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Mum seeks answers on WA death in custody

AAP logoAAP 26/08/2016

The mother of a 20-year-old Aboriginal man who died in custody three years ago says she has lost part of her heart and soul but hopes a West Australian inquest will provide answers about what happened.

Jayden Bennell died at Casuarina maximum prison in March 2013 and an autopsy report put his cause of death as hanging, but a coroner will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death in custody.

Mr Bennell's mother, Maxine, said her son was not the first or last person to die at Casuarina prison, adding the system failed to protect him.

"He should not have done what he did that got him there, but he was not a violent criminal, he was a kid trying to find his way," she said in a statement on Friday.

"I believe that if you break the law you have to face the consequences but the consequences should not be death."

Ms Bennell described her son as "beautiful, talented and vulnerable" and said her other sons would never have their older brother to protect them and guide them.

"I won't see him grow into a man and become what I always knew he could be," she said.

"I have lost part of my heart, part of my soul and the pain will never go away."

Mr Bennell was the grandson of playwright and boxer, Eddie Bennell, who was involved in establishing the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody more than 25 years ago.

Ms Bennell said the family had hoped the royal commission would make things better and protect young Aboriginal people from the trauma of incarceration.

Anna Copeland is leading a team of Murdoch University law students and alumni working with Ms Bennell's legal team and noted the royal commission found that at each stage of the justice system, indigenous disadvantage arose from prejudice and lack of care.

"The recommendations were designed to address these issues and improve the situation. Instead, the situation is worse," she said.

The inquest will begin on Monday.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

Multicultural Mental Health Australia www.mmha.org.au.

Local Aboriginal Medical Service available from www.vibe.com.au.

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