The inquest into the death in custody of 20-year-old Aboriginal man Bailey Mackander has heard the shocking response guards gave him when he said he couldn’t breathe.
Mackander died in 2019 after being taken to hospital when he reported having swallowed batteries and razor blades. During the transfer at Gosford Hospital, he escaped custody, climbed a concrete barrier and fell 10 metres, the ABC reports. He died the next day.
However the inquest into his death has now revealed that he repeatedly begged jail guards for help with breathing and mental health issues in the lead-up to this moment.
Two days before his death, Mackander was placed in an isolated cell where he could only communicate with guards via an intercom. Fast-forward to May, 2021, and the inquest has finally heard 21 recordings from this intercom.
Mackander repeatedly said “I can’t breathe,” yet guards repeatedly dismissed his calls for help.
“We've got to sit with the anxieties, anger and upset until we can get to the truth,” David Mackander said after the inquest into his son Bailey’s death was adjourned again. The 19-year-old Wiradjuri man died in custody in 2019. #JusticeForBailey @JusticeAunties @NITV pic.twitter.com/lmOIdwp0Sx— Nadine Silva (@nadine_silva_) April 28, 2021
In one recording, Mackander said he was worried he was about to have an anxiety attack while isolated in his cell.
“Somebody help me, please… it’s making me stressed, I’m about to have a fucking anxiety attack,” he told prison guards.
“I’m stressed and I’m panicking, it’s making me sick – I can’t cope. I’m fucking sick, I can’t breathe.”
To this, a guard replied: “You can’t breathe because you’re winding yourself up.”
Another guard later told Mackander he was having a panic attack, and to slow his breathing down.
In another call heard by the coroner, Mackander complained about vomiting, chest aches, gagging and uncontrollably crying.
That’s when a guard replied that “there’s nothing wrong with you at all, other than your attitude.”
At the inquest into Bailey Mackander's death in Lidcombe today. Bailey's cellmate testifies that the observation cells for ppl on suicide watch operate as a form of punishment within the prisons. Bailey urgently needed help but was subjected to a form of torture #JusticeForBailey— UTS: Jumbunna Institute (@Jumbunna_Inst) May 4, 2021
His mum, Tracy Mackander, told NITV she had to leave the courtroom when the recordings were played.
“I couldn’t bear to hear my son being treated in such a way. What they did to him is absolutely heartbreaking and soul-destroying,” she said.
Regardless of what the final cause of death is determined to be, hearing Mackander repeatedly in pain and distress just days before his death is yet another damning indictment of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are treated in custody.
Mackander was on remand for drug and driving offences, and it ultimately led to his death.
The inquest is set to run for a week before picking up again in July.
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