Family wants independent investigation into death in custody

January 13, 2012
NT chief minister Paul Henderson.

Aboriginal man Terrance Briscoe, 28, died in Alice Springs police custody on January 5. But despite allegations from his family of police brutality, an independent investigation has been ruled out by the Northern Territory’s chief minister Paul Henderson.

Aboriginal rights campaigners in Alice Springs said Briscoe was found unconscious in his cell about 2am. He had been “taken in 'protection custody' earlier that night after drinking with friends”.

ABC Radio's PM said Briscoe's family had been told by two other inmates that five police officers had been seen beating him before he was locked in a cell in the Alice Springs police watchhouse.

But the NT Police Association has said there is “no evidence” of police brutality and Henderson said he had “every confidence” the police would run a “thorough investigation”.

The family and Aboriginal rights campaigners in Alice Springs have demanded all evidence, CCTV footage and witness accounts be released to the family.

Briscoe's aunt, Patricia Morton-Thomas, told PM there was too much confusion about how the man had died.

“What the police had told us originally was that Terrance had been in lock-up and he'd fallen over and sustained an injury to his head. They went to check on him a while over and he wasn't breathing, so they tried emergency CPR but it wasn’t successful.

“Then we went and spoke to the two young men who were locked up with him and they claimed that Terrance was beaten by five officers … That’s their version of it.”

She also said Briscoe had alleged he was assaulted by police officer just four weeks before his death.

Briscoe's family have vowed to fight for an independent investigation. Large numbers of people in Alice Springs attended a vigil outside the police station on January 8.

A vigil is also planned for Sydney on January 19 at 12.30pm at the office of NT Tourism,
201 Sussex St, Sydney.

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