Escaping inmate's death referred to DPP

Luke Costin, Margaret Scheikowski and Greta Stonehouse
·1-min read

The inquest into the shooting death of an Indigenous would-be escapee has been suspended after a person was referred to NSW prosecutors.

Dwayne Johnstone, a 43-year-old Wiradjuri man, was handcuffed and shackled when he elbowed a corrective services officer and ran off outside Lismore Base Hospital in northern NSW on March 15, 2019.

State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan suspended the inquest on Thursday after referring a known person to NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Lloyd Babb SC.

NSW law prevents publication of submissions made at the inquest about whether to refer the person, and any comment made by the coroner regarding such a referral.

The inquest began in Ballina on Tuesday and had been set down for four days.

Ms O'Sullivan was told Mr Johnstone was able to run quickly despite being having his wrists and ankles shackled.

The incident was caught on CCTV from a distance, counsel assisting Peggy Dwyer said on Tuesday.

Mr Johnstone had been taken into custody earlier on March 15 after being denied bail for assault charges.

He suffered from epilepsy and appeared to have a seizure in the cells at Lismore Local Court in the afternoon.

Mr Johnstone had disclosed childhood sexual abuse at school and in state care to his parents and was participating in a civil claim against a boys' home at the time of his death, Dr Dwyer said.

"There is little doubt that those traumas impacted deeply upon Dwayne in his adult life," she said.

He was a father who was much loved by his parents and siblings, and was funny and warm, she said.