Friday, April 8, 2011

NT cops don't care about dead boongs

Cops 'at fault' in Aboriginal boy's waterhole death, says Northern Territory coroner

A NORTHERN Territory coroner has slammed police for failing to properly investigate the death of an eight-year-old Aboriginal boy, whose weighed down body was found in a shallow waterhole. NT Coroner Greg Cavanagh has now referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions after finding a crime had been committed.

In handing down his findings today, Mr Cavanagh said investigating police quickly concluded that the death was not suspicious. "Thereafter, the investigation was given neither the priority, nor the seniority of investigators, that it deserved," Mr Cavanagh said.

The boy, who cannot be named for cultural reasons, went missing in October 2007 and was found dead two days later in the waterhole just outside the remote Aboriginal community of Borroloola, near the Queensland border in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

When the boy's body was removed from the deepest part of the waterhole, which was only 75cm deep, large rocks fell from the legs of his shorts (not the pockets).

Police did not seize the rocks, a crime scene was not properly established so that contamination or interference could be excluded, and the waterhole was not drained and examined until ten days later.

"The possibility that these rocks were used to weigh down the boy's upper body was apparently never considered by the original investigators as it did not fit with their preferred accidental drowning theory," Mr Cavanagh said, adding that he could not determine a cause of death. "He has lacerations to the top and back of his head that were consistent with being struck by a rock."

He said a XXXX Gold beer can found near the water's edge was seized, but not forensically tested until months later. DNA extracted from the can was determined to belong to a person on remand for child sex offences.

The boy's family said it was not in the his nature to wander off alone, and that they had found his tracks and a set of adult tracks leading into the bush.

Ms Cavanagh criticised police for failing to obtain measurements and castings of the footprints, and said his examination of the bush and waterhole had led him to conclude that no child would consider swimming there. "The waterhole was shallow, muddy and uninviting. "I am satisfied that this young boy did not wander off into bushland alone but was rather lured, led or forced there."

He said evidence gathered at the scene, such as a pornographic magazine from the United Kingdom, was deemed irrelevant without an objective basis for such assumptions.

Days after the boy's body was found, a local resident located a red child-sized singlet in bushland near the tracks. Police left the singlet where it was overnight and presumed it was irrelevant, despite the fact the boy - who was found bare-chested - was last seen in a red shirt. "How such an assumption could be reached by investigators is a serious concern," Mr Cavanagh said.

The singlet, which was the boy's favourite top, was not shown to his family for identification or exclusion at the time. The family was instead given a red Manchester United soccer shirt that was also found at the scene, which they denied belonged to the boy.

Ms Cavanagh said there was a distinct possibility that the soccer shirt was connected to a person involved in the boy's disappearance and death. He said the man whose DNA was found on the beer can told the inquest he had owned a shirt similar to the one found by police, but had lost it months before the boy went missing. "Given the delay, his account cannot be reliably tested, verified or discounted."

Mr Cavanagh said the man, whose name has been suppressed, remained a person of interest in the case, and police had recently identified a second person of interest.

At the outset of the inquest Superintendent Kristopher Evans, who is in charge of the Major Crime Division, frankly admitted police "failed to do their job properly". "The community is entitled to expect better from their police force ... I'd like to apologise to the community, but mainly to the family of this young boy ... we're deeply sorry," Supt Evans said. Police conducted an internal review, the findings of which were submitted to the inquest.

"I hope and trust that lessons have been learned," Mr Cavanagh said, adding that he supported the promulgation of Child and Infant Death Investigation Guidelines for the police force.


Victorian police bully

Senior police officer accused of threatening teen basketball referee

A senior Victorian police officer has been banned from attending basketball games for five years after he allegedly grabbed a teenage referee's whistle and threatened her.

Police have launched an Ethical Standards Department (ESD) probe into the Acting Inspector's behaviour. The force initially said the ESD was not investigating the clash which happened at Knox Basketball Stadium on March 6.

It's understood the 49-year-old officer is based at Maroondah police station. A police spokeswoman confirmed the officer was off-duty when the incident happened.

"(He) was subsequently sanctioned by the Basketball Victoria Tribunal and banned from coaching or playing basketball for five years," the spokeswoman said. "This matter will now be referred to the Ethical Standards Department for review.

"This tribunal sanction will not impact the police officer's capacity to attend basketball stadiums as a part of his operational duties."

The female referee, 18, lodged a complaint against the officer alleging he swore at her, tried to grab her whistle and left her frightened and intimidated. The officer was found guilty of six charges by a Basketball Victoria tribunal on March 17.

Basketball Victoria governance and operations manager Gerry Glennen said the man had been suspended from all basketball activities and venues around Australia for five years. Mr Glennen said Basketball Victoria didn’t initially know the man was a police officer. The ban would not stand if the man had to attend a basketball stadium for police duties, he said.

Supt Jeff Forti, who the Acting Insp reports to, said he only became aware of the incident when he heard it on radio station 3AW this morning. He said the matter should "most definitely be referred" to the ESD. "He's a well respected individual. I was astounded to hear this this morning," Supt Forti said.


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