Cop breaks down in Yamba riot trial

AN air-conditioning scare and a police officer breaking down in the witness box made for a dramatic third day in the Yamba riots trial yesterday.

At 2.54pm light-coloured particles came from the air-conditioning vents of Grafton Court House, landing on the prosecution and defence legal teams and members of the gallery, prompting questions whether the material was harmful.

At the time Magistrate John Andrews advised the court there was no risk from the material and the trial continued, only to be stopped at 3.30pm after a courthouse staff member provided advice to halt proceedings.

Court reconvened 10 minutes later at which time Mr Andrews advised the hearing would proceed at Maclean court today while investigations into the strange courtroom incident took place.

This was the culmination of a drama-filled day that began with the second witness to the stand, Senior Constable Sidney Hill, breaking down while under examination by prosecutor Bob Hanzic.

Sen Const Hill, the acting sergeant in charge at Yamba Police station on the night of the riots, February 14, broke down when asked for details about a complaint received by police at 11pm that night about swearing and loud music coming from the party.

Tearing up, breathing heavily and sniffling, Sen Cons Hill said “I am not well”.

Mr Andrews promptly called a halt to proceedings.

When court resumed Senior Constable Matthew Gosper, who attended the riot at 18 Fairtrader Drive, faced extensive examination from Mr Hanzic.

He questioned Sen Const Gosper about police conversations with Craig McNeill regarding who owned the property and warnings given about a noise abatement order.

The court heard Mr McNeill provided a document, which was tendered as evidence, detailing the area of property owned by his wife Maxine and her phone number to another officer at the scene, Senior Constable Greg Hembrow, and asked police to leave.

During examination Sen Const Gosper recalled how the alleged riot started just after 2am, claming police vehicles were pelted with bricks, bottles and pavers by partygoers and that Craig and Dylan McNeill were released from being locked in the back of a police vehicle. He told of seeing people crouch down in front of a parked police vehicle and setting it alight.

Under cross examination by Dylan McNeill’s defence barrister, Megan Cusack, Sen Const Gosper was questioned how he assessed the noise level of the music, the need by police to enter Mrs McNeill’s property and whether drove toward the crowd when trying to prevent Craig and Dylan McNeill from being released from the police vehicle.

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