Hurley changes story in witness box

* Tony Koch
* June 16, 2007

THE Queensland policeman charged with the manslaughter of an Aboriginal prisoner on Palm Island in 2004 yesterday took the stand in court for the first time -- and immediately changed his story.

Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley had maintained that he fell "beside" Cameron (Mulrunji) Doomadgee after a scuffle in the Palm Island police station on November 19, 2004.

But in the Townsville Supreme Court yesterday he said statements he gave to detectives within 24 hours of the incident were wrong, conceding that "contact" between him and Doomadgee must have caused the injuries that killed the prisoner within an hour. He said he did not deliberately "knee-drop" on to Doomadgee's stomach.

But under cross-examination by prosecutor Peter Davis SC, Sergeant Hurley said that after hearing the medical evidence about how Doomadgee died, he now felt he "must have" come into contact with him when the pair fell in a "scuffle" in the corridor at the police watchhouse.

Sergeant Hurley is charged with unlawfully assaulting and killing Doomadgee, who he had arrested for swearing, and who had struck him with "a backhand punch" on his jaw as he was being taken from the police van into the police station and cell.

Evidence was given that a scuffle ensued but there were no eyewitnesses despite two police officers and an Aboriginal police liaison officer being within metres of the incident.

Sergeant Hurley, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, told the court he was 2m tall and weighed 115kg, and the deceased was 1.8m tall and weighed 74kg. The policeman said the specific time when Doomadgee received the fatal injuries -- four broken ribs and a liver cleaved in two, resulting in him bleeding to death within an hour -- was "a grey area" in his memory.

But he said that after having listened to the medical evidence presented in court this week, he "must have" come into contact with Doomadgee and that "contact" caused the fatal injuries.

"I would say that sitting here today, if I didn't know the medical evidence or the evidence before the court this week, I would say I fell beside him," Hurley said. He later said: "I can say 100 per cent I didn't cause any deliberate force to Mr Doomadgee."

Mr Davis put to Sergeant Hurley: "Your Queen's Counsel (Bob Mulholland) said in opening your case that you had now come to grips with the fact that you caused the injury to Cameron Doomadgee that caused his death. Is actually what you came to grips with, that you now believe your body or some part of it has fallen so hard on Cameron Doomadgee's body, that it cleaved his liver in two and you just didn't notice?"

Sergeant Hurley replied: "No."

Mr Davis asked Hurley if it "entered his mind for a moment that (Doomadgee) could have been killed by a cleaved liver".

"No," he replied.

Mr Davis: "What happened is that you knee-dropped on him in an attempt to wind him -- tried to subdue him?"

Sergeant Hurley: "No."

Mr Davis: "And in doing that, you have killed him?"

Sergeant Hurley: "No."

Mr Davis: "And then you thought later he probably died from a heart attack -- why do I have to confess to dropping a knee into him?"

Sergeant Hurley: "No."

Evidence concluded yesterday and final addresses will begin on Monday.

No comments: