A coroner has said that the investigation into Mike Hall’s “avoidable” death while taking part in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race in 2017 was "to some degree compromised by the loss of significant evidence" because police had not retained all of his clothing. Bernadette Boss also concluded that the driver involved in the collision did not commit an offence. She said this conclusion was in part due to the high standard of negligence required by law.
Hall was killed when he was hit from behind by a car driven by 19-year-old Shegu Bobb on the Monaro Highway at around 6.20am on March 31. He had been lying second in the 5,500km race from Fremantle to Sydney when the crash took place.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Bobb had been listening to music when he hit what he thought was a kangaroo, "and was shocked to see a bicycle embedded in the front of his vehicle".
Police testified that he had been distracted by a parked car as he turned on to the highway, and had no time to avoid the collision.
Boss said "there was an argument that Mr Bobb was negligent in his driving", but she concluded he had not committed an offence based on conflicting accounts of how visible Hall was to drivers, the loss of Hall’s clothing and other evidence, the physical environment and the high standard of negligence required by law.
One motorist, who was driving to work in Canberra and had her headlights on low beam, said that she had seen reflective strips on Hall’s legs and arms. She said it was the first time in more than three decades she could remember seeing a cyclist on the road in question.
However, two others drivers said they almost hit Hall. Joseph Spulak, said the cyclist “came out of nowhere,” and that he didn’t seem to have reflective clothing or strips, while truck driver Anthony Shoard said Hall had “cut it very fine,” when making a turn at a junction at around 4.30am.
Speaking last year after attending the inquest, Hall’s partner, Anna Haslock, strongly criticised the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for its “flawed investigation” into his death.
She cited the failure to seize Bobb’s phone at the time of the incident as another example of the AFP’s poor handling of the case. “By his own admission, the driver was distracted, and we have been unable to eliminate the phone as that distraction,” she said.
Responding to the coroner’s findings, the president of the Australian Cycle Alliance, Ed Hore, said: "I'm disgusted and disappointed. There were a lot of European, UK and US-based cyclists who were after justice for Michael, but instead Michael has now been blamed for not being bright enough."
Hore said video footage indicated that Hall always wore bright reflective clothing when riding at night and also took issue with the AFP’s failure to preserve valuable evidence.
"The AFP has [lost] evidence that has left the coroner unable to make a decision," he said. "Mike was conspicuous, easy to see ... the rider safety that needs to come out of this is education. We need to educate motorists to understand that their responsibility on the road is not to kill someone."
Boss recommended the Australian Capital Territory government require cyclists to have a flashing rear light in low light on rural roads and that it review speed limits at major intersections on the highway.