David Hookes
David Hookes with Allan Border in the 1980s.
Close friends of David Hookes who were with him on the night he died a decade ago say they still struggle to accept what happened, both on that night and in the resulting Supreme Court trial.
Former Test cricketer Hookes was coach of Victoria's cricket team when he died on January 19, 2004, when a verbal dispute with security staff at a St Kilda hotel escalated as the group Hookes was part of resisted requests to immediately leave the venue. The 48-year-old suffered severe head injuries when, after being punched by one of the hotel bouncers, he fell backwards on to the road. He never recovered, dying in hospital the following day.
The bouncer charged with manslaughter over the incident, Zdravko Micevic, was acquitted at a September 2005 trial. He gave evidence that Hookes, also a prominent broadcaster, was argumentative and threatened to publicly criticise hotel staff.
Micevic, then 23, told the court he threw the single punch in self-defence after being struck twice in the stomach by Hookes.
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The jury was instructed that for a guilty verdict they had to be sure beyond reasonable doubt that the punch was inherently dangerous and unrelated to self-defence.
When the not-guilty verdict was delivered, after five days' deliberation, and Micevic was free, he expressed his regret to Hookes' family over the outcome of the incident.
Greg Shipperd and Shaun Graf, who remain key figures in Victorian cricket, each said they kept a copy of the trial transcript and periodically referred back to it. ''I go back to the night in question and still shake my head how someone could get off for what happened that night - it put into question my view on justice,'' said Graf, a Cricket Victoria executive who gave evidence at the trial.
Victoria's then-captain Darren Berry has since become coach of South Australia, where his support staff includes two others who were at the Beaconsfield Hotel on the night of the incident: physiotherapist Jonathon Porter and bowling coach Rob Cassell.
Berry said the incident was so traumatic for all three of them that ''while I've been with them for 2½ years, I reckon we've spoken about it once''.
''It was just an unnecessary incident and, to this day, my faith in our legal system [has been severely undermined],'' he said.
Shipperd, who was Hookes' deputy and elevated to head coach after his death, said the circumstances of Hookes' death were ''unpleasant - and the follow-up to that just as''.
''The judicial process shook me, and I reckon a lot of other people, quite significantly,'' he said.
Australia coach Darren Lehmann counted Hookes as a very close confidant whose influence on him, on the field and off, was ''high''. Lehmann said the altercation that led to Hookes' death was ''the worst action, but for me personally it's been a real life-changer''.
''It changed my life. Life became more important than the game of cricket,'' Lehmann reflected. ''The biggest lesson I learned was probably him dying, that you've got to make every post a winner and you can't harp on things you can't control. You've got to make sure you're always enjoying yourself, enjoying life, and being around family and friends as much as possible.''