A coroner has found that an Aboriginal man was “cooked to death” after he spent four hours in the back of a security van in searing heat with no air conditioning as it drove across the goldfields of south-west Australia.
The 46-year-old Aboriginal elder suffered third degree burns after collapsing in the heat and falling to the floor of the van while it travelled 250 miles from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in 117ºF heat.
Ward, whose first name cannot be used because of an Aboriginal cultural prohibition that forbids relatives from naming their dead, had been arrested a day earlier in January 2008 for drink driving.
He was given one pint of water before boarding the van but the coroner found he died before he could finish drinking it…
The West Australian coroner, Alistair Hope, found that Ward was effectively “cooked” to death and heavily criticised the state prisons department, the private security firm that operated the van and the two guards who escorted Ward.
“It is a disgrace that a prisoner in the 21st century, particularly a prisoner who has not been convicted of any crime, was transported for a long distance in high temperatures,” Hope said. The security guards, who did not check to see if he needed a toilet break, food or water, had breached their duty of care.
Little need to point out the racist traditions in Australia and the likelihood of the role that played in the mistreatment of this prisoner – leading to his death.
Next up? Whitewashing the penalties accorded the security guards.