Rob Kidd is a NZME. News Service court reporter based in Auckland.

Stephen Dudley's father critical of school handling of his son's death

Pictured are Mona Dudley and Brent Dudley leaving Auckland High Court. Photo / File
Pictured are Mona Dudley and Brent Dudley leaving Auckland High Court. Photo / File

The father of Stephen Dudley has levelled a barrage of criticisms against the school after his son died in their care.

The coroner's inquest into the death of the 15-year-old high-school student entered its third day at Auckland District Court today having already heard from several witnesses who saw the fight which resulted in the victim being knocked to the ground.

Teammates described seeing Stephen's neck pulsing and him foaming at the mouth before he was rushed to hospital where he eventually died.

The name of the school the boys attended is suppressed.

His father Brent talked in glowing terms about the boy who he described as "the head of the family" despite his age.

In a statement he read he highlighted his displeasure at being "fobbed off" by the school but the tirade became more impassioned when Coroner Gordon Matenga asked him whether there was anything he wanted to add.

Stephen Dudley. Photo / via Facebook
Stephen Dudley. Photo / via Facebook

"We had just lost our son when he was in your care and I think you could've put a bit more bloody effort into it. Can you see how much of an impact this has had on our lives?" Mr Dudley said in a raised voice.

"You didn't come up to bloody standard as far as we're concerned."

He accepted the people the school sent to speak to the Dudley family did a good job but they were often not the people they wanted to speak to.

"I wanted to communicate with the board of trustees and the man at the helm after the fact, and we felt you basically said you would co-operate with the police and that's all you were obligated to do," Mr Dudley said.

He said it was especially devastating because of how much Stephen had loved the school.
"So, gutted," he told the court.

Stephen had been tossing up between whether to focus on basketball or rugby in his senior years at school.

"It was me that persuaded him there was more of a future in rugby. I've found that hard to deal with. After being a rugby supporter all my life, I can no longer watch it," Mr Dudley said.

The principal of the high school apologised to the couple in court this afternoon and said he had no idea there was any animosity over what had happened.

He understood a meeting he was scheduled to have with the Dudleys had been cancelled by them, but they had denied that was the case.

"If I'm wrong I'm really really sorry," he said.

There were also unanswered questions over why police dropped manslaughter charges originally laid against the two teenage defendants.

Mona Dudley was also called as a witness this afternoon and described the feeling of being "ambushed" when she and her husband were told by the prosecution of their decision.

She said it was the result of a report commissioned by defence lawyers which had seen a medical expert pin Stephen's death on an underlying cardiac problem related to the family medical history.

But she and her husband believed information had been misinterpreted.

"Right up until the day he died he was fit, healthy and very physically active. He simply couldn't have achieved the things he did had he been sick," Mr Dudley said.

Thsi afternoon, the police officer in charge of the case that investigated the death of Stephen Dudley took the stand.

Detective Sergeant Peter Litherland, of Waitemata police district, gave evidence.

Mr Litherland said he was first advised of the incident at 5.30pm on June 13, 2013, and he made his way quickly to the scene.

He said upon arrival he saw St John staff administering medical attention to Stephen on the rugby field before transferring him to hospital.

Mr Litherland said he spoke to witnesses at the school, teammates of Stephen.

Later that evening, he and other investigating police officers attended the home of two of the suspects, under the rules of the Search and Surveillance Act.

Mr Litherland said he and the officers were also able to obtain three phone videos of the fight incident from Dudley's teammates who witnessed it, and two phone video recordings of when Dudley was being administered medical treatment after the fight.

He also confirmed that he was the officer that had the tough job of informing Dudley's parents of his death.

"Throughout my entire dealings with the Dudleys, I have been at pains to provide them with all the information," Mr Litherland said.

The inquest before Coroner Gordon Matenga resumes and is scheduled to conclude on Friday.

- NZ Herald

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