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Police praise Hickey mourners

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


Police have praised the behaviour of mourners at the funeral of the Aboriginal teenager whose death sparked a riot in inner Sydney last week.

Police in the New South Wales town of Walgett were concerned that they would be the target of the same anger today that resulted in 40 of their collegues being injured in Redfern.

Several hundred mourners gathered in Thomas Hickey's hometown for the funeral of the 17-year-old this morning.

Thomas's cousin David Cargill delivered the eulogy, telling the congregation his family was still at a loss to explain the tragedy.

The funeral procession made its way down the main street of the town. All shops had been closed as a mark of respect.

Close family then attended a private burial at the nearby Walgett cemetery.

Police kept a low key presence in the town to avoid antagonising the mourners.

Despite lingering concerns about police involvement in his death, there was no sign of the tension that spilled over last week.

And police say they have been assured by Thomas's family that there will not be any violence in the town tonight.

Superintendent Stan Single from Walgett police says his officers will be on duty tonight but are not expecting problems.

"We'll certainly be vigilant, we'll remain prepared but I'm quietly confident nothing will happen tonight," he said.

Members of Thomas's rugby league team, the Walgett Dragons, formed a guard of honour as his coffin was carried out of the Walgett Anglican Church.

Silent march

In Redfern, police say they are happy with the way a march to mark Thomas's death has proceeded.

About 200 mourners walked in silence from the Aboriginal community known as "The Block" to the fence where the teenager died.

A police helicopter flying in the skies above the march was the only sound as the mourners walked from "The Block" and laid flowers at a makeshift memorial at the fence where the teenager died.

"This is purely a community effort to show the respect of the community," Aboriginal leader Lyall Munro said.

The group then walked to the local police station where a list of demands was handed to police.

Redfern police superintendent Dennis Smith says it will be given to the state's police commissioner.

"We wanted to facilitate a peaceful march through Redfern today and so far that's been the case and we're very thankful for that," he said.

"I've had a quick look at the demands and I will go back and review those now and I'll pass them onto the commissioner later today."

Earlier, another cousin of Thomas charged over last week's riot had his bail request refused in a Sydney court.

Raymond Elwyn Carr, 25, from Arncliffe in Sydney's south, was arrested yesterday and charged with 12 offences, including riot, affray, damaging property and throwing bottles.

Carr is due to re-appear in court next month.


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