Police 'bash victim' too weak to eat

By Chris Evans February 9, 2005
the Age

Photo: Brendan Esposito

A witness has offered details of the state of an Aborigine allegedly bashed by police.

An official from the NSW prison system saw the Aboriginal victim of an alleged police bashing unable to lift his hands to feed himself, such was his pain 12 hours after his arrest.

Ray Jackson, 63, an official visitor to the Silverwater Prison, appointed by the NSW Justice Minister, is related by marriage to Raymond William Merritt, 27.

Both were staying in the same Heidelberg household last February, when five witnesses have said Merritt was brutally bashed in a Rodney King-style arrest in central Melbourne.

"He looked very, very rough," Mr Jackson said. "You could tell that he'd been badly assaulted. His face was puffed up and everything like that and he was holding himself, around his rib cage. It was quite obvious that he'd been badly bloody assaulted and he could hardly talk."

Mr Jackson said Merritt was brought to the house at 5am on February 2 last year by police holding a search warrant.

"Well, they dragged him in and got us all out of bed and they had Ray sitting in one of the chairs in the lounge room and the rest of us just milled around," Mr Jackson said.

"I grabbed my granddaughter and calmed her down while they gave the search warrant to Mick, my son-in-law, because it was his house.

"Then they picked up things and said: 'Is this Ray's? Is that Ray's?' . . . They weren't really interested in asking any questions of the family."

He said Merritt - whom Melbourne Magistrates Court later heard had to be admitted to hospital twice and given morphine to ease the pain of an arm injury sustained during the arrest - was handcuffed throughout his 12-hour arrest.

"From my understanding, he couldn't raise his arms," Mr Jackson said. "I don't think it was because of the cuffs, unless they were attached to his trouser band. He was in a very bad state, in a lot of pain . . . He couldn't do anything for himself, even to drink water. We had to feed it to him."

Mr Jackson said Merritt's arrest about 5pm on February 1 last year was not reported to the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service until about 3am the next day.

Victoria Police are required by their standing orders to notify the legal service on taking into custody anyone of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.

The force has refused to comment on the report of an internal investigation supervised by the Ombudsman into the conduct of Merritt's arrest until "all people involved" have been informed of it.