The devastated sister of a man who died in police custody gave heartbreaking victim testimony during an inquest into his death.
The young man, whose name cannot be released, died in November 2019 after being arrested by police in Rockhampton, central Queensland.
He was arrested outside the Leichhardt Hotel and taken in the back of a police car to the Rockhampton Guard House across the street.
The man died while being transported from the Leichhardt Hotel to Rockhampton Watch House (above) after telling officers he could not breathe
His heartbroken sister cried as audio from his body camera played from his arrest in the courtroom.
In the clip, the man could be heard repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe,” “murder,” and “you guys are real cops.”
Officers were laughing just moments after stuffing the semi-conscious man into the “capsule” in the back of the vehicle.
The man was unresponsive and without a pulse when the vehicle reached the guardhouse.
His heartbroken sister confronted one of Central Queensland’s most senior officers, Inspector Mark Burgess, after hearing the sound and told him she was appalled by the officers’ laughter.
Inspector Burgess was not directly involved in the incident, but the officers under his command were.
The man’s sister also gave her testimony on behalf of her family.
Audio played into the investigation showed officers laughing after placing the semi-conscious man in a “pod” in the back of their vehicle
“He is so much more than ‘the deceased’ than just the subject of this investigation,” she said, reports the Courier Mail.
“(He) was an athlete, a comedian, a father, a sidekick, a son, an uncle and — yes — a brother. He was a hard worker and a world traveler.
“He was and will be deeply loved and sorely missed. We had a close, strong relationship that lasted our entire lives. Our last words to each other were ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too’.’
“Of course, little did I know that these would be the last words I would have with my beloved brother, but the memory of our daily, loving, final exchange gives me a small comfort.”
She said her brother is a fly-in fly-out worker but values spending time with his family above all else.
“(He) has been a huge support, both emotionally and physically, in caring for our mother, who we lost last year,” she said.
“Since (his) death I have struggled to embrace and enjoy life with the same passion and drive as before.
The man was arrested in November 2019 in front of the Hotel Leichhardt (above), which is opposite the guard house
“There’s always something missing, someone. There’s always a hole in my heart.’
The grieving relative added that it was difficult to understand how difficult her brother’s death had been for her family and that her grief was only compounded by the circumstances of his death.
“What haunts me, what I’m struggling with, is how he died: unable to breathe, alone, scared, in the dark,” she said.
“I can’t make sense of his death, so I’m asking you to attribute something of value to this horrific loss…better controls and balance, better processes, better training.”
“Let (his) death mean something so that no other family has to walk this heartbreaking, lonely path.”
“To the world he was only one, but to us he was – and is – the world.”