EXTRA police were on standby last night to quell potential
violence on Palm Island after Queensland's chief prosecutor decided
not to lay charges against a policeman blamed over a death in
Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare announced yesterday
that charges would not be laid against Senior Sergeant Chris
In September, deputy state coroner Christine Clements found
Senior Sergeant Hurley struck Mulrunji Doomadgee, 36, and caused
his fatal injuries on November 19, 2004, at the police station on
Palm Island, off Townsville.
The island erupted into riots a week later after an autopsy
found Mr Doomadgee suffered four broken ribs, a liver almost cut in
two and a ruptured portal vein in a watchhouse scuffle. The police
station was set alight.
Ms Clements found then that police left him to die after the
bashing, despite cries for help, and later made no attempt to
"Senior Sergeant Hurley lost his temper
Mulrunji whilst he was on the floor a number of times," Ms Clements
said. "I find there was no further resistance or indeed any speech
or response from Mulrunji. I conclude that these actions of Senior
Sergeant Hurley caused the fatal injuries."
But yesterday Ms Clare said the death had been due to a
"complicated fall" and was a "terrible accident". Ms Clare said Mr
Doomadgee died from internal injuries caused "by a crushing force
to the front of his abdomen" when he and Senior Sergeant Hurley
fell together through the open door of the police station.
She said autopsy results showed neither kicks nor punches caused
Mr Doomadgee's death. "On the evidence, the fall is the only
satisfactory explanation for the injuries identified by the
doctors," Ms Clare said.
"In other words, the admissible evidence suggests that Mr
Doomadgee's death was a terrible accident." Ms Clare flew to
Townsville to explain the decision to Mr Doomadgee's family.
His sister, Valmai Aplin, said she was devastated by yesterday's
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said it was time for the
community to move on. "What's important here is we build for the
future and we are endeavouring to work with the Palm Island
community," he said.
Queensland's Crime and Misconduct Commission said it had found
there was insufficient evidence to justify disciplinary action
against Senior Sergeant Hurley, but Police Minister Judy Spence
said the police ethical standards command would now conduct its own
The investigation would look at whether Mr Doomadgee was given
appropriate first aid once he was arrested and the quality of the
initial investigation, conducted by colleagues of Senior Sergeant
Hurley, who was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Townsville-based Aboriginal activist Gracelyn Smallwood said
yesterday's decision was another slap in the face for indigenous
"It was very clear in the coroner's report that our brother was
murdered," said Ms Smallwood, who has called for a national day of
action next week.
"What's going to happen to our warriors who burnt the police
station down are they going to go to jail for life? We've
been putting up with this for the last 216 years."