There were always going to be losers when the Queensland DPP made her decision on whether to charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over the death of Palm Island resident Mulrunji. The decision has been made, and the winners and losers have been notified. 

Christine Clements, Acting State Coroner, Inquest into the death of Mulrunji, 27 September, 2006:

Page 7: The most significant finding was in the peritoneal cavity. There was at least one and a half litres of blood and clot. The liver was virtually completely ruptured- “… cleaved in two” in Dr Lampe’s words. The two halves of the liver were only connected by some blood vessels…

Page 27: I find that Senior Sergeant Hurley hit Mulrunji whilst he was on the floor a number of times in a direct response to himself having been hit in the jaw and then falling to the floor.

I do not necessarily conclude that this force was to Mulrunji’s head as stated by Mr Bramwell [witness to the incident]. He could not have been in a position to see Mulrunji’s head from where he was seated. Mulrunji’s feet and part of his legs was all he could see. It is open on Bramwell’s evidence that the force was applied to Mulrunji’s body rather then his head. This is also consistent with the medical evidence of the injuries that caused Mulrunji’s death. It is also most likely that it was at this time that Mulrunji suffered the injury to his right eye.

After this occurred, I find there was no further resistance or indeed any speech or response from Mulrunji. I conclude that these actions of Senior Sergeant Hurley caused the fatal injuries.

Media Statement, Queensland Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, 14 December, 2006:

There were two autopsies. From them we know that neither kicks nor punches are likely to have caused Mr Doomadgee’s death. On the evidence, the fall is the only satisfactory explanation for the injuries identified by the doctors.

My decision in relation to any criminal prosecution, however, has to be based upon the evidence, and only that evidence admissible in a criminal trial. My duties are different to those of the coroner. This may lead to different views being reached in the same case, without questioning the processes and findings of the coroner.

I know there has been a great deal of community anxiety about the case, however the evidence speaks for itself. I ask everyone to take the time to consider what I have had to say and the legal reasons that compel it.

Royal Commission into Aboriginal Death In Custody, 15 April, 1991:

Section 3.3.7: It is settled law that a custodian owes a duty to a prisoner to take reasonable care for his or her safety…

Section 4.7.4: … Moreover, in human terms, thoroughly conducted coronial inquiries hold the potential to identify systemic failures in custodial practices and procedures which may, if acted on, prevent future deaths in similar circumstances. In the final analysis adequate post death investigations have the potential to save lives.

Peter Beattie, Queensland Premier:

What’s important here is we build for the future and we are endeavouring to work with the Palm Island community.

We are going to … try, as much as we possibly can, to put these matters behind us.

Clearly, from the family point of view, Mulrunji’s family, that’s not going to be easy.

Robert Blackley, former Palm Island Mayor, speaking on The 7.30 Report:

It’s 2006 and a police officer can still get away with killing an Aboriginal person.

Peter Fray

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