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Walgett prepares for Hickey funeral

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 24 February 2004


Busloads of mourners from Sydney have made the 10-hour trip to the north-western New South Wales town of Walgett to attend today's funeral for Thomas 'TJ' Hickey.

The 17-year-old died last week when he was impaled on a steel fence in inner-city Redfern.

His family say police were chasing the boy when he died, a claim the police deny.

Thomas Hickey's death sparked a riot but his family has told the Walgett police they want the funeral to be a peaceful event.

The funeral service is scheduled to start at 10:00am (AEDT). The family expects 300 people to attend.

But police commissioner Ken Moroney has decided there is too much of a security risk for Thomas Hickey's father, Ian West, to attend. He is being held in the Bathurst jail.

Walgett Superintendent Stan Single says extra Aboriginal liaison officers from surrounding areas have been working within the local Indigenous community for the past few days.

Superintendent Single says police do not expect any tension and plan to keep a low profile.

'Time on our side'

"If we start to see signs there that people are starting to get angry or build themselves up to doing something, we've certainly got time on our side in these communities," he said.

"We can see it, it's a small enough community where we can obviously observe this sort of activity. We do have time to bring people in."

Superintendent Single says while no trouble is expected, officers in surrounding districts will remain on standby.

"Obviously we've got our own resources at Castlereagh, which covers seven towns, so we'll have all those on standby," he said.

"We've got the surrounding local area commands, which is Moree, Tamworth, Cobar and Bourke - they're providing us with resources as well, they're on standby but hopefully we don't need them."

The Mayor of Walgett Shire Council, Peter Waterford, says despite the influx of people to the town for the funeral, it has been very peaceful.

"I think today the funeral will go off quietly as well," he said. "The elders have been telling everyone to quieten down but there's a lot of extra people in town all right."

Meanwhile, two people are expected to face court today charged over their alleged involvement in last week's riot.

Police say a 17-year-old girl is to appear in Bidura Children's Court while a 25-year-old man is to appear in Sydney's Central Local Court.

Police say six people have now been charged over the riot.


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