Two teenagers have been charged with murder and additional police resources deployed to Aurukun amidst community unrest following the death of a 37-year-old local man yesterday.
Overnight detectives charged a 17-year-old boy and an 18-year-old man with murder with the man due to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court this morning.
Police will allege that an altercation occurred between the pair and the 37-year-old man on New Years Day during which time the man sustained a stab wound to the abdomen.
He was transported to the Aurukun medical clinic between 3.10 and 3.45pm and was pronounced deceased a short time later.
A large group of people took to the streets arming themselves with makeshift weapons such as sticks and metal bars once news spread of the man’s death.
Some of these people attended the clinic where police were forced to remove them and temporarily lockdown the facility. There were no reported injuries.
The group dispersed for a period of time before reforming and breaking into houses and vehicles, damaging property and in some instances starting fires, while searching for the two teens.
Additional people joined the group and at one point approximately 200 people attended the airport looking for the pair. There was some reported minor damage and no reported injuries.
Additional police resources were deployed to Aurukun overnight from Weipa, Coen and Cairns with a senior officer from Cairns also sent to the township.
Throughout the course of the homicide investigation and the community unrest police continued to liaise closely with community leaders and elders appealing for calm and restraint.
The anger of the crowd was directed towards family or local residents they believed had some link with the two teenagers.
Superintendent Geoff Sheldon, Assistant District Officer, Far North District said police are continuing to monitor the situation and are appealing for calm.
“We understand that the sudden and tragic death of a loved one causes immense grief and at times anger, and I extend my condolences to the family and friends of deceased.
“Can I also assure them that police have and will continue to conduct a thorough investigation into his death.
“Can I also ask for calm and restraint at this difficult time. The level of threats and property destruction that we saw yesterday and overnight in Aurukun is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
“Police have taken into custody and charged two teenagers with murder. Their families and associates should not have to live in fear of reprisals.
“Police will continue to liaise closely with elders and community members, as well as the families of all involved.
“The safety of everyone in the community is our priority and we will do everything to support the community during this time.
“We will have additional police in the community for several days to maintain a strong presence as well as supporting the two concurrent investigations now underway.”
A major investigation has been launched into both the homicide and the unrest and associated offences such as arson and wilful destruction. Additional specialist police such as detectives, scientific and scenes of crimes officers will be sent to Aurukun to assist with the investigations.
Police will also work closely with the staff and families of all government agencies located in the township.
Police will conduct further assessments of the damage associated with the unrest and at this stage believe that six dwellings were set on fire, sustaining varying degrees of damage including some being destroyed, two other dwelling sustaining fire damage to their outside, as well as a number of cars damaged or set alight.
Some police vehicle also sustained minor damage.
Police are not aware of any injuries.