Mother tells of son's injuries

source:TheAge February 8 2005

By Chris Evans

The Aboriginal man who, five witnesses have said, was brutally bashed in a Rodney King-style arrest by Victoria Police may need spinal surgery.

There are also fears that the incident may have triggered his first attack of epilepsy and damaged his hearing.

At least five people - including an English pop musician and his band - told The Age they saw up to 10 police drag 27-year-old Raymond William Merritt through a smashed car window and slam his head onto its roof on February 1 last year.

They said the police then pulled him to the ground and repeatedly punched and kicked him.

Merritt's mother, Lyn Young, of Leichardt in Sydney, yesterday said her son believed he lost consciousness more than once during the arrest and had been told he could no longer hear properly in one ear.

"He reckons it was the worst flogging he's ever copped in his life," Miss Young said.

"He has complained about ringing in his ears and he has also complained about his back and he's now having medical attention for that up here."

Miss Young said doctors at Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital had told her son he had to have physiotherapy and he might need surgery to fix a dislocated disc, after he saw a medical officer in the NSW prison system following his extradition from Victoria last July.

His brief appearance before the Melbourne Magistrates Court last February had to be adjourned at the request of his lawyer when he suffered an epileptic seizure. Miss Young said he had never suffered epilepsy before.

Unlike several passers-by who witnessed his arrest, Merritt never made a complaint against police. "He said he was too frightened of getting another hiding," Miss Young said.

She said he was allowed to leave Victoria only after he pleaded guilty to one charge of resisting arrest, one of stealing the $60,000 Holden Calais in which he was arrested and one of possessing an allegedly stolen Discman, the receipt for which she said was held by his solicitor.

"He couldn't take any more. He said to me, 'Mum, I'm just gonna plead guilty to one (charge of) resist arrest and get it over and done with'. He said: 'I can't handle it down here'."

She said that not even his solicitor could talk him out of making the guilty pleas.

"He just wanted it finalised," Miss Young said.

She said that far from family and friends, he had become depressed and that this had been noted by a prison psychiatrist.

"It's too far for us to come and go. I managed to get down there the once and I had planned to go back. But he said, 'It's too far mum'," she said.

As it was, he had come to depend on an Aboriginal worker in the prison system for telephone contact with his family in Sydney. Had he opted to contest any or all of the charges, she said, he would have been held until December.

Merritt was staying with a relative in Heidelberg at the time of his arrest in Victoria. So, too, was Ray Jackson, a community visitor in the NSW prisons system, who observed Merritt to be unwell when he returned with police for a search of the premises. Miss Young said she was concerned that the police internal investigations report into the incident had not been publicly released although her son is believed to have received a copy in prison in NSW.

The Ombudsman's office has decided not to publicly report on the case, while the Victorian police have made no comment - except to say no action is proposed against any officer - until all complainants have been told the result of an internal investigation.

Story Picture: Raymond William Merritt, the alleged victim of a brutal and public bashing by officers of Victoria Police.