Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Aboriginal man flees the police in unregistered car. Crashes and dies

His own worst enemy

Raymond Noel Thomas was driving to the shops to buy chocolate in the Melbourne suburb of Northcote in June 2017 when police in a patrol vehicle saw he was driving an unregistered car.

Officers decided the car "looked dodgy" and when it failed to stop they began a pursuit, which saw both vehicles reach speeds of more than 150km/h.

During the chase, Raymond Noel's vehicle veered to the wrong side of the road, sideswiped an oncoming car, hit a parked car and crashed.

Just over 20 seconds later, the 30-year-old Aboriginal man was dead.

Coroner John Olle's findings handed down on Monday quoted a statement by Auntie Debbie, Raymond Noel's mother.

"The loss of our son, there are no real words to say how heartbreaking, devastated and how heavy we carry grief."

During the inquest, the court heard evidence that the 30-year-old Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Wiradjuri man's first interaction with police was at the age of 10, when officers handcuffed him while he was playing with his cousins on a woodchip mound.

"I can just imagine the fear that Ray must have been experiencing that night, right up until the very end," his father Uncle Ray told the inquest.

Coroner Olle slammed the police pursuits policy that led to the deadly crash, saying the two officers involved, Sergeant John Sybenga and Senior Constable Deborah McFarlane, never considered how the pursuit might end.

"They did not consider whether their attempt to intercept had elevated an initial poor decision not to stop, into a scenario of extreme danger," he said.

The court had heard they were experienced officers who were both licensed to drive at unlimited speeds.

He found police should no longer be able to conduct pursuits for "minor traffic infringements" at speed and without emergency lights.


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