Three inquiries into boy's death
By Ian Gerard, Elizabeth Colman and Drew Warne-Smith
17th February 2004
THE NSW Government yesterday set up three inquiries into the weekend death of Aboriginal teenager Thomas Hickey, as members of Redfern's Aboriginal community continued to blame police.
The state ombudsman, the coroner and NSW police will each investigate whether police played a role in Hickey's death, which sparked a riot in Redfern on Sunday night.
Community members, including Hickey's mother Gail, accused police of chasing the boy before he fell off his bike and became impaled on a fence on Saturday morning. He died in hospital early on Sunday from his injuries.
NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney rejected accusations his officers were involved in Hickey's crash.
He said two officers had driven past Hickey on Saturday but were searching for a different person, who was allegedly involved in a robbery. "They had a description that bore no resemblance to Mr Hickey, they had a name and were looking for a particular person," Mr Moroney said. "They didn't give him a second thought."
He said police arrived at the scene swiftly after they were alerted by a passerby to the bicycle accident.
Fired by accusations police had played a part in the boy's death, rioters took to the streets on Sunday night, throwing firebombs and bottles at officers, and setting cars and the local rail station ablaze.
It took officers several hours to calm the riot.
Four rioters have so far been arrested and charged. More than 40 police officers have been treated for injuries sustained in the melee.
NSW Premier Bob Carr yesterday called for calm as members of Redfern's community met in Eveleigh Street to discuss their response to what they described as a history of police harassment.
NSW Opposition Leader John Brogden called the rioters "thugs" and said the area should be bulldozed. "The fact that 40 or 50 police were injured while they stood there and copped it from young Aboriginal thugs and others is an unacceptable position going forward," Mr Brogden said. "I'd bring the bulldozers in because I think allowing this to happen every couple of years, which is what's going to happen, will never fix the problem."
Mr Carr offered his condolences to the Hickey family but said he was confident police had acted appropriately.
"I'm disinclined to treat seriously criticism of police activity in Redfern who are there under very difficult circumstances," he said.