly about the torment he is suffering at the hands of private investigators.
The image of ex-detective sergeant John Reisp being hunted like a criminal, which the Mercury published on Friday, has opened the floodgates, with former police officers across NSW coming forward to share their stories of relentless, aggressive and sometimes illegal tactics used to investigate their total and permanent disability claims.
You lose your dignity and your pride. They make you feel like a failure.John Reisp
Mr Reisp worked in major specialist units during his 22 years in the NSW Police Force, including stints in drug and armed robbery major crime units and the police internal affairs branch.
In 2007 he suffered a series of strokes which his doctors confirmed had been significantly contributed to by work, stress and tension. Mr Reisp spent one month in the acute stroke unit at Manly Hospital and nearly died.
His diagnosis of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has never been questioned by any of the numerous doctors he has seen at the request of the various police insurance companies.
The trauma he has witnessed is insurmountable. He saw the aftermath of a man shooting himself in front of his wife and children in a car; a truck driver crash into a house killing a child inside; and a prank in an elevator shaft where a young man was decapitated.
These visions, the memories of murders and suicides, are embedded in Mr Reisp's psyche and come out to play late at night.
And while no-one doubts the diagnosis of chronic PTSD and severe anxiety which led to his discharge in June 2011, MetLife are twisting the dagger already in his side.
"While I assumed surveillance may be conducted in relation to my claim, I find it extraordinary that it was done eight months after I was informed in writing that MetLife had sufficient material to make a recommendation on my claim," Mr Reisp told the Mercury.
"And that was nearly three years after my original claim was submitted."
Ninety-five per cent of the footage taken over the four days in question showed him either taking his children to school, coaching or training them and attending their sporting events.
"It also shows my dog is with me most of the time." Mr Reisp said.
"The dog is my constant companion. It was recommended by my treating doctors and psychologists. I would struggle without her. But why is any of this relevant anyway?" he asks.
"And what's it matter whether I smile or not? I'm not even sure I was smiling in that photo. How is that relevant? How does it tell anything about what I'm going through in my head?"
The pictures of Mr Reisp "appearing to smile" and "conversing with a group of people" were taken at his son's training on school grounds in northern Sydney.
"On that morning I drove out of my house and noticed the PI operative straight away. They did surveillance on me the same day the week before so I was quite conscious," Mr Reisp recalled.
"I saw him following me down the school road. I went to training as I do every Friday.
"Through my treatment I understand now that one of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder is hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal.
"As a detective sergeant I've personally arrested and encountered paedophiles who operate under the guise of a sporting trainer and sporting coach, so I worry intensely about the safety of my children."
Mr Reisp also stays heavily involved because his children's sporting events have been one of the few constants in his life - and the footy field remains one of the very few places he feels safe and comfortable.
To add insult to injury Mr Reisp is furious his tracker on this particular day entered school grounds, he claims without permission, to gather their evidence - evidence of what exactly he is not so sure.
"There is a sign that says all visitors must report to the school office before entering the premises. You have to go through the school gates to park your car.
"I spoke to the principal who confirmed to me that no request had been made or permission granted.
"Given the fact this is a school and there are child safety provisions to consider, no permission could be granted anyway.
"It's also illegal to record people on private property without consent. When someone breaches the act, the people who commissioned the act are also guilty of an offence."
Mr Reisp's anger is heightened by the fact that children were involved, all for the sake of gathering evidence which "shows nothing".
"There's nothing on the video I haven't told any of the doctors," he said. All doctors shown the video were dismissive of its value.
"There's no logic other than they wear you down and hold onto your money as long as they can," he said.
"While they do that, though, they're stopping you from getting well. You get paranoid about everything, you check your mirrors everywhere you go, every time you leave your house you think people are following you. It just exacerbates [the stress].
"I drive different routes. It's bizarre. It's this constant thing on your mind, regardless of where you are."
Mr Reisp has been in "a holding pattern" for so long now he doesn't know how to live. He just exists for his children.
"The last five years of my life have been hell. It's not easy to have been a proud successful detective sergeant responsible for running major jobs and now be beholden to the unethical conduct of MetLife.
"You lose your dignity and your pride. They make you feel like a failure."
He turned to Slater and Gordon police compensation expert John Cox in late 2013 as a last resort - ready to give up on life and his claim.
By this stage, after filing his claim in June 2011, he had seen an independent psychiatrist as required by MetLife in November 2011. Then in February 2012, again at MetLife's request, he had a vocational assessment.
"At that assessment, despite the assessor being a psychologist, she told me that she couldn't take my medical history into account," Mr Reisp said.
And sure enough, when he finally got the report, it said: "The identified work options do not involve a consideration of the insured's current physical or psychological functional capacity or any restrictions that the insureds (sic) has been recommended to observe when working."
Mr Reisp said that comment in itself made the report a joke.
Mr Cox agreed: "That comment takes away any value of the whole report. It's the equivalent of sending a man with a broken back for an assessment and saying, 'Don't take into account his broken back'. It's a deliberate tactic to have this psychologist conducting the vocational assessment ignore my client's major illness and symptoms.
"But unfortunately it's common practice with MetLife."
Proposed suitable jobs suggested for Mr Reisp were a community crime prevention officer, a general clerk and a general sales assistant.
Mr Cox scoffed at the suggestions.
"All of Mr Reisp's treating doctors rejected outright these suggested occupations, as did the original independent doctor that Mr Reisp first saw on behalf of the police force when he was originally discharged," he said.
"In fact even MetLife's own independent psychiatrist rejected two of the options and was of the opinion that the only possibility was Mr Reisp working in clerical services in a company that does not have 'too many employees or a rigid hierarchy'."
Mr Reisp added he is "extremely short-fused" and intolerant of difficult people.
On December 7, 2012, Metlife indicated its investigation was complete and entered into a process called "procedural fairness", allowing Mr Reisp to make a submission about the material that MetLife would use in making its determination.
Mr Cox said "somewhat outrageously, that first request was over two years ago and there have since been three further requests for procedural fairness".
"Of most concern for me as Mr Reisp's lawyer is that the surveillance undertaken was done so after the third procedural fairness request in July 2013.
"It is clear they are going to great lengths to avoid paying this legitimate claim."
Mr Cox said his client had jumped through hoops and done everything that was asked of him. He has responded on each occasion.
On April 23, 2014, the final "procedural fairness" was issued, with the surveillance material in question included in the file. Mr Cox responded to MetLife on his client's behalf in detailed submissions.
On September 8, 2014, Mr Cox sought immediate determination of Mr Reisp's claim. Given there has been no response he has no alternative but to institute legal proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court, a process itself that is extremely stressful and will do nothing to assist or alleviate Mr Reisp's suffering, Mr Cox said.
"Unfortunately I have numerous clients in exactly the same position for whom I am currently preparing court documents."
Last week, in a statement to the Mercury, MetLife committed to finalising all of the outstanding claims within six months.
In light of that, Mr Cox said it was only "fair and just" that Mr Reisp's "extremely strong case" was settled within the next seven days.
"I would call upon them to act immediately, to do the right thing and accept this man's claim. They should honour their commitment and bring to an end all the outstanding claims and put an end to this suffering.
"Given MetLife's commitment, which I have previously cautiously welcomed, I will be writing to them in respect of all of my clients' claims in the same position as Mr Reisp and also asking them to make immediate determinations on those matters," he said.
"And I would ask them to do that as a matter of course for all other claims, not just those handled by Slater and Gordon."
The Mercury has given MetLife insurance an opportunity to respond to the claims in this article.