Punch was trigger for all-in brawl

Steve Drummond, father of Jai Morcom, talking to the assembled media outside the Lismore Court House on the first day of the inquest into his son’s death at the Mullumbimby High School in 2009.
Steve Drummond, father of Jai Morcom, talking to the assembled media outside the Lismore Court House on the first day of the inquest into his son’s death at the Mullumbimby High School in 2009. Cathy Adams

INCONSISTENCIES and uncertain recollections plagued the third day of evidence at the coronial inquest into the death of Mullumbimby High School student Jai Morcom.

The 15-year-old schoolboy died of a massive brain haemorrhage following a playground brawl at the school during recess break on Aug-ust 28, 2009.

Six students and former students of Mullumbimby High, whose names have been suppressed from publication, appeared yesterday – including four of Jai's Year 9 mates.

Several students refuted or questioned their initial statements from the days after the fight.

“That's not an accurate record of where my head was at,” one said.

“I didn't know what was going on in my head, let alone what happened that day.”

Another said: “Most of the stuff I said today I can clearly remember but most of the stuff in my statement I can't remember.”

A third student, when asked by counsel assisting the coroner Michael Wigney SC, whether a quote from his statement about seeing Jai throw a first punch was accurate, replied: “I did not say that.”

One common thread throughout the testimonies was that the final fight, from which Jai was seen staggering before he collapsed, flared up in seconds between up to 20 students and was over in less than a minute.

One student saw Jai and another student trading punches.

“They were dangerous punches, yeah,” he said, describing Jai with his hands up defending his head.

“Then I just saw him lying on the ground near the wall.”

Another student said, “Jai wasn't a fighter but he knew what was happening – he was just sticking up for his mates.”

As described in Tuesday's testimonies from staff and teachers, there were several altercations around the playground that recess break involving a table moved from the senior area to the Year 9 area.

Yesterday, students agreed that staff had quelled those skirmishes and overseen the return of the table to the sen-ior area. But one Year 11 student, followed by two more,returned without the teachers' knowledge seeking an apology for one of his mates who was previously spat on.

One Year 9 boy, who said he had spat on the Year 11 boy after he'd been shoved, admitted throwing the first punch when the Year 11 boy confronted him. “I thought he was going to hit me,” he said.

Most students agreed that was the trigger from which an all-in brawl erupted.

Ironically, most also agreed that the ‘table war' was ‘just a bit of fun' until that day.

Even the Year 11 student who was spat on agreed.

“There was no animosity. It wasn't that big an issue. I didn't think it would end in a fight,” he said.

Jai's mother Kim Morcom attended the inquest yesterday, relaying several questions for witnesses to Mr Wigney.

She wiped tears from her eyes as one student described his friendship with her son.

“(Jai) was a real cheeky, fun kid. It makes me sad talking about him,” he said. “He was a real little jester ... he taught me how to be true to myself.”

The hearing continues.

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