• Images of Tane Chatfield's funeral service have been used with permission from the family. (NITV News)
Family and friends paid their respects to Tane Chatfield and delivered moving speeches at a packed Cathedral in Armidale on Friday.
By
Liz Deep-Jones, Claudianna Blanco

Source:
NITV News
23 Oct 2017 - 7:28 PM  UPDATED 23 Oct 2017 - 7:53 PM

It was a community in mourning, burying a young man, whose life was cut tragically short, leaving behind a son, partner, 10 siblings and a loving extended family.

Mourners filled the church wearing red following a request by the family, as Tane had asked his mother Nioka to buy him a red shirt and tie to wear on his final day in court where he was scheduled to face robbery-related charges.

But Tane Chatfield never got to wear his red shirt on the final day of his three-week trial.

Instead, he died in custody in Tamworth Hospital while on life-support, after he was found hanging and unresponsive in his cell at the Tamworth Correctional Centre just after 9 am on Wednesday 20 September. The night before he had been taken to hospital after suffering a seizure. He was returned to his cell the next morning.  

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Peter Kemp, the lawyer who represented Tane while he was on remand for two years, is now representing the family. He spoke of Tane's courage and the effect he had on those close to him.

"He made a significant impact on all of us and there will be some difficult days ahead for the family and some questions that remain unanswered," Mr Kemp said.

Tane's parents, Nioka and Colin Chatfield told NITV News they are still seeking answers to the circumstances surrounding their son's death. They vowed to continue to fight until they find closure.

“It was a beautiful service. I find peace in that. I’ll never stop fighting for justice. I’ll leave no stone unturned,” Tane’s mother Nioka Chatfield said.  

The family met with the Corrective Services Deputy Commissioner, Troy Grant, last week.

Mr Kemp told NITV News the meeting had been “fairly productive”.

“The Deputy Commissioner was conciliatory and I think that meeting was positive. A lot of the family members had a chance to ventilate their particular concerns and some of those concerns are going to be investigated further," he said. 

"Unfortunately, Corrective Services had given them incorrect information which created a huge trust barrier between the family and Corrective Services,” he explained.

However, Mr Kemp also pointed out that the family still felt unsatisfied with how the investigation had been carried out thus far.  

"I am a little bit puzzled and disappointed that so far it would appear that none of the inmates who were in Tamworth Correctional Centre at the time in Tane's area has been interviewed. I stand to be corrected on that, but that's my information and I think that's a deficiency in the investigation."  

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The Chatfield family lawyer also told NITV News he would like to see a full toxicology report.

"I have seen a blood report which is standard hospital document … that's produced in relation to oxygenation and various substances in the blood ... [but] it's not a toxicology report, it's just a standard hospital document that's produced as a result of a blood test, so there's a few items that are a matter of interest at the moment, that need investigation," he said.

Investigations are continuing into Tane's death but Corrective Services have stated that the death isn't being treated as suspicious.

NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin told NITV News recently that video evidence showed the death was not "contributed to by other humans".

“The most important issue for me is that we have conclusive evidence to indicate that this was a very tragic event and very clearly suicide,” he said.

The 22-year-old became NSW's 4th Aboriginal death in custody since 2015.

Family believe he had everything to live for

At the time of his death, Tane Chatfield had spent almost two years on remand for alleged armed robbery and was due before court for one incident and was awaiting trial for the other. However, Mr Kemp told NITV News that Tane had an excellent chance for acquittal.

Tane’s family have also repeatedly doubted that Tane’s had an inclination to self-harm.

Tane’s mother, Nioka Chatfield told NITV News last month that she believes her son had too much to live for and was looking forward to his potential release.

“The boy that I know, he had too much determination in his spirit not to do that,” she says.

“I’d seen my boy the day before … he was supposed to be due in court, the day that they found him. He asked me if I’d buy him a red shirt and a red tie for court the next day. He said, ‘please mum, don’t be late, don’t be late’. On the 4th of October he was going to turn up at Parramatta District Court to get his name cleared … to get dismissed,” Ms Chatfield explains.

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Mr Chatfield's family have also revealed that they photographed numerous injuries found on Mr Chatfield's arms, hands, shoulders and face while at the hospital.

"[He had] bruising on his hands, cuts on his knuckles, bruising on his wrists, bruising on his legs, lumps in his head, behind his ears, a gash in his lip, bruising on the inside of his lip, bruises on the arms, it looked like someone hit his nose … he had blood underneath his fingernails,” sister Marisha Chatfield told NITV News.     

NITV News and NSW Greens MLC and Indigenous justice spokesperson, David Shoebridge, have also sighted the pictures, which Mr Shoebridge described as "a series of deeply distressing images”.

Last week, Mr Shoebridge called for an independent investigation into all deaths in custody in New South Wales in parliament.

He specifically asked the government to take steps to facilitate an independent forensic report, explain why Mr Chatfield had been left alone in a cell, and why it took 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at the prison when they’re stationed across the road from the facility.

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