Stephen Dudley inquest: 'I wish I had walked away'

By PJ Taylor

Stephen Dudley died after rugby practice in 2013. Photo / Supplied
Stephen Dudley died after rugby practice in 2013. Photo / Supplied

The coroner's inquest into the death of secondary school student Stephen Eruwera Dudley, who died after sustaining fatal blows at the end of a rugby team practice three years ago, has heard detailed accounts of the violence that occurred.

On day two of the inquiry at the Auckland District Court today, two teammates have described his recollections of the afternoon of June 6, 2013.

There was heated verbal taunting and yelling before the practice at the West Auckland secondary school, with some fighting between Dudley and two other team members, said the first teammate witness, before the coach arrived and training began.

The first witness, an 18-year-old teammate who cannot be named, said rugby practice ran for two hours and went on to 5.30pm.

The inquest heard how the coach addressed them at the end and said they had a good training.

But the agitation between Dudley, 15, and the two teammates reignited after the training. The first witness, who was not involved in the fighting, described yelling and swearing between the three boys which lead to fighting.

Dudley was hit "pretty good" with a clinched fist by one of the teammates, the witness said, and after he received several more blows, he hunched over and the two boys hitting him followed up with more blows.

The court heard his account of how other teammates were not involved in the fighting and were trying to stop it, including one who tried to protect Dudley, who was on the ground and unresponsive, by lying over his head and body.

The first witness also stated that some of the young rugby players not involved in the fighting were using their phone cameras to record the violence.

"Stephen was put in a recovery position but there was no pulse," he said.

Some of the schoolboys attempted to resuscitate Dudley and an ambulance was called.

The second teammate witness to take the stand today, who also cannot be named, stated how he and another teammate were initially charged with Dudley's manslaughter.

He said he never denied being in a fight with Dudley.

"Even though we had a fight that day, we always got on really well."

Fighting back tears throughout his time on the stand, the second teammate witness said he was "genuinely shocked" by the events that led to Dudley's death.

He said he was "very sad that he is no longer with us" and knows Dudley's death is a shock to his family.

"I am very sorry for my actions."

The second witness went on to say he is "not a violent person" and did not have a history of violence at the school.

"There is no day I do not regret being involved in that fight. I wish that I had walked away from it."

He talked of the "peer pressure" of the other teammates "to have a fight" after practise.

The second teammate witness, who was in the "punch fight", said he didn't want to walk away and "didn't want to look weak".

When asked by counsel were they trying to look tough, he agreed. He went on to say he hit Dudley about 10 times "in the torso - he was protecting himself".

He added that other players were trying to stop both he and Dudley from fighting.

"As I was walking away, Stephen had been helped to his feet."

He said he did not realise how injured Dudley was after the fighting had ended, and if he had known that Dudley had collapsed after regaining his feet, "I would have stayed to help him".

"We were devastated and shocked when we found out what happened to Stephen.

"I am still coming to terms with his loss. I can only imagine the grief and pain of his family. I am devastated."

He also stated how apologetic he was to the Dudley family and remorseful for what happened.

The schoolboys' rugby coach also took the stand today and said: "Stephen was a good boy. He always obeyed me and would do anything I asked him."

- NZ Herald

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