Anger brews on riot island

Peter Michael ON PALM ISLAND

December 14, 2006 11:00pm

Article from: The Courier-Mail

THE furious family of Palm Island death-in-custody victim Mulrunji last night said they had been "treated like animals" over a shock decision to clear the police officer accused of his death of any criminal charges.

"I feel like my heart has been torn from my chest," said Valmai Aplin, a sister of the victim speaking on behalf of the family. "I wanted to hear he was guilty and being charged with murder. But today he is walking free and will probably get paid a heap of compensation for stress."

Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare yesterday told a packed press conference in Townsville that charges would not be laid against Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley.

She overturned the findings of a two-year coronial inquest which found Mulrunji died from being struck by the police officer and ruled the death had been due to a "complicated fall" and was a "terrible, terrible accident".

The incident led to riots on the island.

Mulrunji's family rejected Ms Clare's decision. "When we heard the decision we just broke down and cried," Ms Aplin said. "We feel like we're being treated like animals . . . we are just lost."

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

Riots erupted on the island seven days later after an autopsy found Mulrunji suffered four broken ribs, a ruptured liver and a ruptured portal vein in a watchhouse scuffle.

Ms Clare said autopsy results showed neither kicks nor punches caused Mulrunji's death.

She said Mulrunji died from internal injuries caused "by a crushing force to the front of his abdomen" when he and Snr Sgt Hurley fell together through the open door of the police station.

Glen Cranny of Gilshenan & Luton lawyers said Snr-Sgt Hurley was yet to decide his future as a police officer, adding that his client was also considering possible legal action of his own.

Snr-Sgt Hurley has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission reached the "inevitable conclusion" that no disciplinary action could be taken against Snr-Sgt Hurley.

Police Minister Judy Spence said the police ethical standards command would now conduct its own probe.