• Raymond Noel Lindsay Thomas died during a police pursuit on June 25, 2017. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Wiradjuri man died just 21 seconds after a high-speed police chase through a suburban Melbourne street in 2017.
21 Jun 2021 - 4:50 PM  UPDATED 21 Jun 2021 - 5:45 PM

A four-day inquest into the death in custody of Raymond Noel Lindsay Thomas in Melbourne in will examine police pursuit rules.

The Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Wiradjuri man was thrown from his car after colliding with parked cars and an oncoming vehicle in June 2017 while officers chased behind.

Aunty Debbie and Uncle Ray, Mr Thomas' parents, remembered him as a "gentle giant who loved his family."

"We will remember how close he was with his brothers and how they would wake up early in the morning and wake everyone up with their laughter. We will remember that he was a proud Aboriginal man,” they said.

“As Aboriginal people, we live with the fear of how racism will affect us every day.  

"Being harassed or mistreated by police is one of our greatest fears and our hearts are broken because that fear became reality for our son.”

Pursuit rules investigated

Mr Thomas' death occurred after Victoria Police introduced a new pursuits policy in 2016, following a series of recommendations from coroner John Olle.

His recommendations followed an inquest into the deaths of teenagers Sarah Booth, 17, in 2006 and Jason Kumar, 15, in 2009.

Mr Olle is re-examining pursuit rules now, heading an inquest into Mr Thomas' death.

What unfolded began as a routine registration check on his car, which passed a police car in Northcote at around 11pm on June 25, 2017.

His car was unregistered and the officers performed a u-turn and activated their siren.

"What started with a brief encounter quickly became a high-speed police pursuit, with the police vehicle reaching speeds of 156km/h." counsel assisting the coroner, Michael Rivette, said on Monday.

Less than a minute after the registration check, and just 21 seconds after the pursuit was called by the officers in the car, it ended.

Mr Thomas lost control of his car and veered onto the wrong side of the road.

He hit several parked cars before colliding with an oncoming vehicle driven by a man who was physically unharmed.

He was thrown from the car and suffered fatal injuries.

"Even after Your Honour's recommendations and even after many of them being adopted, we find ourselves here today," Mr Rivette said.

The inquest will examine the circumstances and appropriateness of the decision to follow his vehicle, and of the decision by Victoria Police officers to instigate a pursuit.

It will look at whether the decision, having been made, was in compliance with the 2016 pursuit policy and the adequacy of Victoria Police' methods of ensuring officers involved in pursuits are trained and equipped to comply with the policy.

The court heard the two officers involved in the pursuit were experienced and licensed to drive at unlimited speeds.

The sergeant, who was behind the wheel, has terminated high-speed pursuits in the past as a pursuit controller.

The inquest is scheduled for four days.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Libby Murphy will give evidence about the force's pursuit policy.

Victoria Police policies again to be examined during Raymond Thomas inquest
Gunnai, Gunditjmara, and Wiradjuri man Raymond Thomas had been driving home from Woolworths when he lost his life in a police pursuit.