A 17-year-old Aboriginal boy found dead at Broome’s football oval had been charged that same night by police officers who say they were not aware he was a suicide risk.
This was despite the fact police found him jumping in front of cars four days earlier, an inquest into a cluster of suicides involving 13 young indigenous people in the Kimberley heard.
Broome’s outskirts in April 2015, because they say they were worried he was at risk of getting hit by a car because he was walking along the road.
However when they pulled over he walked “purposefully” towards the car with a large fishing knife and police became concerned and drove a short distance away from him.
Senior Constable Daniel Fisher told the Broome inquest they soon found him to be calm, not violent and carrying a puppy in his shirt and drove him to a friends’ house, saying he would be charged over the knife.
While Senior Constable Fisher was talking to the boy his colleague Constable Matthew Hughes was checking his details.
That should have revealed that police took him to Broome Hospital four days earlier after he was found with alcohol and amphetamines in his system and trying to jump in front of cars, claiming that he wanted to kill himself.
Senior Constable Fisher said he did not know that and trusted his colleague to check the boy’s details.
He was phoned the next morning and told the boy was found dead at the Peter Haynes sports field after killing himself.
However, Senior Constable Fisher said he would not have acted differently even if he had known about the boy’s attempts to take his own life because his mental health and welfare seemed fine that night.
But “knowing what we know now” he was surprised the recent suicide attempt did not come up when his partner checked on the boy’s name.
The boy had told a community worker a decade before his death at the age of seven that he had been sexually abused by older boys aged 10-14 but he did not co-operate with police.
He was ostracised by the Wangkatjunka Aboriginal Community he lived in for disclosing the abuse and naming other alleged victims and bullied by other children.
The boy’s death was described as particularly tragic by counsel assisting the coroner Philip Urquhart when the inquest started in Perth.
He was born at half the normal weight of a baby and found to be in a “deplorable condition” at Halls Creek hospital at 11 months due to neglect from his mother and a relative he lived with and was believed to have foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
The inquest is running in Broome this week and has already examined the suicides of two sisters, aged 10 and 13, with a depressing description given of the children’s lives in the dysfunctional northernmost communities of WA.
- Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
- Local Aboriginal Medical Service details available from www.bettertoknow.org.au/AMS