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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Police accused of Aborigine death
Cameron Doomadgee - archive image (courtesy ABC News)
Cameron Doomadgee's death sparked angry protests
An Australian police officer caused the death of an Aboriginal man who died in custody in 2004, a coroner has said.

The death of 36-year-old Cameron Doomadgee sparked disturbances on Palm Island, an indigenous community off the coast of Queensland.

Doomadgee, also known as Mulrunji, died after suffering broken ribs and a ruptured liver and spleen.

An inquest heard he was assaulted by a senior officer who lost his temper after Mr Doomadgee hit him in the face.

"I find that Senior Sergeant [Christopher] 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," the coroner, Christine Clements, said.

Mr Doomadgee had been arrested for being drunk in public on Palm Island.

He was found dead in a cell in the local police station.

The inquest, in Townsville, was told that officers made no attempt at resuscitation.

'Nothing learned'

The coroner also accused the police of failing to investigate the death properly and found that the victim should never have been arrested in the first place.


State prosecutors will now decide if the officer should face charges.

But police trade union representatives criticised the coroner's remarks, insisting they were based on "unreliable evidence".

"She's used unreliable evidence from a drunk to support these claims. It's simply unbelievable," said Queensland Police Union president Gary Wilkinson

Mr Doomadgee's death prompted serious disturbances on Palm Island, an indigenous community near Townsville.

The police station and court were burnt to the ground.

The Aboriginal settlement on Palm Island was established in 1918.

The BBC's Phil Mercer, in Sydney, says alcohol abuse on the island has been rife, while criminologists have described its rates of assaults, domestic violence and rape as "astronomical."

Ms Clements said police on Palm Island had learned nothing from a Royal Commission report in the 1980s which examined the deaths of young Aboriginal men in custody.

The report found that most were the result of natural causes, disease or suicide and not police brutality, but it also prompted a widespread review of procedures and training.

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