Palm Island calm despite Mulrunji decision

December 14, 2006

All was calm on Palm Island despite news a police officer blamed over the death in custody of a local man had escaped prosecution.

Residents rioted two years ago in the aftermath of the death at the local police station of 36-year-old Mulrunji Doomadgee.

The isolated Aboriginal community's town square was surprisingly empty today as residents digested the decision that Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley would not face criminal charges over Mulrunji's death.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leanne Clare today said charges would not be laid against Snr Sgt Hurley.

In September, deputy state coroner Christine Clements found Snr Sgt Hurley struck Mulrunji and caused his fatal injuries on November 19, 2004, at the police station on Palm Island, off Townsville.

But today Ms Clare said the death had been due to a "complicated fall" and the evidence could not prove Snr Sgt Hurley was criminally responsible for Mulrunji's death.

On Palm Island, people stayed in doors, well out of the media spotlight that had once again invaded their island.

Children frolicked in the pristine clear water, oblivious to what had just happened, or what might still happen.

There was also no sign of a police presence despite claims by residents that houses were raided by officers last night.

Acting Mayor Zac Sam said he expected police to bolster their presence on the island in the next few days despite the current calm.

Mr Sam said there was a lot of anger among the island's younger population over the Director of Public Prosecution's decision.

"There are a lot of young people upset but we can't be there all the time if they want to do something," he said.

Mulrunji's sisters, Valmai Aplin and Claudelle Doomadgee, broke down in tears as they recounted the heartache of being told by DPP head Leanne Clare that Snr Sgt Hurley would not face prosecution.

"I just felt broken," Ms Doomadgee said.

"He (Mulrunji) was my little brother."

Ms Aplin, Mulrunji's partner Tracey Twaddle and good friend David Bulsey joined five other family members prior to the public announcement to hear Ms Clare's findings in a private sitting.

A "disgusted" Mr Bulsey said he walked out of the meeting while Mulrunji's sister and partner burst into tears.

"I felt like my heart was ripped apart," Ms Aplin said.

"I just sat there and cried. I couldn't believe it."

The decision has thrown this weekend's mayoral election on the island into disarray. Community members are to chose between six candidates for the vacant mayoralty.

Alleged riot ring leader Lex Wotton is one of the candidates.