David Dungay inquest: Indigenous death in custody case resumes

Australia

The inquest into the death in custody of Indigenous man David Dungay will resume at the NSW Coroner’s Court on Monday, more than six months after the initial hearing began. 

Mr Dungay, 26, died on December 29, 2015, in Sydney’s Long Bay Prison Hospital after being forcibly moved to an observation cell, restrained face down and sedated.

David Dungay

David Dungay

Supplied

The transfer was ordered after the mentally ill inmate, who had insulin-dependent diabetes, refused to stop eating crackers and became aggressive.

Six officers from the Immediate Action Team were called in to forcibly move Mr Dungay from Cell 71, which did not have video cameras, to Cell 77, which was under video surveillance.

Video played in court during the initial hearing showed Mr Dungay gasping for air and screaming, “I can’t breathe” at least 12 times as he is pinned to the ground, handcuffed and escorted to the new cell by the officers. 

Mr Dungay was then injected with a sedative – midazolam – in his buttocks as he is held down.

Leetona Dungay

David Dungay’s mother Leetona outside the Downing Centre court in Sydney. (AAP)

AAP

When Mr Dungay again said he couldn’t breathe, officers responded: “If you can talk you can breathe”. 

Moments later he became non-responsive and shortly pronounced dead. 

Mr Dungay was in custody after being convicted of robbery in company with wounding, aggravated attempted sexual intercourse and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

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He was sentenced to a minimum of six years and six months behind bars, with a further term of three years, and would have first been eligible for parole on July 20, 2014.

However, he was not recommended for parole because of his failure to engage in rehabilitation programs.

A two-week coronial inquest into his death began last year at Sydney’s Downing Centre, but ran behind schedule. 

The final 10 witnesses are expected to give evidence before Deputy State Coroner Derek Lee this week.

Mr Dungay’s family including his mother Leetona are expected to attend the hearing. 

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