• Lewis Buddy Kelly's family has vowed to never give up until they’ve found the truth. (NITV)Source: NITV
The body of an Aboriginal teenager will be exhumed in the New South Wales city of Armidale today, in a new bid to find the truth about what happened in the lead up to his death nearly four decades ago.
Steven Ellis

24 Nov 2020 - 2:24 PM  UPDATED 24 Nov 2020 - 3:14 PM

The body of an Aboriginal teenager will be exhumed in the north mid-west of New South Wales on Tuesday, nearly four decades after he died.

Lewis “Buddy” Kelly was just 16-years-old when he was found dead on railway tracks outside of Kempsey in 1983.

His sister, Monica Kelly, told NITV News his family has never accepted the police version of events that concluded Buddy had taken his own life.

“We have reasons to believe there was foul play," said Monica.

"Buddy would not have taken his own life. He had a loving, caring family. He was an all-round sportsman, just got his L's,  just finished year 10, had an apprenticeship as a glazier, was traveling to America for tennis, playing tennis tournaments in January '84.

"So there was no reason, for him to, take his own life, not at all.”

In the initial investigation into the circumstances of Buddy’s death, there was no autopsy, no blood alcohol readings and police failed to take individual statements from key witnesses.

The family’s long campaign and the unanswered questions about the teenager’s death has now prompted the NSW state coroner to have Buddy's body exhumed and forensically examined.

“All we want is for the truth to come out because it's not going away," said Monica.

"As a family, we have fought and fought. We want justice.” 

Another of Buddy’s sisters, Margaret, was 15-years-old when her brother died.

“We want answers. We need answers. We've been deprived of our brother's life and he's been deprived of his life. And that makes me very angry. It makes me very, very angry. We lived with it in silence for a long, long time,” Margaret told NITV News.

The family gathered in Armidale over the weekend for a smoking ceremony at Buddy’s grave site, ahead of today’s exhumation.

They were joined by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge, who has supported the family’s fight for justice.

“This is a family that deserves answers," said Mr Shoebridge.

"This is a family that for 37 years has been pointing to one of the most incompetent police investigations, which had no regard for finding the truth about the loss of their boy and 37-years later, they're still coming together and they're still demanding justice for Buddy.

“It's not just the fact that the witnesses weren't properly interviewed or independently interviewed. There wasn't a proper autopsy. There wasn't a toxicology report done ... the crime scene itself wasn't secured. It wasn't even seen as a crime scene when Buddy's body was found there.

"And of course families, when they see that, when they see that the police just don't even seem to do the basic protocols, the basic respect when they've lost one of their young boys, of course, no family would rest.”

Mr Shoebridge identified Buddy’s death as one of many suspicious cases involving Aboriginal people that has not been adequately investigated by police. 

“In the early 1980s through to the early to mid-1990s, I'm aware of a series of cases where young Aboriginal men's bodies are found on railway tracks, police do a cursory investigation and just put it down as suicide," he said.

"Buddy's case tells us about the racist police and the entrenched racist policing that was there in the early '80s and the early '90s, and we still see the echoes of that today."

Lewis “Buddy” Kelly’s body will be sent for forensic testing after it is exhumed from the Armidale cemetery on Tuesday.

His family is hoping they may finally be a step closer to justice and they have vowed to never give up until they have found the truth.

“We're just going to keep going and going," said Monica.

"You know, we're going to keep going down that road that we're on now until we get justice. We're not going to give up. And that's what people need to know. We're not giving up."

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