Officers Cleared Of Deadly Crash-tackle
Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday October 15, 2008
WHEN Debbie Boyd's son died on November 29, 2003, it sparked a devastating chain of events which landed two of her other children in jail.Paul Boyd, 21, had been walking with a group across a car park in Narromine, near Dubbo in the state's west, when two men, Sean Britton, 34, and Eric Coote, 38, allegedly crash-tackled him to the ground.Mr Boyd did not regain consciousness and died before the ambulance arrived.Britton, an off-duty police officer at the time, and his friend Eric Coote, a Corrective Services officer, were tried for manslaughter in the District Court this month.But a judge yesterday acquitted them of killing Mr Boyd and of an alternative charge of assault, as there was not enough evidence to prove how Mr Boyd had died or that the men had tackled him."On the evidence presented in this court I could not be satisfied [of] what actually happened ... that is why the accused must be acquitted of these charges," Judge Anthony Blackmore told the court.The decision will be cold comfort for two of Mrs Boyd's other sons, Mark Ernest Boyd and John Gregory Boyd, who are in jail awaiting trial for allegedly stabbing Britton in an attack in November last year, near the anniversary of their brother's death.Paul Boyd and his friend Graham Jones had been drinking heavily earlier on the night he died, and they had stolen wire from a farm hardware store before meeting a group on the main street. As they walked through a car park nearby, two men got out of a car and started running at Mr Boyd before allegedly tackling him from behind.Justice Blackmore said he had found several witnesses who claimed to have seen the crash tackle to be unreliable and that they had given evidence believing it must have happened because someone of Mr Boyd's age "does not simply fall on the ground and remain there".But Justice Blackmore said there was evidence to suggest Mr Boyd's death may not have been the result of a crash-tackle. Weeks before his death, Mr Boyd had been diagnosed with epilepsy and had been warned by doctors to drink less and make other lifestyle changes. However, a blood alcohol level upon his death of 0.188 and allegations he had taken methamphetamines earlier that day appeared to suggest he had not heeded those warnings.Several witnesses also described Mr Boyd being dropped on his head from a height of 80 centimetres after Mr Jones tried to pick him up as he lay unconscious on the ground. Justice Blackmore said there had been no physical signs on the clothing of Britton or Coote, such as scuff marks or holes, to suggest that they had performed a tackle.Outside court, Mrs Boyd said she was "crushed" by the result. "In a way I knew it would be hard to get a conviction." She said her focus would be on her sons' trial. "It's like I have lost three sons to this same incident."
© 2008 Sydney Morning Herald