The driver of the vehicle Gordon Copeland was a passenger in the morning he died, has given evidence at an inquest into his death that he did not try and assist his friend as he was scared of police.
Mr Copeland's body was found three months after disappearing into the Gwydir River during a police incident in the early hours of July 10, 2021. The coronial inquest began in Moree on Monday, July 18.
The driver, Jabour Clarke, appeared in custody via video link, in the second week of evidence.
The public defender on the Copeland family's legal team, Bill Neild, asked Mr Clarke what he was scared of.
"The coppers obviously. I didn't want to get locked up... they bash ya, especially out of town ... I've been bashed by coppers before."
I didn't want to get locked up... they bash ya, especially out of town... I've been bashed by coppas before.- Jabour Clark
The court heard that an unlicensed Mr Clarke and his then girlfriend, Kowhai Roberts, were driving around Moree in an unregistered vehicle belonging to his mother, Michelle Clark, without permission.
This is when they saw Gordon and offered him a lift home.
"I had not much fuel so he offered to put some in car and we went to the servo. After that we went to get a sesh, some pot, and after that he wanted to get dropped home so I was on my way to drop him off and saw the police and that's when they started chasing us," Mr Clark said.
"The coppers turned toward me so that's when I sped up," he said.
Mr Clark estimated he was doing speeds of up to 160-180km/hr at times.
The 21-year-old, who was on parole at the time, told the court, "I don't stop for police".
After the vehicle the trio were travelling in became bogged while fleeing police, they all ran but Mr Clark said Mr Copeland went back for some reason.
"Gordon went back through the fence and we kept going, and that's when the coppers got closer to the pump and that's when I heard a splash.
"I looked back but it was dark. We kept going and I kept looking back... I could hear yelling. I couldn't make out what was said. I could see the (police) torches on the ground... I thought if they were still looking they would have shined their torches around but that never happened so I thought they were arresting him."
EARLIER FROM THE INQUEST:
"Did you think about going back to help Gordon, why didn't you?" Mr Nield asked.
"I was panicking ... but I know he could swim, that's what everyone does," Mr Clark said.
Mr Clark called his nan, Alison Lahood, to pick him up from Yarraman who then drove him to his mother's.
As they entered the driveway they could see the police coming down the street so Mr Clark and Miss Roberts ran around the back. They did not present to police for fear of "being locked-up".
Mr Clark said later when police were looking for him, and had attended his mother's residence a number of times, he did not to think to speak with Gordon's family because he was "too stressed" and "not thinking straight".
In Michelle Clark's evidence, the court heard that she was "confused" and initially thought the police had their information wrong, that they believed Jabour was in the river, but she knew he was safe as he had been home.
She said she found out Gordon was missing after his family came to her house.
He said, 'police got him, they got him good and they laughed'.- Michelle Clark
In a phone call to Jabour, Mrs Clark said he was upset by the news.
"I said the police say someone is in the river, what happened last night? They said there is a body in the river, (he) started to cry and said, 'don't say that' and hung up."
Mrs Clark said she encouraged Jabour to go to the police station but "it was hard to get him up there".
"He never really said anything to me about what happened out there until maybe a week later.
"I said, 'what happened out there?' and he got upset and he said, 'police got him, they got him good and they laughed' he said.
"I hardly ever seen him after that; he was a mess after that."
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