homeless man dies in custody: pleas ignored, jail video shows FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 6 May 1998 00:25:54 -0700 (PDT)


http://features.yahoo.com.au/external/news/top_stories/19980506/1998050645.html
FWD  The Australian News Network - Wednesday May 6 1998


  CELL DEATH; MAN'S PLEA

    by Ellen Whinett


       A HOMELESS man who died in the Hobart police cells begged to be
taken home less than two hours before his death.

       A videotape of the Hobart police watch-house was played yesterday to
a Launceston inquest into the death of Andrew James Duncan, 23, of Hobart.

       On the videotape, Mr Duncan is shown being charged before being led
to the cells.

       He can be heard repeatedly asking not to be locked up.

       "I don't want to be charged with anything," Mr Duncan is heard
saying. "I just want to go home."

       Mr Duncan's father, William, who asked for the videotape to be
played, left the court in tears after hearing his son's final words.

       Andrew Duncan had been locked up about 10pm on Monday, March 18,
1996, and charged with being drunk and disorderly.

       He was found dead 80 minutes later. He was sitting upright in his
cell and police believed he was asleep.

       Forensic pathologist Tim Lyons has told the court he believed Mr
Duncan's cause of death to be an overdose of alcohol and prescription
tranquillisers.

       Also yesterday, Constable Andrew Sulman told the court he had been
working that night when he was called to a report of annoying behaviour in
the Collins St-Elizabeth St area.

       He and his partner, Sergeant Malcolm Direen, spoke to Mr Duncan,
asked him to modify his behaviour and offered to drive him home.

       But Mr Duncan refused to say where he lived.

       The two policemen returned to the area a short time later and saw Mr
Duncan in the middle of the road, swearing and shouting.

       Sgt Direen then arrested him for being drunk and disorderly.

       Summing-up submissions were also made yesterday to Coroner Zygmunt
Szramka.

       Counsel assisting the Coroner, Cath Geason from the Director of
Public Prosecutions Office, said it was open to Mr Szramka to find Mr
Duncan's death was consistent with Dr Lyons' finding.

       She also submitted that Mr Duncan had not sustained an attack as
alleged by witness Florence Kickett.

       Miss Kickett said on Monday that Mr Duncan was bashed, kicked and
thrown to the floor by four plain-clothed policemen.

       Miss Geason said it was unfortunate the video tape had stopped
before 11.20pm when Mr Duncan was found dead. But she said a new system was
in place to ensure it wouldn't happen again.

       Miss Geason submitted police involved had acted within all relevant
guidelines.

       Simon Brown, representing Tasmania Police, said "there is no
evidence ... which could differ from that of Dr Lyons".

       Mr Szramka adjourned his decision to a date to be fixed.

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