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Inquest told of tragic last moments

Date

Isabel Hayes

Barefoot and shirtless, Brazilian student Roberto Laudisio Curti looked agitated and vulnerable as he alternately walked and ran through the streets of Sydney in the last hour of his life.

Suffering a bad reaction to the one-third of an LSD tablet he had taken with his mates to celebrate St Patrick's Day this year, the 21-year-old student believed the world was about to end, Glebe Coroner's Court heard yesterday.

The ''impressive and promising'' young man died after he was tasered 14 times during a struggle with 11 police officers, many of whom believed he was an armed robber.

He was chased by a number of police officers after he stole two packets of biscuits from a convenience store, becoming involved in a ''prolonged, physical, and desperate'' struggle in the final minutes of his life, counsel assisting the coroner Jeremy Gormly, SC, said.

The two-week inquest will examine the manner and cause of Mr Curti's death, the lawfulness of the arrest and degree of force used by the 11 police officers involved.

CCTV footage of Mr Curti's movements and video footage taken from a Taser camera were shown at the inquest yesterday, including the moment a Taser shot brought him to the ground.

As he rolled around on the ground in apparent pain, an officer shouted, ''Stop resisting or you will be tasered again.'' A total of 14 Taser discharges were applied to Mr Curti during the chase and the struggle, although not all of these hit him or were effective, Mr Gormly said.

Police used capsicum spray, handcuffs and a baton to restrain Mr Curti, who they described as having ''superhuman strength''.

At one point, two officers were drive-stunning, or putting a Taser directly to Mr Curti's body, at the same time as he lay on the ground, the inquest heard.

When they noticed he had stopped breathing, police called for an ambulance urgently, but paramedics were unable to revive the young man, who died at the scene about 6.10am on March 18.

An autopsy was unable to establish a cause of death.

''There is no suggestion Roberto was doing anything but endeavouring to get away from police,'' Mr Gormly said.

''There is no suggestion he had a weapon … There is no suggestion he struck or assaulted any person, although police believed he might.''

Mr Curti was a talented soccer player who had completed a degree and was living with his sister in Sydney while he studied English, the inquest heard.

He was an experimental, rather than a habitual, drug user, and suffered a bad reaction to the LSD he had taken, causing him to discard his T-shirt, shoes and socks before he was arrested.

Mr Gormly said the manner of Mr Curti's arrest and the number of Taser discharges required examination.

But he noted: ''This jurisdiction is not a disciplinary or criminal jurisdiction.'' Despite this, members of Mr Curti's family, some of whom travelled from his native Sao Paulo to attend the inquest, have called for justice to be done.

''We ask for the truth in how and why Roberto died,'' Mr Curti's brother-in-law, Michael Reynolds, told reporters outside court.

The inquest continues before NSW State Coroner Mary Jerram today. AAP

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