Burn, you dogs: alleged taunt as station torched

Renee Viellaris

A LABOURER who allegedly shouted "burn, you dogs" moments after torching Palm Island's police station on November 26 was granted bail in a highly charged hearing in Townsville Magistrate's Court yesterday.

The alleged riot ringleader, Patrick Lex Wotton, 37, was one of 19 accused islanders granted bail.

The police gave graphic descriptions of the riot for the first time yesterday, claiming the officer-in-charge's dog had to be destroyed after suffering injuries and distress.

Prosecutor Senior-Sergeant Julia Cook said Wotton led a crowd to the police station after a community meeting at midday on the day of the riot.

Ten officers inside blocked the windows and doors with a filing cabinet and table.

"The police officers inside were in fear for their lives," Sen-Sgt Cook said.

She said they fled the station and barricaded themselves in a garage in the barracks with 10 other officers who had been on the night shift.

They fashioned weapons out of pool cues, upended the pool table to block the door and used mattresses to cover windows as rocks were pelted at the building, she said.

Sen-Sgt Cook said senior police tried to calm the crowd, but were given an hour to leave the island by Wotton who warned they would be killed and "everything burnt".

Wotton allegedly used petrol to burn a police car at the station.

She said police fled to the hospital, with the crowd in pursuit.

Police allege Wotton turned off the water mains and ordered roads and airstrips to be blocked with rocks. He denied the claims.

Sen-Sgt Cook said Wotton, a father-of-five, should not be granted bail because he posed a significant risk to the community.

Queensland's Chief Magistrate Marshall Irwin disagreed and granted bail under strict conditions.

The conditions force Wotton to adhere to a curfew, to stay away from Palm Island, not to have any contact with witnesses and others accused of rioting offences, including his mother Agnes Wotton.

Applause erupted in the courtroom when Mr Irwin announced his decision.

Outside the court, Wotton faced a media scrum but refused to speak. He will face a committal mention on March 10 next year over charges of arson, assault of police and of destroying a building during a riot which carries a maximum life sentence under Queensland law.