• Bailey's mother Tracy, father David and stepmother Melissa. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
The family of Wiradjuri man Bailey Mackander relive their son’s final recorded moments as the court heard him beg correctional officers to let him out of the observational cell he described as “torture”.
Nadine Silva

5 May 2021 - 9:30 AM  UPDATED 5 May 2021 - 9:30 AM

WARNING: This story contains details that may be distressing to some readers, and an image of a person who has died.

An inquest has heard distressing audio of Wiradjuri man Bailey Mackander begging officers at Kariong Correctional Centre for help, as he wept and retched in an observation cell before his death.

21 recordings were played from an intercom called the “knock up” system which inmates use to call correctional staff in medical emergencies.

MACKANDER: Please get me out of here, I can’t cope.

GUARD: You need to calm down.

During evidence, Mr Mackander’s former cellmate *John Brown* told the court he’s “seen people make one comment [about their mental health] and end up in an observation cell”.

Mr Brown said he thought Mr Mackander was “being punished for his honesty” after disclosing his mental health to correctional officers.

In a recording played in court, Mr Mackander tells a guard that being kept in the observational cell isn't right for his mental state.

MACKANDER: Can’t you see I’m fucking having a panic attack!

GUARD: I’m not doing this shouty-shouty thing...

MACKANDER: I’ve never been like this in my life. It’s making me sick. Please do something... I can’t cope.

The court heard Mr Mackander crying as he repetitively begged, “please”.

MACKANDER: This is torture. How could you do this to someone? 

GUARD: It’s not torture.

MACKANDER: I’m stressed and I’m panicked and I feel sick. Can’t you get a counsellor?

MACKANDER: You told me when I’d come down here that you’d call the fucking psychologist.

MACKANDER: I’ve never self-harmed in my life and I never will. 

MACKANDER: I can’t breathe.

MACKANDER: Help… Is the psychologist still here?

GUARD: No, she’s not. She’s gone home.

MACKANDER: Fuck. I cannot do this.

GUARD: Calm down mate and stop buzzing up. You’ll be spoken to a bit later. You just gotta chill out.

MACKANDER: Chief, I’ve got fucking bad chest pains. Can you get the nurse, please?

MACKANDER: I got vomit everywhere. Can you get the nurse for me?

GUARD: No, I suggest you spew in the toilet and clean up the mess.

The court heard Mr Mackander say “I can’t breathe” again, the same tragically infamous words uttered by other Black men who’ve died in custody.

“I can’t breathe” was a plea dismissed by former police officer Derek Chauvin, convicted last month for the murder of George Floyd, after kneeling on his neck for almost 10 minutes. 

“I can’t breathe” were the final words of Dunghutti man David Dungay Jr who died after being restrained by prison guards for refusing to stop eating biscuits.

“I can’t breathe” were the words Eric Garner cried while a police officer held him in a chokehold, before he died in hospital later.

MACKANDER: I can’t fucking breathe. I’ve never felt like this.

NSW Deputy Coroner Elaine Truscott looked down at her notes as she held her head in her hand listening to Mr Mackander’s desperation.

MACKANDER: Please. Somebody help.

GUARD: An ambulance has been called. There’s nothing wrong with you. Stop knocking up.

Outside the court, Mr Mackander’s father David said listening to the recordings was “gut-wrenching”.

“I just don’t know how anyone could do that to anyone, let alone a young man just crying and begging for help,” he said.

Mr Mackander’s mother, Tracy left the courtroom before the audio was played.

“I couldn’t bear to hear my son being treated in such a way. What they did to him is absolutely heartbreaking and soul-destroying,” she said.

10 extracts from CCTV footage at Kariong Correctional Centre were then played in court, starting with footage showing Mackander pacing up and down his cell with his left hand on his chest as he wiped away tears with his right.

In the next clip, he was curled up in a ball holding his hands on his head before he screamed, retched and heaved.

The court was then shown a clip recorded eight minutes after Mr Mackander returned from an assessment to evaluate his risk of self-harm and suicide conducted by a Risk Intervention Team, which the inquest will hear from later.

More footage showed Mr Mackander vomiting as he reached for the knock up button and struggled to hold himself up.

When Your Honour sought to ask what time the ambulance was called, she said “it just seems strange that the schedule doesn’t include any part of that”.

After the court saw disputes about the times at which correctional officers entered Mr Mackander’s cell, placed him in the recovery position and called the nurse, counsel assisting Tracey Stevens ordered legal representatives to consult with interested parties to “create an agreed chronology on this day”.

Ms Stevens told the court the Justice Health nurse unit manager considered calling an ambulance at 12:45 pm but an ambulance was only called later at 2:10 pm.

The next clip showed an officer throwing water at the CCTV camera above Mr Mackander, who’s lying on the floor in the fetal position.

“Watching the CCTV footage of my son being treated inhumanely is one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through in my life,” David Mackander said outside the court. 

“The way they left him begging for help, walking over him when he looked unconscious on the ground with no shoes, no blanket, no pillow.”

At 5:10 pm, Mr Mackander knocked up after he said he swallowed razor blades and batteries.

CCTV footage showed him in immense pain before he was escorted to Gosford Hospital.

Mr Mackander died on 6 November after being released from hospital and falling over a 10-metre wall under the watch of two prison guards supposed to take him back to prison.

The second day of the inquest concluded with evidence from Dr Erin Hyde from Youth Justice NSW.

Dr Hyde told the court she was the only psychologist working at Kariong Correctional Centre in November 2019.

When Ms Stevens asked her if she was told about Mr Mackander through any correctional officers, Dr Hyde said “I don’t believe so”.

When Ms Stevens then asked her if she was told about Mr Mackander through other inmates, Dr Hyde said “I don’t recall”.

But earlier in the day, Mr Brown told the court he had discussions with her about Mr Mackander wanting to see her.

Dr Hyde went on to tell the court she “can’t recall” how she came to see Mr Mackander, but she thought she received a referral.

She also said couldn’t “recall” any steps she took to prepare for his consultation.

When Ms Stevens asked her if there are any records she could find to assist her, she replied “no”.

Outside the court, David Mackander reflected on how his son was treated in custody.

“They should not be treating our inmates or people they are paid to look after that way.”

“They should be doing the right thing by our loved ones who are in there to try and get help.

The inquiry continues.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or find an Aboriginal Medical Service here. There are resources for young people at Headspace Yarn Safe.

Bailey Mackander inquest hears "avoidable" factors contributed to his death in custody
A lead police investigator told the court circumstances around the 20-year-old Wiradjuri man’s death were “avoidable”, citing an unfenced wall, the gaps corrective officers left while escorting him and the medical treatment he received in hospital.