Palm Island – 2nd Inquest re the death of Cameron Doomadgee, referred to as Mulrunji at his family’s request
10th March 2010 Townsville District Court - Day 3
These are my impressions from talking with various community members and sitting, listening and watching, in the Court room – I cannot always catch what is said.
After a very wet and windy night on Palm, about 30 people gathered at the Palm airport from 7:15 onwards. We had bookings for planes from8:00am onwards and nowhere to shelter from the rain as we waited for planes to arrive. I boarded the 8:00 plane at about 9:00 so was more than an hour late for the resumption of the Inquest in Townsville as were many journalists and Palm Island residents following the inquest to Townsville.
Constable Kristopher Steadman, not Speldman as written in my notes on 2006 Inquest..
This officer was not a large part of the previous inquest to my knowledge. However today he was extensively questioned. Apparently the officer had only arrived on Palm on 18 November, with no prior cultural awareness training, and happened to be in the police garage when Sgt Hurley arrived with PLO Bengaroo, and Mulrunji Doomadgee and Patrick Nugent in the paddy wagon.
As a former investigative officer in the CIB, Steadman knew the value of information gathered as soon as possible after an incident, and on the afternoon of 19 November, wrote up his record of what he witnessed in his official police notes. He was questioned extensively by Mr Mr , for the Doomadgee family, about why he did not then offer those notes to the Investigating team. There was a considerable amount of legal argument about Mr Boe’s line of questioning, most of which involves sending the witness out of the room so that they are not contaminated and influenced by the legal arguments.
Steadman’s reason was that he asked Sgt Leafe, his supervisor, for advice as to whether he should volunteer his notes to the investigating team and Leafe told him that the Investigating team would contact Steadman. Note: Sgt Leafe was present during the arrival of Mulrunji and helped to drag him into the cell.
It was 3 weeks later, on 8th December 2004, that Steadman was contacted by the CMC team and asked to come for an interview.
There was again much legal argument about legal privilege and the relationship between Steadman and the lawyer, Mr ? Cranny provided for him by the Police Union.
It was astounding that a person who had had the foresight to write up notes about a death in the custody on the day of the death, appeared to have no notes about how Mr Cranny came to represent him, any paperwork involved, how many meetings they had, etc. He cannot even remember whether he showed Mr Cranny his notes before he met the CMC team.
Mr Boe took Steadman through his Notes of 19 November 2004. In particular, the difference between ‘he fell though the door’ with ‘he’ being defined as Hurley in the first inquest and ‘one or the other’ and ‘possibly both’ being Steadman’s statement today. This definition of ‘falling’ and who it refers to, was revisited several times. As far as I could make out, Steadman kept apologising for not remembering what he had said but actually kept coming back to a different version to that in his notes, a version which Mr Boe suggested was slanted towards making things better for Hurley.
Mr Boe also examined Steadman’s views about whether he felt that he was an ‘independent’ witness as is his duty both as a police officer and as a citizen. Steadman agreed that his duty was to be independent, and he felt that he was and is, but that it might appear to others, that he could be biased towards a fellow police officer.
Mr Boe suggested to Steadman that he had not said that there was a ‘heavy fall’ until Hurley’s barrister (not sure whether Mr Mulholland or Mr Zillman) had talked of a ‘heavy fall’ and then Steadman agreed although he had not mentioned a ‘heavy fall’ in his notes.
Mr Davis, for the Attorney-General, then launched into a very rigorous cross-examination of Constable Steadman. He asked Steadman why he had not been willing to cooperate with the Public Prosecuting team in Hurley’s manslaughter trial until the Police Commissioner instructed officers to cooperate with the prosecution in the normal manner.
He also asked Steadman whether he had willingly cooperated with Mr Zillman and Mr Mulholland when they were preparing for Hurley’s defence. Steadman agreed that he had cooperated willingly with Hurley’s defence lawyers but had only cooperated with the Prosecuting team when the Commissioner had ordered all police officers to do so.
Mr Zillman, for Sgt Hurley, then took Steadman through his evidence of what happened at steady pace. Mr Zillman was saying something like ‘I suggest that they fell together’ Steadman ‘Yes they did’, ‘There was stiffness, hard heavy fall’ Yes there was. Steadman seemed to agree with everything Mr Zillman suggested, however much it differed from what he had written on the day in his notes.
No other lawyers wanted to cross-examine so Constable Steadman had finishes as witness. I’m not sure of the technical term.
The Coroner, Mr Hine and the lawyers, decided to call Sgt Leafe to the witness stand even though it was quite late. His cross examination was sensational, but I will leave my reporting until it has been completed so as to have the whole picture.