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Mum frustrated as inquest statement is rejected

Callan Morse -
qld

The family and friends of an Indigenous man who died in police custody have been left angry and disappointed after the conclusion of a coronial inquest into his death.

Steven Lee Nixon-McKellar died following an altercation with police in October 7, 2021 after officers attempted to arrest him after he was pulled over whilst driving an allegedly stolen car.

During the arrest the 27-year-old lost consciousness and went into cardiac arrest, dying soon after despite CPR being performed.

Following the presentation of evidence, family and friends of Mr Nixon-McKellar left the inquest angry and upset after being denied the opportunity give a statement during proceedings.

Instead, Mr Nixon-McKellar’s mother, Raelene Nixon, was given a brief moment to speak in court.

She conveyed her frustrations after more than an hour of unsuccessful negotiations lead to the family withdrawing their request to present the statement.

“I just want to say that offering our family statement again defeats the purpose of us making a family statement and that I travelled 1800 kilometres and sat in this court for four days,” Ms Nixon said.

“I afforded every other speaker the opportunity to voice what they believe happened here and our family has not been offered the same opportunity.

“I sat here for four days and we were not afforded 10 minutes.”

Coroner Terry Ryan denied the family the opportunity to make the statement, parts of which were objected to by other parties, received earlier that day. 

“I do appreciate your concerns, but unfortunately, if we can’t reach an agreement your position is that you’re withdrawing the statement,” Mr Ryan said.

Months before the inquest, a preliminary hearing heard evidence a Queensland police officer used a lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR) manoeuvre on Mr Nixon-McKellar. 

Police body cam footage played during the inquest showed one officer telling another to “choke this c*** out, choke him out” before applying the controversial stranglehold, the officer later yelling “he's asleep let him go”.

The inquest heard the preceding physical altercation included the two officers initially striking Mr Nixon-McKellar with batons before a third officer applied the LVNR restraint within five seconds of spotting the Indigenous man struggling with the two officers.

Mr Nixon-McKeller was later unable to be revived by paramedics as his throat was obstructed by vomit.

The forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy found the cause of Mr Nixon-McKellar’s death to be “not determined”.

Dr Christopher Day told the court Mr Nixon-McKellar’s death had been “multifactorial” from the combination of the day’s events, pre-existing medical conditions including heart and lung disease, bronchopneumonia and the presence of methylamphetamine in his system.

The inquest also heard the training of the LVNR manoeuvre had been discontinued by Queensland Police following Mr Nixon-McKeller’s death, however whilst giving evidence, Queensland Police Union president, Ian Levers, called for Queensland Police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, to consider its reintroduction.

Coroner Ryan adjourned the inquest with his ruling to be handed down after written submissions had been made by all parties.

More than 500 Indigenous people have died in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody brought down its findings in 1991. 

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