Wildman coroner's patience tested
THE NSW Education Department was yesterday accused of 'assassinating' the character of Alex Wildman's family during an inquest into the bullied teenager's suicide.
In a rare move by the court, Deputy State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson agreed with counsel assisting him, Peter Hamill SC, the department's barrister needed to 'get to the point' after prolonged cross-examination of family members about their mental health history yesterday.
“If there's a point to this assassination of the family, then can we please get to it?” Mr Hamill said. “There's been a great deal of time spent listening to no doubt what is going to be the education department's thesis.”
The department's barrister, Donna Ward, who represents Kadina High School, said she was just looking out for her client. “This is not an assassination of the family. I am trying to protect my client's interests,” she said.
Ms Ward had earlier detailed incidents where Alex had himself been accused of bullying students at high schools in Sydney.
The inquest is examining the role that bullying of the 14-year-old may have played in his suicide.
Ms Ward said school reports from Sydney suggested Alex had 'an unnatural fixation' on female classmates, had 'rubbed' their thighs and legs, had spread rumours about another boy, and received a formal suspension caution for teasing and name-calling.
She also quizzed Alex's mother, Justine Kelly, about her relationship with her ex-husband - Alex's father - and the time her son had 'self-harmed' before moving to Lismore.
Family members' history with anti-depressant medication was also raised.
Bill Kelly, Alex's stepfather, said the teenager was 'a very quiet' boy who was never aggressive to other children and loved motorbikes.
But his extracurricular interests had waned in the months prior to his death, he said.
Mr Kelly maintains he heard voices around the house the night Alex took his own life, and said he was still not sure the boy died on his own.
The Reverend Garry Dronfield, a family friend from Lismore's Uniting Church, told the inquest the news was a total shock.
Alex had wanted to go for a bike ride on the July night before he was found dead in the family garage, he said.
The 10-year veteran of youth work had dropped by at the family home for a cup of tea that night.
“Even after all that training, I picked up nothing that were signs of what we would have learned in training,” he told the Ballina inquest.
“It was very much a shock for me the next morning when I got the phone call.”
The inquest continues today.
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