Probes into Redfern riots, death
From AAP
16feb04

THE NSW Government would launch three inquiries into the cause of riots in Sydney's Redfern and the death of teenager Thomas Hickey, Premier Bob Carr said today.

Mr Carr said the Coroner would investigate how the 17-year-old died after a cycling accident in nearby Waterloo on Saturday, and what police involvement there might have been in his death.

The teenager's death sparked a violent riot in Redfern as members of the community lashed out at police, who they blame for the incident.

Police have denied they were chasing the teenager when he came off his bike on Saturday and was impaled on a steel fence, suffering fatal injuries. He died early yesterday.

Mr Carr said today the police critical incident team also would conduct an inquiry into any police involvement in the incident, which would in turn be overseen by the Ombudsman.

But Mr Carr said police had his full confidence and backing in the way they handled the riots.

"I've got full confidence in the way police tackled this incident ... we have full confidence in the police and they have our full backing," Mr Carr said.

The Premier also called for calm over the situation and extended his sympathies to Thomas Hickey's mother and family.

Mr Carr said there had been three attempts at independent mediation with the group, whose numbers reached around 150, as well as three attempts by Aboriginal leaders to urge them to disperse.

But he said there were ringleaders intent on causing trouble.

"There's no doubt that there were a group of people seeking to aggravate this situation," he said.

Mr Carr said there was no indication that police had provoked the incident by sniggering or smiling at groups of people as they gathered to grieve Thomas' death.

NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney said up to 40 officers were injured in the incident, down from earlier estimates of 50, and one officer who was hit in the head with a brick was still in hospital today.

Four people have been arrested and charged.

Mr Moroney pledged to get to the bottom of the matter.

"The investigation will take as long as it has to. I'm determined to get to the truth," he said.

Mr Moroney confirmed there had been a warrant for Thomas' arrest over an alleged incident last December.

But, at the time of the cycling incident, which resulted in Thomas' death, Mr Moroney said police were seeking another young man in relation to an assault which occurred shortly after 6am (AEDT) on Saturday.

Sydney Assistant commissioner Bob Waites defended the decision not to call in the State Protection Group, saying much of their equipment, such as tear gas, would have been compromised by the hot, windy and humid weather.

Instead, Mr Waites said regular officers had been recruited from as far away as Campbelltown and Penrith so as not to stretch numbers in nearer suburbs.

At the height of the police presence, 200 officers were called in, backed up by PolAir.

"We used all our available resources," he said.

Despite the high number of injuries, Police Minister John Watkins said "at no time were the police overwhelmed" by the group.

Mr Watkins said last night's incident was "an aberration" to the normally good relations between police and the Redfern Aboriginal community.

AAP

            The Australian

back