Anger at police after Aborigine dies in hospital- NZ Herald Aug 5 2010

This is a sad and disturbing article. A man tries to get help and ends up dead. With no questioning of witnesses? Why not?

The original article can be found on the NZ herald site here

Police investigating the death of a mentally ill Aboriginal man in a Queensland hospital failed to interview staff who physically restrained him before he suffered respiratory failure.

An autopsy has established that Lyji Vaggs, 27, suffered asphyxia after being handcuffed, held down and injected with anti-psychotic drugs in Townsville Hospital in April.

But according to the Australian newspaper yesterday, none of the six to eight hospital orderlies and security officers who restrained him have been questioned by detectives.

It has also emerged that the hospital has no CCTV footage of the incident.

Vaggs’ family are dismayed by the way he was treated, and by the police handling of the case. His aunt Gracelyn Smallwood, a leading indigenous activist and an associate professor of nursing, has compared it to the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee on Queensland’s Palm Island, which was followed by a botched police investigation.


“When I heard of Lyji’s death, the first thing I did was pray to God that nothing was covered up,” she said.

“We didn’t want key witnesses not interviewed, or security videos suddenly not being available – and what do we get? It is just so disappointing for Aboriginal people seeking justice and answers that this is the result we get all the time.”

According to the Australian, the post mortem examination found that “restraint asphyxia” contributed to the death of Vaggs, a father of three who suffered from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

The day before he died, he tried several times to admit himself to hospital, saying he was “hearing voices”, but was allegedly told there were no beds and he should go home and take his medication.

When he became agitated, hospital staff called police, who handcuffed him. While being held face down on the floor, Vaggs became “limp and lifeless”, and although he was revived, he had suffered irreversible brain damage. His life-support machine was switched off the next day.

A police report to the state coroner says no hospital staff have been interviewed apart from the doctor who administered the injections, for “privacy reasons” or because they were “unavailable to be spoken to”.

By Kathy Marks