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Corina Rich speaks out at inquest into her son Brandon's death in custody

Giovanni Torre -

Family impact statements were delivered Thursday morning at the coronial inquest into the death of Wiradjuri man Brandon Rich, who died after losing consciousness during an altercation with New South Wales police on 29 December, 2021.

The Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT is representing Corina Rich, Brandon's mother.

The inquest began last Monday with a Smoking Ceremony at 9.30am at the Dubbo Courthouse.

While the cause of Mr Rich's death is presently unascertained, the inquest will examine thecircumstances leading up to his death including a police altercation, use of oc spray and restraints.

The ALS NSW/ACT said Mr Rich was a much-loved son, grandson, father, brother, and uncle.

"He cared deeply for his family, but his son, his nieces and nephews held a special place in his heart," advocates said."Brandon is often remembered for his humour, he loved making his family laugh... Brandon will forever be remembered as a soft giant; a big teddy bear, as his mother Corina describes."

The late Mr Brandon Rich. Image: ALS NSW/ACT.

On Thursday Ms Rich delivered her statement at the inquest, published below in full.

"My memories of Brandon

On the 7th of November 1992 I gave birth at Dubbo Base Hospital to my one and only son. I named him Brandon Trevor James Rich. He was this little bundle of joy. He was beautiful.I loved my son very much. He brought such joy and happiness to my life and to everyone who knew him. Brandon was a family man, he loved his family deeply and we loved him. He was very protective of his younger sisters, had a special bond with his uncles, and loved visiting his cousins and checking up on them. He was over the moon when he became an uncle and would call his nieces and nephews nearly on a daily basis.

Brandon was really close with his granddad. They were best friends, but when Brandon was about 14, Poppy Ken passed away. Brandon struggled with this his whole life. He never grieved properly for his Pop and I think it really took a toll on him.

On the 30th of June 2014, Brandon became a father. His son was the spitting image of Brandon. He followed his dad everywhere and they loved giving each other cuddles.

Brandon loved playing soccer and riding his PW 50 up the common. He was so funny and very cheeky, and he would make us all laugh. He always used to make a mad impression of Borat – everyone would laugh because he sounded exactly the same as him.

When Brandon passed away

At Christmas 2021, the whole family gathered at my oldest daughter and son-in-law's house and we had a wonderful day. Two days later, myself and my fiancé were saying goodbye before heading back home. Brandon gave me the biggest cuddle he has ever given me goodbye, and he said "I love you Mum" and I said "I love you son".

On the 29th December 2021 my life changed forever. Myself and my fiancé were visiting friends when I received a phone call from Mum at 12:35pm saying the police are doing CPR on Brandon. I really could not comprehend how bad it was; it just did not sink in then. We went back home and waited by the phone for any news.

I called Mum back again to ask what was going on and asked her to hand the phone to a police officer. They said they are doing CPR on Brandon and that is all we can discuss at this time. Then the phone hung up.

I sat on my bed waiting and waiting. No word from anyone, so I decided to call the hospital. Finally a nurse answered the phone. She said "I am sorry, we did all we could, he has passed away". That's how I found out about my son's death.

From that moment, my whole life came crashing down on me. Everything was turned upside down. I lost my only son. Knowing I was no longer able to give him the big cuddles we used to share broke me to pieces. My son was my world, just like all my children are my world.

The impact of Brandon's death on our family

Knowing that Brandon was scared and terrified for his life hurts me. Knowing the police have a role in his death is so hard, because they are supposed to protect us. My family is disappointed that the police involved did not offer any condolences to us during the inquest. It would have meant a lot.

I have suffered so much since my son died. I have post-traumatic stress disorder and suffer really bad nightmares that I am in my son's position at the time with police. I am so anxious whenever I see police or hear sirens or see an ambulance.

Brandon's death has broken our family. My grandson took it very hard. He asks why Daddy had to die and I don't know how to answer it, because I also ask myself that question. Why did my son have to die? He shouldn't have. He should still be here.

I can't express how much I miss Brandon, how much we all miss him. I can't express how devastated we are thinking about how all his possibilities in life were cut short. How he won't get to watch his son grow up. How he won't get to become a grandfather and how he won't get to watch his nieces and nephews become parents too.

Brandon's life has been ripped away from us. He was very much alive before this incident.

Honouring Brandon through justice and accountability

I will always love my only son. He showed me what the word 'love' means. If there was anything in the world I could do to have him back, I would do it. I will forever keep all of our precious memories in my heart.

My family is one in over 500 Aboriginal families to have lost a loved one in a death in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. I hope that recommendations from this inquest will lead to accountability, justice and changes to the system which allowed this to happen. I believe there are many lessons that can be learned from this inquest. I hope those lessons are learned and changes are made. That would be the best thing for our mob. Aboriginal deaths in custody must end."

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