Palm seething after acquittal

By Peter Michael

December 14, 2006 11:00pm

PALM Island, population 3500, is again at flashpoint.

The news that a police officer had escaped facing criminal charges over the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee yesterday sent shockwaves through the tight-knit Aboriginal community .

Extra riot police were on standby in Townsville last night to quell any potential outbreak of violence in the wake of the decision.

"There is one law for blacks and one for whites," said Palm Island Deputy Mayor Zacc Sam.

"We know the majority of Australians believe, as we do, that this man should be charged and found guilty of nothing less than murder first degree.

"I would like to know from what cereal box she (the Director of DPP Leanne Clare) got her qualifications from.

"They have wasted taxpayers' money on two years of a coronial investigation and then she makes this finding. It is disgraceful."

Last night he was urging his fellow Palm Islanders – who notoriously rioted on November 2004 burning down the police station, barracks and watchhouse one week after the death of Doomadgee – to stay calm.

He said he was expecting a bigger police presence, including SERT officers, to arrive on the island overnight.

"There are a lot of young people out there who are upset," he said. "And we can't be there all the time."

Earlier in the day, the whoops of laughter of children leaping off the jetty echoed across the palm-fringed beaches and through the township.

Palm Island chief executive Barry Moyle said the community was awaiting legal advice on whether they could pursue civil litigation.

Palm Island councillor Rosina Norman said her family had been torn apart by white man's justice.

Her daughter Alissa will have to present herself to the Palm Island police station on Christmas Eve and will spend four months in jail for her role in the riot.

"She threw one rock and she has to spend Christmas in jail," she said. "She has four children and all four children will have to move in with me. I keep asking myself if there's any real justice in the world."

How it unfolded

November 19, 2004

Island man Mulrunji, 36, dies in the Palm Island police station. A police investigation begins the next day.

November 26, 2004

Autopsy details are released and riots erupt on the island during which residents burn down the police station, courthouse and the home of the police officer-in-charge.

November 28, 2004

Thirteen people charged over the riots.

February 7, 2005

An inquest under Coroner Michael Barnes begins but within a month he excuses himself after he had social contact with Palm Island council lawyer Andrew Boe.

July 31, 2006

Mulrunji's son is found dead in his home.

September 27, 2006

Deputy Coroner Christine Clements finds Sen-Sgt Chris Hurley responsible for Mulrunji's fatal injuries.

October 7, 2006

Sen-Sgt Chris Hurley stands aside from police duties.