A short documentary history of the Block in Redfern
Material from the Gary Foley Collection

ABC Radio AM transcript - Monday, 5 July , 2004  08:24:00

Reporter: Michael Vincent

Coroner's inquest into death of TJ Hickey

TONY EASTLEY: The death of Thomas "TJ" Hickey sparked a nine-hour riot in the Sydney suburb of Redfern in February. Today a coroner's inquest will hopefully determine how and why he died.

Police have maintained they were not chasing the 17-year-old in the final moments before he suffered a fatal accident on his bicycle.

A warning: Michael Vincent's report contains language that some listeners may find offensive.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Up to a dozen members of TJ Hickey's family, including his grandfather, are coming to Sydney from his hometown of Walgett in Northern New South Wales for the inquest.

AM understands TJ's Uncle Roy will be a witness. He was one of the last people to see the young man before his fatal crash, as TJ hurtled across the road from one laneway into another, his knees up to his ears, pedalling his BMX at high speed.

Uncle Roy and a friend saw a police car pull up to a fence at the end of that first laneway soon after. This is a crucial moment. The question of whether the police were chasing him is the key contention of the Hickey family.

AM understands the evidence of the officers in that car, written in their notebooks, provided in statements and official interviews, their radio calls on the night and even a enactment of that event, will be dissected for inconsistencies at the inquest.

Police have always maintained they were not chasing TJ but looking for a bag snatcher who did not match TJ's description.

Meanwhile the actions of police officer in a second car are also expected to be questioned. They were also searching for the bag snatcher and were the first to find TJ impaled on a metal fence, around the corner of the second laneway.

AM understands the brakes of TJ's bicycle did not work. He was travelling fast when he turned the corner and had an accident. One, possibly two bars of the metal fence punctured his neck.

As local resident, Miguez, told the BBC.

MIGUEZ: I saw the boy, sticking right in the neck here, like that.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Miguez says police lifted TJ of the fence, applied pressure to his wounds while the teenager was kicking and screaming. Meguez says TJ soon went quiet and an ambulance arrived 5 to 10 minutes later. The 17-year-old died in hospital in the early hours of the next day, Sunday the 15th of February.

Other questions expected to be answered at the Coronial inquest are whether police should have lifted him off the metal bars, or whether waiting for him to be cut off may have stemmed his blood loss. The time it took the ambulance to arrive will also be questioned.

Meanwhile, AM understands the family of TJ no longer believe he was rammed from behind as his mother Gail told AM the morning after the riot.

GAIL HICKEY: How's he going… his bike… how's he going to get off his bike onto that fence? These dogs, I bet you, done it.

MICHAEL VINCENT: You believe that the police were…

GAIL HICKEY: I believe it; the police fucking killed my son. The police car rammed into my son's bike. I don't believe there's no other way that he got there. I believe the bike had been hit by a car.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Passions still remain strong in Redfern over the death of the teenager and some have said they won't accept the finding from the inquest, which doesn't hold police responsible.

TONY EASTLEY: Michael Vincent reporting.