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Inquest into drowning death of 22yo Gomeroi man hears police laughing and swearing on video after incident

Giovanni Torre -

The coronial inquest into the death of Gomeroi man Gordon Copeland heard a police officer say "f*** this little c***" on body-worn camera footage recorded on the day he drowned.

Mr Copeland, 22, was last seen alive entering the Gwydir River near Moree in the early hours of July 10, 2021. His body was found three months later 500 metres upstream.

He disappeared into the river while being chased by police, who claim they mistakenly believed the car he was in was stolen.

On Thursday the inquest was shown vision from the body camera of Constable Nick Murray filmed shortly after Mr Copeland allegedly ran into the river.

Guardian Australia reported the footage showed police officers walking through thick grassy scrub near the river bank at 2.34am while searching for Mr Copeland.

Asked by counsel assisting Penny Dwyer if he could sense the reaction of Mr Copeland's family in court after seeing footage of him swearing and laughing, Constable Murray said his reactions and what he said was wrong.

"If I knew this (Copeland's death) would have been the outcome I definitely would have been more sincere and wouldn't have said those sorts of things," he said.

"It was a bad situation... and I was trying the best I could at the time.

"I was just a bit frustrated."

The constable denied his comments were motivated by racism.

Evidence heard earlier this week found officers on the scene conducted an initial search for about 13 minutes.

Constable Murray said he later returned to collect evidence, at which time he and another officer heard "murmuring" near the river.

The is no body camera vision of the second search.

In a statement collected the day after the Mr Copeland's disappearance, the officers said they were calling out for about 10 minutes before seeing "a head bobbing in the river".

The constable told Ms Dwyer he considered entering the water but thought it was too dangerous, and then Mr Copeland was swept downstream.

Emergency crews arrived at the scene five minutes later and the search was called off after three days.

Mr Copeland's family and supporters in the community campaign for authorities to restart the search, and in October his body was found less than 500m from where he entered the water.

In a statement Josephine Brown, Mr Copeland's partner and mother of their two sons, said Gordon was a bright, loving and helpful person.

"The past year has been so hard without him here. We miss him so much," she said.

"It damages me that my babies have got to grow up without their dad.

"Our littlest one didn't get to meet him and our four-year-old always looks for him."

Mr Copeland's mother, Narelle Copeland, said the family had a right to know what happened.

"I want answers. Life is just not the same without Gord," Ms Copeland said.

In a statement issued Monday morning, Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT chief executive Karly Warner said Mr Copeland's death was a reality for too many Aboriginal people.

"Each time an Aboriginal person dies in custody or a police incident, the ripples of trauma are felt throughout our communities," she said.

In March, Mr Copeland's aunt Lesley Fernando told National Indigenous Times she had little faith anyone would be held accountable for his death.

At least 21 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people died in custody and police operations in 2021, and there have been more than 500 deaths since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody concluded in 1991.


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