Two charged on noose claims

Source: The Age December 3 2004

By Stephen Gibbs

The Queensland Government pleaded for calm again yesterday as two people faced charges over allegations that an Aboriginal boy was dragged with a noose around his neck in the state's south-west.

Police said a 44-year-old man and a 23-year-old man had been summonsed to face the Goondiwindi Magistrates Court on January 18 on charges of assault occasioning bodily harm in company.

The father and son allegedly disturbed four young Aborigines at their home near Goondiwindi. It is alleged they stripped a 16-year-old naked and dragged him along the river bank by a rope tied around his neck.

His friend, Bevan Bartman, 19, was allegedly tied to a tree and forced to watch his mate being tortured for up to an hour.

Two other boys who escaped back to the Toomelah township ran away allegedly with calls of "f---ing black c---s!" ringing in their ears.

That allegation, relayed by elders who had spoken to the boys, is not mentioned in any statement by Queensland police.

The young Aborigines, including the victim who allegedly suffered head injuries and neck burns from the noose, were accused of various offences, including attempting to steal a motorcycle that elders noted they probably had not intended riding over the Macintyre River.

Reg McGrady, at 23, was the oldest of the group, and with Bartman returned to the river yesterday. The alleged victim was in Toowoomba hospital undergoing a CT scan of his brain.

The four had crossed from NSW to Queensland by swimming the river on Tuesday afternoon with a plan to break into buildings where they had previously found yarndi, or cannabis.

McGrady, who says he had made this trip half a dozen times, left his companions in the sheds and was inside a house used by a farm employee when the man and his son came home.

McGrady ran back along the river bank, east towards Toomelah, as the others headed for the river chased by barking dogs.

One of the group made the crossing and kept going, but two others were caught as they reached NSW.

The boys' statements to police are not clear narratives, but the alleged noose victim says he was pulled back through the river, stripped naked, bound at the wrists, then dragged up an embankment by a rope tied around his neck.

Bartman, who apparently was also captured and forced to watch his friend's alleged protracted torture, yesterday could not recount much of what had happened.

He will appear in Goondiwindi Magistrates Court on December 14, charged with one count of break, enter and steal, one of break and enter with intent, and one of entering premises and committing an indictable offence, unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

The boys will be dealt with under the Juvenile Justices Act.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said he was worried the incident could fuel more racial anger. But he continued calls for calm and insisted the law would be applied fairly.

ATSIC Goolburri regional chairman Bert Button said it was not "free season on blackfellas" and the alleged incident was hurtful on top of already soured black-white relations.

"The community feels saddened... we're all angry, particularly still with the fresh memory of the thing in our minds about Palm Island," he told ABC Radio.

- With AAP