Earlier today I published a letter sent by Queensland’s Acting Chief Coroner John Locke to a man named John Tyson, my mate who lost his wide and son in tragic circumstances during the 2011 floods.
Tragic because they died, tragic because of contributing factors involved in their deaths, and tragic because the true tale about what happened has deliberately been hidden and by design, and with official sanction, the truth had never told.
John Tyson has over the course of the past 6 years become aware of a number of facts that were hitherto concealed from him, and knows now that what he was told was the absolute truth is riddled with lies.
That’s the reason that he recently applied to have the Coroner’s inquest into his wife Donna and son Jordan’s deaths reconvened.
It’s also the reason that his request has been cruelly and deceitfully denied.
In the article that follows I break down the reasons provided by Queensland’s Acting Chief Coroner for his refusal to reconvene the inquest, and show you the smokes and mirrors and reveal the secrets and lies.
It’s a rather long piece but I implore you to take the time to read it, and there is an extremely important reason why.
One day it could be you.
Tick, not applicable, tick
There has been a considerable amount of new evidence emerge since the original – and severely limited – Coroner’s inquest held in 2011, including evidence of police falsification of the record of interview made with the only survivor of the family tragedy Blake Rice, who at the time was (a) an 11-year-old child; (b) grief-stricken (his mother and brother had died in front of his very eyes just days before; and (c) was not allowed by police to have his father or another trusted support parent present during the interview.
Evidence had also emerged suggesting that Edward Spark, a crucial witness to the movements of the the Police Inspector in charge of operations on the day of the deaths, was pressured by police to abandon the detail he had provided in his statement to police shortly after the deaths and make a second – and completely contradictory – statement about the events of the day.
New evidence that was not available at the time of either the original Coroner’s hearing or the Floods Commission of Inquiry regarding the actions of Senior Constable John Wheeler, the ‘man’ who took and ignored Donna Rice’s first 2 triple zero emergency calls. This evidence was not available to be presented at the previous inquiries on the spurious basis that Wheeler was facing internal disciplinary action at the time.
Since when has a slap of the police officer’s wrist with a wet bus ticket – for that’s all Wheeler ultimately received – taken precedence over an investigation into the deaths of a mother and her child, the imperative to make findings and recommendations to ensure that no Queenslander ever again dies a preventable death in the same or similar circumstances?
Never is the simple answer.
The suppression of evidence relating to Wheeler was both a travesty for the Tyson/Rice family – nay, for all Queenslanders – and an absolute disgrace, and what’s worse is that by the refusal of the Coroner to reopen or convene a new inquest this appalling perversion of truth and justice continues.
Pretty serious concerns aren’t they?
Police constructing false narratives and manipulating evidence, then presenting their deliberate fiction before coroners, commissioners and judges and swearing that is the truth, when in reality it is nothing of the sort.
An eleven year old child being refused proper support during a harrowing police interview and his final statement being fabricated and then presented to the same inquests and commissions of inquiry.
An untrained emergency call taker – who is only answering the phone because he is on police suspension from active duties following a serious assault on an aboriginal child in police custody; proven allegations that he will never face criminal charges for due protection by senior police afraid of public exposure of the cover-up -wilfully neglecting 2 emergency calls from a woman and child who are clearly and absolutely foreseeably stranded in flood waters and faced with a life-threatening emergency.
A Commission of Inquiry report that glosses over the deaths of a much loved wife and child and pays scant attention to the highly questionable circumstances and actions of others that have led to them dying, and contains just 6 lines relating to their tragedy in a final report of over 650 pages.
How much more serious can a widower’s concerns get about the circumstances of his wife and child’s deaths? Tell me if you can because I’d love to know.
So would John Tyson and Blake Rice.
No it doesn’t.
That is absolute unmitigated bullsh*t, and utterly untrue
These below are the objects of the Queensland Coroners Act .
Note in particular subsection 3(d), as this is unquestionably the most important function of the Coroner, to the exclusion of all others.
Finding that a dead woman and child are dead is easy after a flood when their lifeless bodies are found washed onto a loading dock and hanging in a tree. So is finding that they drowned, and that their deaths occurred on the same day as their bodies were discovered, because they were alive and well that very morning and everybody knew it.
You don’t need a law degree or a Coroner’s cap and statutory powers to have worked any of those three things out. A simpleton could have made the exact same findings.
Where you require the legal knowledge and skills, and the Coroner’s hat and the legislated power given to by the State is in finding out WHY they died.
Not that they are dead, not that they died on 10 January 2011, not that they drowned, not that they drowned in a flood, but WHY they drowned.
What were the circumstances that led an everyday average Queensland mother and her son to say goodbye to their husband and father at lunchtime and then end up cold, blue and breathless on a morgue freeezing room rack just hours later?
What or who contributed to their deaths?
Could it have been prevented?
If so, why wasn’t it?
How can we prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again?
What steps do we need to take?
What measures do we need to put in place?
Should recommendations be made that any person, body or instrumentality be referred to another jurisdiction to explain their actions and inactions on the day of the deaths or thereafter?
These are the types of matters the Coroner should be investigating, and these are the crucial questions that a Coroner’s Inquest should be probing.
