A long-running coronial inquest has heard there are still questions remaining around the moments leading up to the death of an Aboriginal man, who was restrained by prison staff at an Adelaide jail five years ago.

Key points:

  • A coronial inquest into Wayne Fella Morrison’s death in custody started in 2018
  • The court today heard closing submissions
  • There are calls for further inquiries into the moments before Mr Morrison’s death

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains the image of a deceased person.

Wayne Fella Morrison, 29, died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital in September 2016, three days after he was pulled unresponsive from a Yatala Labour Prison van surrounded by guards.

He was restrained with handcuffs, ankle flexi-cuffs and a spit hood, and put face down in the rear of the van.

An inquest into Mr Morrison’s death began in the South Australian Coroner’s Court in 2018.

In closing submissions today, counsel assisting the coroner Anthony Crocker submitted 21 recommendations to be considered by Deputy State Coroner Jayne Basheer.

The recommendations included a new standard operating procedure for prisons to respond to serious incidents, making it mandatory for triple zero to be called if a code black is declared, as well as live video feeds from prison vans.

Mr Crocker also told Ms Basheer there should be an inquiry into the “black hole” of time from when Mr Morrison was put into the prison van to when he was pulled out of it.

“It would be an enquiry that would have an extremely narrow focus, it would be less than three minutes.”

Wayne Fella Morrison was 29-years-old when he died. (

ABC News: Michael Clements


Mr Morrison’s family’s lawyer, Claire O’Connor SC, told the court the family strongly supported an investigation into what happened inside the van.

“Whether it’s a royal commission, or [another type of inquiry],” she said.

Mr Morrison’s family also expressed support for a recommendation that the officers in the prison van be referred for criminal charges.

But Mr Crocker told the court that would contradict a section of the Coroner’s Act.

Ms O’Connor said Mr Morrison’s family also wanted to highlight their “agitation and advocacy” around the use of spit hoods.

South Australia is set to become the first jurisdiction to criminalise the use of spit hoods, after a bill to ban them passed SA Parliament’s Upper House earlier this month.

The legislation was introduced by the SA Best party, in response to Mr Morrison’s death.