An investigation into a death in custody has learned that the police drove over 130 km / h on a Melbourne residential street to follow a car driven by an Aboriginal because they thought his car looked “dangerous”.
Raymond Noel Lindsay Thomas was killed in an accident on Victoria Street in Thornbury on June 25, 2017 after he crossed to the wrong side of the road and sped hard to get away from police.
The accident occurred just one minute after police saw his car and 21 seconds after police formally called for a chase.
An investigation into the death will take place in Melbourne over the next two weeks.
The 30-year-old man from Gunnai, Gunditjamara, and Wiradjuri, whose parents asked to be called Raymond Noel, was on a nightly run to buy chocolate at a supermarket when his Black Commodore Holden was spotted by two police officers driving random traffic patrols around the northern suburbs of Melbourne.
Sergeant John Sybenga, who was leading the highway patrol, said in the investigation that he had seen a Commodore with New South Wales license plates turning onto Dundas Street from a side street after 11 p.m., and that made him suspicious. .
He made a U-turn to follow him before his partner, Senior Agent Deborah McFarlane, who had checked the license plates on the patrol’s on-board computer, told him that the car was not registered.
“For me, the car was worth a closer look because it was suspicious,” Sybenga told the investigation on Monday. “In my experience, a car that travels the back streets in this area at night with interstate plates is worthy of a search. It’s hard to summarize, it was just dubious. “
After the U-turn, the police car followed the Commodore for about half a mile down Dundas Street and then right onto Victoria Road.
Initially, Sybenga said, there was no evidence of wrongdoing beyond the car being unregistered, which is a minor traffic violation. He said the Commodore had “sped up a bit” and appeared to be over the speed limit, but “not much” on Dundas Street, before turning sharply right onto Victoria Road.
“I had to accelerate to a speed above the 50 speed limit to catch up,” he said. “I had a feeling that he may have seen the marked car.”
Police car data showed that Sybenga went from 0 to 103 km / h within 100 meters of making the U-turn and reached speeds of up to 134 km / h before turning onto Victoria Street.
He told the investigation that he had not turned on the lights and sirens and that he had not considered the chase a formal chase until after he turned onto Victoria Street and saw debris on the road he took to indicate that the Commodore had struck a car. parked.
McFarlane radioed the chase and Sybenga accelerated to 156 km / h before deciding to call off the chase after the Commodore veered off the side of the road and disappeared over a hill, the court heard.
McFarlane was holding up the radio to call at the end of the chase when they reached the top of the hill and saw the crash site, with Raymond Noel thrown from the car and clearly deceased. Instead of ending the persecution, he said: “He has suffered. It has come to pain. “
At the time of the accident, the distance between Raymond Noel’s car and the police car was 1.6 seconds.
The attorney who assisted Michael Rivette said the coroner, John Olle, would determine exactly when the chase began. Olle will also determine whether to pursue the Commodore and whether the Victoria Police policy of pursuit has been followed.
Both Sybenga and McFarlane were trained and certified to conduct searches and Sybenga was also a trained pursuit supervisor with over 10 years of highway patrol experience. He told the court that he was experienced and familiar with the persecution policy.
Under the 2016 policy, the police do not have to activate their lights and sirens or formally declare a manhunt for their actions to be considered a manhunt.
A 771-page report prepared for the court by Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth McKenzie said: “If a vehicle does not stop when directed or takes deliberate action to avoid being stopped and the police continue to follow it, then that is a chase.”
The McKenzie report said that a prosecution must be justified “on the basis of the need to address a serious risk posed by the offender to the health or safety of any person and the serious risk must exist.”
The investigation will run until July 2.