Redfern youth was being chased, witness claims

Date: February 19 2004

By Les Kennedy

Moments before Thomas "TJ" Hickey was fatally impaled on a metal fence, a female charity worker says she saw him being chased on his bike by police in a caged truck. The worker's account yesterday supports a statement given to Aboriginal Legal Services by TJ's uncle, Roy Hickey. Mr Hickey said he saw his 17-year-old nephew seconds before the accident dash on his bike across Phillip Street, Waterloo, through a pedestrian access gate from a walkway between the former Redfern Primary School and a playground. He then saw a police wagon come to a halt. The woman, who did not know TJ and who asked that her identity or charity not be revealed until she spoke to lawyers, said she had told the Redfern Aboriginal Legal Service what she saw.

Police deny that the youth was being chased.

On Monday Mr Hickey told legal service solicitor Peter Bugden and Ken Horler, QC, that about 11am on Saturday he had been driving along Phillip Street when TJ dashed out of the park on his right. TJ cut across the road on the bike and into a vehicle service road. Mr Hickey's attention was then drawn to a caged police truck pulling up in the park. He had driven around the block into Raglan Street where he stopped and saw a group of police helping an injured boy on the ground. He then realised it was TJ.

Yesterday, the charity worker and a colleague told of hearing a police siren. "I went outside and saw the kid ride through the park from Renwick Street and out into Phillip Street and go across the road," the woman said. "Then I saw a police truck come down and try to get through (to Phillip Street) but it could not get through the gate. They then reversed. They had the sirens on and their lights." Police maintain that at the time of TJ's accident a large team of officers had been in the area searching for an older man wanted for an attempted bag snatch and a serious assault on an elderly woman five hours earlier near Redfern station. An independent police team investigating TJ's death has appealed for help from anyone in the area at the time.

The accident, and anger at police treatment of Aboriginal youths in the area, sparked nine hours of rioting in Redfern on Sunday. A concert was held in Redfern last night to bring locals and family members from Walgett, NSW, together before a memorial service for TJ today. Last night's entertainment was organised as a tribute to TJ's family, organiser Tamihana Pomare said. Aboriginal performers including Leah Purcell, Michael Donovan, Marlene Cummins, Dvanti The Boys, and Tribal Act played to about 200 people. "The whole evening's about unity, and the community coming together - the healing process," Mr Pomare said. "What the community is saying is, it's not about political points."

- with AAP