Palm Island Death In Custody Cop Chris Hurley Investigated By Queensland Police

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The Queensland police officer who killed Aboriginal man Mulrunji Doomadgee in a Palm Island watchhouse more than a decade ago has been stood down without pay following an alleged “unauthorised pursuit” and an “inappropriate use of force” on the Gold Coast over the weekend.

The ABC reported that Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, along with Senior Constable Barry Wellington, are now subject to an internal investigation after the alleged police pursuit on the Gold Coast on Sunday night. The Australian reports that shots were allegedly fired at suspects.

The QPS released a media statement which did not name Snr Sgt Hurly or Snr Constable Barry Wellington.

“The officers are subject of a disciplinary investigation concerning allegations of engaging in an unauthorised pursuit, driving or causing a police motor vehicle to be driven in a manner likely to endanger other road users, and inappropriate use of force,” the statement said.

The QPS says “this does not mean that the allegations against the officers have been substantiated”.

Snr Sgt Chris Hurley became infamous across Aboriginal Australia after the death in custody of Mr Doomadgee on Palm Island in November 2004.

Mr Doomadgee was arrested after he swore at Snr Sgt Hurley. Forty-five minutes after his arrest, he died with injuries that included a liver almost cleaved in two, a ruptured spleen, a torn portal vein, four broken ribs and several abrasions on his scalp. He had an unexplained, visible black eye.

His injuries were described as being akin to a high speed car or plane crash victim.

After Palm Islanders learnt the extent of Mr Doomadgee’s injuries, they staged an uprising, burning down the watchhouse and Snr Sgt Hurley’s house.

The uprising was labelled a “riot” by media and the case was splashed across the front pages of newspapers across the country.

Despite the ensuring outrage over the case, Snr Sgt Hurley requested and was granted leave with pay, and was awarded a $100,000 compensation payment from the QPS to cover his losses. He was later ordered to pay back $35,000 he claimed from an insurance payout. He was then sent to the Gold Coast, where at one point he was promoted to acting inspector.

He was supported by the Queensland Police Union, who organised rallies across Queensland, and retailed wrist bands with his police registration number printed on them.

The officers involved in the Palm Island uprising were given bravery awards by the QPS.

Snr Sgt Hurley was subsequently acquitted of Mr Doomadgee’s manslaughter at a trial in Townsville. It was one of the first times in Australian history a police officer had been charged over a death in custody.

But it only came after two coronial inquiries, and an independent inquiry. Before that, the Director of Public Prosecutions refused to press charges.

And the Palm Island community still feels the hurt following the tragedy. Mulrunji’s only son Eric took his life shortly after his father’s death. The man who shared the same cell when Mulrunji died, Patrick Bramwell, also committed suicide shortly after.

Late last year, a Gold Coast court found Snr Sgt Hurley lacked credibility during a violent arrest in which a man was placed in a “choke hold” on the Gold Coast.

Luke Cole, 34, was charged with serious assault of Snr Sgt Hurley during the altercation, and was let off with the magistrate finding Mr Cole had showed a “reasonable response to the assault upon him”, according to the Courier Mail.

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Amy McQuire

A Darumbul woman from central Queensland, Amy McQuire is the former editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine.

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