Man dies after Ballina street fight
By Will Jackson and Mary Mann
WALTER Mark Hickling was known for his friendly handshake and Bob Marley-style outfits.
The 50-year-old Ballina man has died in hospital 24 hours after allegedly being involved in a mid-afternoon fight in the town's main street on Sunday.
Police are unsure what happened and are treating the incident as suspicious.
Last night, Mr Hickling's sister, Alice Roberts, told The Northern Star the family and local community were devastated to lose Mr Hickling, a man she described as friendly, outgoing and respected.
"He would shake your hand when he saw you and was very friendly, even if he didn't know you," Ms Roberts said.
"He touched the hearts of a lot of people."
Mr Hickling was a father of three who had lived in Ballina on-and-off for the past 20 years.
He was on a disability pension and suffered from epilepsy. Mr Hickling's family said he loved spending time with his friends and watching his many nieces and nephews play sport.
Ms Roberts said she was confused as to why Mr Hickling had been involved in the fight, or who he had been fighting with.
"We're waiting now for the autopsy report," she said.
"I just feel numb. I just want to know what happened.
Please, if anyone knows what happened, tell the police."
It is believed Mr Hickling, 50, was king hit outside the busy El Turko Kebab store in River Street about 1.45pm on Sunday.
The circumstances surrounding the alleged assault were still uncertain yesterday, despite there being numerous people in the vicinity at the time.
A worker at a nearby store said he saw Mr Hickling arguing with a man before the incident.
"But I didn't see what actually happened," he said. An employee of the El Turko Kebab store said she heard a sickening crack ? almost like a gun shot ? as Mr Hickling's head hit the concrete footpath. However, the woman, who did not wish to be named, said she didn't see what happened because she was busy serving numerous customers inside the store.
Richmond Local Area Command crime manager, Detective Inspector Steve Clarke, said it was unknown how the alleged fight started or how many people might have been involved.
"But he was obviously involved in some sort of physical altercation," he said.
Det Insp Clarke could not confirm witness reports Mr Hickling was intoxicated at the time.
Police and ambulance officers arrived soon after the incident and took Mr Hickling to Ballina Hospital, but he discharged himself a short time later.
A friend of Mr Hickling's called police on Monday morning and he was found unconscious at a Tamar Street premises about 6.26am.
He was taken back to Ballina Hospital before being airlifted to the Gold Coast Hospital, where he was put on life support.
He died later that afternoon. Det Insp Clarke said the death was being treated as suspicious.
The Northern Star understands police have obtained closed circuit television footage which could be useful in their investigations.
Anyone who witnessed the incident, or has any knowledge of the circumstances which led to it, has been asked to contact Ballina detectives on 6681 8699 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.