Steve Drummond, Jai’s father
Steve Drummond, Jai’s father

Witness voices sorrow at inquest

A BOY at the centre of the fight in which Jai Morcom suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage has told the court how he apologised to Jai’s mates later that afternoon.

“I went up to (the Year 9 boys) and said ‘I’m sorry for my part in the fight’, and (a student) gave me a hug and said something like, ‘it’s all right, it’s nobody’s fault’,” he said.

The students had just been dismissed after spending the afternoon of August 28, 2009, in a room at Mullumbimby High School where initial handwritten statements were taken.

They were also in shock at the time having just received the news that Jai had been taken off life support and wasn’t expected to survive.

The 18-year-old former student is a key person of interest in the coronial inquest at the Lismore Courthouse into Jai’s death.

Due to his situation he has had legal representation in court the whole proceedings and permission from the court to attend the inquest prior to testifying.

Throughout the past week and a half he sat through a range of testimony, some identifying him as the student seen trading punches with Jai immediately before the 15-year-old staggered from the fight and collapsed against a wall, never to regain consciousness.

Another witness testified last week to seeing him repeatedly punch Jai to the back of the head while on the ground. Other witnesses downplayed the stoush between the two, attributing Jai’s collapse to his impact with a wall after being pushed or shoved away from the melee.

Four young witnesses yesterday morning referred to Jai’s impact with the wall and three spoke of Jai appearing to try to stop the fight or put himself between two boys fighting – one believing he saw Jai hold his hands out and possibly yell “stop mate”; while another said he “saw Jai trying to calm things (before) he got shoved out of the way”.

One witness “saw (Jai) thrown into a wall ... it looked like he hit (it) hard” and another saw Jai “fall back and hit his head on the wall” hearing a “loud thump”.

Inconsistencies in student statements under cross-examination continued yesterday, with one student testifying Jai stumbled back one metre to the wall, another said four metres, and a third believed it was eight.

Parents continued to watch anxiously from a packed public gallery as their children testified.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Michael Wigney SC, questioned one student about volatile discussions on Facebook and MySpace in the weeks and months after the fight, seeking to differentiate between eyewitness accounts and hearsay. He also questioned the witness of interest about conversations he had with other students prior to his police statement.

Under questioning the student admitted to being angry for his mate who was spat on and had intended to hurt the boy responsible once the fight started, but denied punching anyone repeatedly on the ground.

He thought he was fighting with that boy the whole time as he had his head down and claimed he never saw Jai.

“I was trying to punch my way out, trying to move backwards,” he said. “I was kind of scared, they were all around me ... pushing, punching or kicking me.”

The inquest continues today and will conclude tomorrow.

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