Palm Island verdict 'licence to kill'

* June 21, 2007

ACCUSED Palm Island rioter Lex Wotton says Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley's acquittal of a 2004 death in custody has given Queensland police a "licence to kill".

But Mr Wotton, 37, has ruled out a repeat of the violence that followed 36-year-old Palm Islander Mulrunji Doomadgee's death in a police watchhouse in November 2004.

Sen-Sgt Hurley was yesterday found not guilty in the Townsville Supreme Court of the manslaughter and assault of Mulrunji.

“There's a green light for men in police uniform to go out and commit murder,” Mr Wotton told Channel 7 tonight.

“It's just like they have been given a licence to kill.”

Mr Wotton returned to a peaceful Palm Island today after hearing the Townsville verdict and believed the community would remain that way in contrast to the riots that followed Mulrunji's death in custody almost three years ago.

On November 26, 2004 – seven days following Mulrunji's death – a riot broke out after an autopsy showed he had broken ribs and a punctured lung.

Police officers sought refuge at the island's hospital and were airlifted to safety after rioters burnt down the police station, courthouse and Snr Sgt Hurley's home.

“You can be assured that I won't be a part of anything,” Mr Wotton said.

Mr Wotton was released from custody on bail with strict conditions in Brisbane on May 31 after formally entering a plea of not guilty to rioting with destruction on the island in 2004.

His co-accused – John Major Clumpoint, William Neville Blackman, Lance Gabriel Poynter and Dwayne Daniel Blanket, all of Palm Island – have been acquitted.

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