Controversy over student's death

Allegations have emerged the Northern Territory Catholic Education Office staged a "cover up" over the death of a nine year-old from a falling tree branch at a Darwin school.

AAP reports an inquest into the death of the young boy heard that the Catholic Education Office ignored the dangerous state of the trees in the school.

The former chairman of the St Mary's Primary School board, Michael Spadaccini, said he was threatened by the Northern Territory branch of the Catholic Education Office (CEO) and ostracised by the church for speaking out about the dire state of the trees.

''(Former CEO director Bill Griffiths) even stated that Darwin was a small place, I was a little fish, and I had to be careful about what I say,'' Mr Spadaccini said in a statutory declaration read to the inquest.

"As I started making recommendations and pushing for attention for major school issues (the former principal Tony O'Brien), the CEO and even the church refused to speak to me.

"I believe that Tony O'Brien and the CEO were always fully aware of the dangerous tree situation in the school courtyard.''

Mr Spadaccini said "they did not want to deal with the matter'' and on August 16 rejected an $8,000 quote to cut them down, Mr Spadaccini said,.

"I responded, 'what was a life worth?' My comments were laughed at," Mr Spadaccini said.

"It was only a few weeks later that Aidan (Bott) died.''

NT Coroner Greg Cavanagh said Mr Spadaccini's evidence and another letter not read to the court indicated both the school principal and the CEO were well aware of the dangers posed by the tree, and had been for some time.

The deputy director of the CEO and the former St Mary's principal, Mr O'Brien, have denied knowing the trees were dangerous.

Mr Cavanagh today warned the CEO and the school not to try to hamper his efforts at uncovering the truth.

The inquest was adjourned to March 18.


Catholic church 'covered up' student death (AAP 29/02/08)


Catholic Education Office Darwin

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