Transcript of PM Report ABC Radio - Monday, 5 July, 2004 18:30:00

Inquest opens into death of TJ Hickey


DAVID HARDAKER
: An inquest opened in Sydney today into the death of a 17-year-old Aboriginal boy earlier this year, a death which sparked one of the worst race riots the city has seen. Thomas Hickey, or TJ as he was known, was found by police on the morning of February the 14th, impaled on a fence at the end of a laneway in the inner suburb of Redfern.

Shortly after his death there were claims police had been chasing him, and may have even struck the bicycle Thomas Hickey was riding. The rumours circulated quickly around the notorious area known as the Block, which then became the scene of a nine hour battle between police and mainly young Aboriginals.

Liz Foschia reports
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LIZ FOSCHIA: It's those minutes between when TJ Hickey was first spotted by police riding his bicycle, and subsequently found with fence palings through his neck that this inquest is concentrating on. And at the heart of it all is whether the actions of police played a part in that death, either directly or by pursuing him in such a manner that he endangered himself. In court this afternoon, the inquest was played a recording of police radio transmissions covering that period.

That morning there'd been a bag snatch outside Redfern railway station, and police were looking for a known suspect.Shortly after 11 o'clock a call came in that a man, matching the description had been spotted nearby, along with another man.

Police, who were patrolling the area, responded.

TJ Hickey also happened to be in the area at the time. The inquest has heard he'd ridden his bicycle to his mother's house in Redfern to collect some money, saying it was "for a feed", and he was on his way back home. His girlfriend, who regularly timed these round trips was expecting him. But he never arrived. Police report first noticing the teenager around 15 minutes past 11.

Between then and 11:19, the police radio recording makes no mention of any pursuit. There's discussion about the sighting of the possible bag-snatching suspect, who was on foot with another man, and a description of what they were wearing. >A patrol car, which subsequently took the same path as TJ Hickey, announced it was responding, then the radio fell silent for a couple of minutes until the chilling message.

"URGENT. MALE IMPALED ON FENCE OFF PUSHBIKE BEHIND PHILLIP STREET. REQUIRE AMBULANCE URGENTLY."

The teenager was taken to hospital but died the following morning. Witnesses would later claim police had been pursuing him at the time of the incident, and a patrol car was reportedly seen following him down a footpath with its lights flashing.

Detective Darryl Pace, who launched the initial investigation for the bag snatcher, told the inquest there were rumours he'd been driving a police truck which struck the bike's rear wheel, and that he'd put his foot on the youth's neck. All of which he said was impossible. Detective Senior Constable Michael Kineur who was placed in charge of the investigation into TJ Hickey's death says he believes police were not pursuing or chasing the teenager at the time. But, when pushed, conceded officers may have been following him. One patrol car had allegedly arrived at the seen of the accident shortly after it occurred, another had driven along the same footpath he'd taken but had come up short at a fence.

The inquest was told while those four officers had written statements on the day of the accident, it was a week before Detective Kineur was able to interview them, and in the meantime the witness claims about a pursuit had been given a lot of publicity.

Two of those officers are scheduled to be in the witness box tomorrow as the inquest continues.

DAVID HARDAKER: Liz Foschia with that report.

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