As always, court excuses authorities over Eric Whittaker’s death in custody

Prisoner In Jailsource: The Green Left
published: 17 March 2020

Parklea Correctional Centre officers dismissed inmate Eric Whittaker’s ongoing cries for help in the early hours of July 2, 2017. The 35-year-old Gamilaraay man’s pleas first drew their attention at 4.50am. He subsequently made 20 distress calls over the emergency intercom.

The clearly disoriented and frightened man was told to wait for morning staff and treated as if he was putting it on. When staff finally entered his cell at 8.08am, Whittaker was found in a terribly distressed state.

After the three hours-plus delay, Whittaker was taken to hospital and shackled to a bed for 16 hours, unconscious, where he eventually died of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm: a condition that about two-thirds of sufferers survive.

Two days later, at 4.55pm, Whittaker’s family were advised the father-of-four’s life support should be switched off.

As is required with all Aboriginal deaths in custody, a coronial inquest was held into Whittaker’s death. From the outset, it was insisted that no criminal prosecutions would be considered. On completion of the inquest on February 28, the NSW Coroner’s Court determined no recommendations would be made.

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