And that is the exact reason that under the law the Queensland Coroner and duly appointed members of his office have the powers listed below:
Section 46 of the Coroners Act is plain and simple for all to see.
The Coroner CAN investigate far more than the who, how, when, where, what’s about the deaths of Donna and Jordan Rice, and in accordance with the objects of the Act – the very reason that the Coroners are there in the first place – they SHOULD and, in my reasonably held opinion, MUST as a matter of public interest investigate and make comments about the most important thing of all.
If this question is never properly answered then it is impossible for he people of Queensland to ever have any confidence that deaths like Donna and Jordan’s will never happen again, and if that is the case then I contend we can never in future have any faith at all in our institutions, any expectations of justice, or any faith at all in the law. And where does that leave us? Is that really the sort of society in which we want to live
They are the big questions. The more direct question is why has the Queensland Coroner misled, misinformed or perhaps even willfully elected to neglected to tell the widower John Robert Tyson about the objects of the Act and the true extent of the powers of the Coroner?
It is a question that urgently requires an answer.
Was determined by whom?
It was not the Coroners Office. So was it the Floods Commission of Inquiry itself – that’s what then Coroner Michael Barnes was told – or did the decision go higher up the chain, perhaps even all the way to the Premier’s Office?
That’s another question that needs answering.
Whatever the answer though, the simple fact is that the Floods Commission of Inquiry made no more than a bare token effort to investigate the circumstances surrounding Donna and Jordan’s deaths, as evidenced by the mere 6 lines in which they are mentioned at all in the whole of the two Commission’s reports.
That’s not an investigation.
It’s a whitewash.
John Tyson, a long-time Concrete Renderer, is a skilled tradesman but he is not an educated man, and prior to his wife and son’s deaths had precious little experience dealing with police or the court system, and absolutely none dealing the Coroner’s Court.
Like most Queenslanders at that stage of his life he still believed that the Police, the Government and the Law were there to ensure that the truth was told, and justice served, and that his family’s deaths would be thoroughly and properly investigated.
Tyson is also a good and decent man, and even through the tears of his unthinkable grief John was mindful of the dozens of other grieving families, and being the man he is would not have wanted to push his family’s needs ahead of those of the others. And why would he need to? The State and the Law and the Coroner would look after them all he thought and like most average person like do us he trusted our institutions to do what they had been created to do, and do to it well.
So why would he object to the Coroner’s hearing being conducted in the manner that the Government and the State Coroner recommended it should be? After all they were smart people well versed with the law, and he was just a mere concretor; they would surely now the best way to investigate and find the truth.
John couldn’t then have known then how very wrong he would turn out to be.
But how is his misguided faith in the integrity our institutions any reason for the Coroner five years later to use Tyson’s failure to demand an separate Coroner’s inquiry just months after losing his wife and child as a reason not to reconvene a properly focused investigation into all the factors that caused their deaths? Or to prejudice his -and our – right to discover the full truth, and to make sure that what happened to Donna and Jordan doesn’t happen our families, or to us?
The answer of course is that it’s no reason at all, and that the Coroner raising the issue at all is simply another smoke screen designed to prevent us from learning why these deaths should never have happened at all.
Let me give you the red hot tip: some very highly placed folk in the Queensland Police Force and the Government have a lot at stake, and unpalatable secrets to hide, and it goes all the way to the top. That’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a fact; a fact that those holding the secrets want to continue to hide.
If you are not alarmed by what the Coroner has said written then you should be, because what he is actually saying is that the proper administration of justice in Queensland no longer matters, and is not a duly convened court of law’s concern.
An 11 year-old-boy who had just watched his mother and brother swept away to their deaths was taken into a police station, separated from his only surviving parent, subjected like a criminal to an interrogation many hours long while all alone, and then had the statement he gave to police manipulated and altered to fit a narrative that the police, for reasons of their own – or more particularly, for reasons of their superior officers own – wanted told, even though they knew that it was not the truth.
This is not supposition on my behalf or any wild and cynical claim. It is a fact.
A fact borne out by the evidence recently uncovered by the media and broadcast on National television programs and in the daily news. A fact that even the police were force to grudgingly acknowledge once the indisputable evidence of the video recording of the police interview was placed right before their eyes.
Police officers fabricating and/or manipulating evidence of children to obscure and/or hide facts about a fatal event when their solemn oath, civil obligation and just plain duty is to uncover the truth.
It’s a matter that strikes directly at the heart of the administration of justice – some would even describe it a perversion of the course of justice, and in my book they’d be correct – and an investigation of this issue of the production of falsified and fraudulent police statements falls fairly and squarely within the Coroner’s jurisdiction, and is a matter of major public interest, and perhaps desperate concern.
The highly dubious and almost certainly unlawful actions of the police may not make any difference to a Coroner’s narrow factual finding that John Tyson’s family died by drowning in a flood on the 10th of January 2011, but they are certainly a matter pertinent to any proper investigation of their deaths, because the obvious question is why?
Why did the police involved do this? Why did they separate a grieving little boy from his father and grill him? Why did they manipulate the boy’s statement? Why did they present a statement to a court and swear it was true when they knew all the while it was a lie?
