Dozens face court over Aurukun riot as police head north

 

AUTHORITIES say police numbers in Cairns have not been cut, despite another riot in Aurukun requiring a steep increase in law enforcement in the remote Cape York community.

Two teenagers alleged to be key instigators in the town's second major riot this year were among six people remanded in custody yesterday after many people were injured and homes and police vehicles damaged.

Dozens of people allegedly armed themselves and took to the streets on Friday night following a funeral in the Cape York community.

A total of 24 people have been charged with rioting.

Aerial image of Aurukun, an indigenous community on the Gulf of Carpentaria, PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE.
Aerial image of Aurukun, an indigenous community on the Gulf of Carpentaria, PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE.

Extra police have been flown in to the community, in addition to officers brought in following the January 1 riot.

Deputy Commissioner Paul Taylor said the officers had been drawn from units such as the Tactical Crime Squad, which is based in Cairns but regularly deployed across the entire Far North region.

Cairns MP Michael Healy said police staff numbers had not been reduced in Cairns, which was facing its own youth crime crisis.

Police photos of Aurukun community unrest on New Year’s Eve Dec 2019.
Police photos of Aurukun community unrest on New Year’s Eve Dec 2019.

"There hasn't been a depletion of police numbers as a result of the Aurukun incident, because Brisbane has sent additional staff up here," he said.

Seven people appeared in the Cairns Magistrates Court yesterday via videolink from Aurukun, with all but one remanded in custody.

Among those denied bail was 18-year-old Orenthio Koo-Oila, who the court heard was already on bail for the first riot on January 1 in which eight homes were destroyed.

Magistrate Catherine Benson said the teen had argued he was only part of the angry mob and had encouraged a victim outside to fight his brother, but police have alleged he was seen breaking into a property and fighting.

Aurukun was deserted following riots on New Year's Day
Aurukun was deserted following riots on New Year's Day

Another teen, Elsbeth Wolmby, 18, was also denied bail due to her alleged involvement in this and another small riot in mid-January in which she allegedly threw something which shattered the window of a police car. The court heard she has allegedly admitted entering a residence on Friday night with a group of people and assaulting two females.

"Of grave concern is the issues that have occurred in Aurukun and it seems to continue to occur between two warring clans," Magistrate Benson said.

She said both teens were an unacceptable risk of reoffending.

Alleged co-offenders Rex Jacobs, Ray Wolmby, Wayne Wolmby and James Woolla were all remanded in custody, while Joe Wolmby was released on bail.

All their cases were adjourned until May 13.

The Cairns Post understands police will allege this riot was sparked by community members seeking retribution for an alleged murder on January 1.

Dozens of residents reportedly slept the night in the foyer of the police station for safety on Friday night.