Over 15 years ago, I participated in a campaign led by Sam Watson to get justice for Mulrunji who was murdered by police at the Palm Island Watchouse in 2004.
However, despite efforts by activists; and many books, films and court appearances later, no one has been held responsible for the murder of Mulrunji. Compensation has been paid, film rights sold, judgements handed down.
No politician, no Judge, no police officer, nor any public servant has ever given sufficient reason for why police were not charged with the murder of Cameron Doomadgee.
This is a stain on the justice system that has been so reluctant to protect Aboriginal people from police violence causing so many deaths in custody. Here is one of the early reports that I wrote after taking up a petition presented to then Premier Peter Beattie at the gates of parliament in December 2006. – Ian Curr, 31 Aug 2021.
No Justice for Mulrunji
The words of Lex Wotton may not be heard or seen here by order of the court declaring that Lex be silent. There can be no justice without truth. And there can be no truth, unless someone rises up to tell you the truth No peace without justice!
In a cynical move before Christmas, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) released a media statement on 14 December 2006 to say the death of Mulrunji was an accident.
Describing it as a “terrible accident”, Ms Clare* said it was clear both men had fallen together at the police station, and the fall was the only explanation for his death. Clare claims that she consulted with Supreme Court judge, B Thomas.
The DPP chief fails to explain why she adopted this view except to say her legal responsibilities are different to those of the coroner. Coroner Clements found that Snr Sgt Hurley was responsible for Mulrunji’s death.
In her 32 line statement to the media the DPP makes no mention of why Mulrunji was left to die unaided in his cell, all the while police heard Mulrunji’s death throes on the video monitoring system.
In October 2006, coroner Clements made the following observations:
“There is clear evidence that this must have been able to be heard from the police station dayroom where the monitor was running.
Indeed the timing of Senior Sergeant Hurley’s visit to the cell suggests that the sounds were heard.
But the response was completely inadequate and offered no proper review of Mulrunji’s condition or call for medical attention.” (See page 26 of “Finding of Inquest”).
Yet the DPP chief says that the coroner’s finding is not based on the evidence. She implies that an aboriginal witness was unreliable. However the DPP recommendation not to prosecute makes no mention of the way in which Snr Sgt Hurley changed his testimony. Hurley did this to cover-up his earlier version(s) which were implausible given the medical evidence on the Death Certificate.
In fact no proper police investigations were made because of personal friendship between Hurley and the investigating police from Townsville CIB. No proper evidence was collected and aboriginal statements were ignored.
The coroner stated in her report:
“It was unwise and inappropriate for an officer serving on Palm Island, who was known to be a friend of Senior Sergeant Hurley to be involved in the investigation …
It was inappropriate for the officer most likely to be under investigation to be the person picking up the investigators from the airport.
It was a serious error of judgement for the investigating team, including officers from ethical standards, to be sharing a meal at the home of that officer that evening.”
The DPP stated in the 14th December 2006 media release that ‘Mr Doomadgee died from internal injuries caused by a crushing force to the front of his abdomen.’
How can a man sustain injuries of four broken ribs, a ruptured portal vein and a ‘liver cleaved in two’ from an innocent fall ? How can a man die from tripping over steps? The DPP has made no explanation except to say:
“It is clear both Mulrunji and Sergeant Hurley fell together through the open door at the police station and this fall is the only explanation for his death.”
What about the other explanations given by witnesses that Hurley punched Mulrunji?
No rational explanation by Premier of the DPP decision
Beattie cannot be believed
Here are just a few comments from more than 80 people who endorsed the Mulrunji letter to the Premier:
“We refer to your proforma letter dated 31 October 2006 in reply to the petition of 1160 people delivered to you by Alec Doomadgee in the company of 150 other petitioners at the gates of parliament on 10 October 2006. The thrust of the petition was that you instruct the Police Commissioner to terminate the employment of Senior Sergeant Hurley on the basis that he killed Mulrunji Doomadgee in the police watch house on Palm Island on 19 November 2004 as indicated by the acting coroner in her judgment dated 3 October 2006. We note that you have taken no such action. Many of us were in attendance when you stated the following at the gates of parliament:
“Many people said at the beginning (when Mulrunji died) that there would not be due process…I said at the time that the coroner would go through due process and the matter would be followed appropriately and that’s what has happened.”
I fully support the above letter – it’s time to see the human rights of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander …
I endorse this letter. Are we going to have a state government that embodies truth, justice and honesty or hypocrisy, …
The lack of transparency, accountability and honesty about Mulrunji’s death reveal a shocking revelation that equality, democracy and justice are …
I fully support this letter too
I fully support this message
another government lie we will follow due process? why is it such a fight to get the govenment to do the right thing…
In 1956 Michael Jorgensen was taken into police custody in Mt Isa. ‘Jorgie’, as he was known, was put in …(another death in custody)
I am an Australian Muslim and I would like to say that when we invited the Police Minister for “Iftar” … (told police minister that the muslim community would be looking at what the government does about Mulrunji)
I endorse this letter.
I really feel that your government’s failure to deal with this matter smacks of racism as aboriginal people are gaoled …
Dear Premier, Justice delayed is justice denied. Please ensure that the DPP is considering the decision about laying charges over the …
This letter raises matters of justice which should not be delayed nor denied. The rule of law is only upheld …
Despite these accusations of bias against his government, Premier Beattie still claims the contrary.
14 December 2006
* Leanne Clare went on to be a Supreme Court judge and is featured in A woman’s place : 100 years of Queensland women lawyers / edited by Susan Purdon and Aladin Rahemtula ; with a foreword by Mary Gaudron.