Most importantly of all. what exactly was it that the Police were so desperate to hide?
And why doesn’t the Coroner want us to find out?
It wasn’t respect that Donna Rice was seeking when she called Triple O, and it is not the lack of it that John Tyson is primarily concerned with in his quest to have the inquest into she and his son Jordan’s deaths re-opened.
What Donna was seeking was for she and Jordan to receive help and to be rescued, and what John Tyson wants to know is why the police didn’t dispatch an emergency unit that quite likely would have saved his wife and son’s lives.
I’d like to know too, and so would you, because unless this issue addressed next time it could be us. It’s called prevention, and it is the reason that the Coroner’s primary focus is meant to be on examining the surrounding circumstances, finding out exactly what happened, and making sure that it never happens again.
It’s pretty simple really. To everyone but the Coroner that is.
Why though should we be surprised? After all, Acting Chief Coroner John Lock can’t even get the basic established facts right, so how could we expect him to discover those that are presently unknown?
The original Coroner’s report did not, as Acting Chief Coroner Lock claims, note that the issues relating to Donna Rice’s Triple O emergency calls had been DEALT WITH by the Floods Commission of Inquiry and police Ethical Standards Command.
It said they had been INVESTIGATED by those two bodies.
As anyone who has been convicted of a crime will tell you there is a huge difference between being INVESTIGATES and being DEALT WITH.
This is not merely a semantic distinction, it is a matter of vital fact. To use the case of someone like the (in my opinion) wrongly convicted murderer Garry Dubois the difference is that between an old age lived in sunshine and liberty in the bosom of your family’s love, or a life and death spent in darkness alone and behind bars. There is a huge difference between the two, don’t you worry about that.
The obfuscation of the truth by the Acting Chief Coroner is one thing, but the assertions made by his predecessor in the original Coroner’s findings are another, for the Floods Commission of Inquiry did not properly investigate the emergency calls issue at all.
It couldn’t, because vital evidence including the police records of interview with the call taker Senior Constable John Wheeler were withheld from the inquiry and suppressed, purportedly because Queensland Police proceedings against Wheeler were continuing.
It was half-true.
But it was also a lie.
Here’s the crucial fact that you’ve never been told.
The internal proceedings being undertaken by in relation to Senior Constable Wheeler’s conduct had nothing to do with his handling of Donna Rice’s emergency calls, absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with that vitally relevant issue at all.
Those proceedings related to Wheeler kicking the crap out of an Aboriginal child while the boy was in police custody, handcuffed, helpless and at the express direction of police officers lying prone upon the ground.
Wheeler has never actually been investigated or dealt with in relation to his abject and utterly appalling failure to follow police procedure and initiate action that might very well have saved Donna and Jordan Rice’s lives.
I repeat – NEVER.
Everything you have been told, and continue to be told, is a lie.
John Tyson has never requested that the Coroner make comment about the outcome of the Floods Commission of Inquiry.
He has asked him to find out why his wife and child died.
It is totally within the jurisdiction of the Coroner’s Court to embark on that journey.
In fact is exactly why the Coroner’s Court exists.
As stated earlier above, the Coroner has dual functions.
Establishing the fact a person or people are dead, where and when they died, and the medical reason for their deaths is the straight forward and simple one of them.
Investigation of the circumstances that caused the person or peoples death, indetifying the factors that contributed to their deaths, assessing whether any failings by natural persons or institutions were a factor in their passing – specifically factors relating to public safety and the administration of justice – and making official public comment on ways to prevent deaths in such or similar circumstances from ever happening again is the other.
That’s the hard one, the one the Coroner seems so determined to avoid, and the bright shining question is why?
Why, why, why?
I don’t have an answer to that question, but I do have one question more.
Why, when he wrote to John Tyson informing him that he had declined his request for the Inquest to be reopened, did the Coroner not advise the unrepresented concretor of his right to seek a review of the decision in the District Court?
Why did Acting Chief Coroner Lock fail to inform the man so desperately seeking answers to the questions about the deaths of his wife and son that have remained unanswered for so long not tell him that he had a further avenue of appeal, or that he had just 14 days to invoke it?
Why was it left to a freelance journalist like me to bring John Tyson’s rights to his attention for the first time, some five weeks after the statutory time frame for him to exercise those rights had been extinguished?
Why, why, why, why, why?
Because the fix was in that’s why.
The fix was in from the moment the ambitious Regional Police Inspector and his equally ambitious Commissioner discovered that there were certain things relating to Donna and Jordan Rice’s deaths that it wasn’t in their interests for the the public to hear, and Government officials with equally dark secrets to hide agreed.
And the fix has been in ever since.
Welcome to Queensland, the land of pineapples and secrets and cover-ups and lies, a place where the more things are said to have changed, the more they really have stayed the same.
John Tyson deserves answers and he deserves truth, but most of all he deserves justice, the fair application of justice.
We all do, and there is only one way we are going to get it.
The Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of Donna and Jordan Rice must be reopened.
It’s time for the Attorney-General to exercise her powers and intervene.