Much-loved teen’s brutal party death
The hopes and dreams of a Sydney teenager never came to fruition after he was stabbed to death at a party that turned "chaotic and volatile" in the city's north west, a coroner has said.
Aidan Smith died in Westmead Hospital the morning after attending a party with 50 to 80 other people, the majority of them also underage, at a house in Ryde on August 6, 2016.
The 16-year-old was found to be unresponsive, went into cardiac arrest a number of times and had emergency surgery but could not be saved.
"The cause of Aidan's death was a stab wound to the abdomen," Deputy State Coroner Derek Lee said in his findings delivered at the NSW Coroners Court today.
"Aidan sustained the stab wound when he came into contact with a knife wielded by another person."
An inquest into the teenager's death heard he suffered a tear in a large vein leading to his heart and had uncontrolled abdominal bleeding.
Aidan's mother, Michelle, spoke about her son after evidence at the inquest was completed.
The coroner said Aidan's sense of family and the importance he placed on it underlined "the great extent" of the loss felt by his friends and loved ones.
"Shortly before August 2016, Aidan had been determined to make some positive changes in his life: to stop going out so frequently and to instead focus more on work, his love of sport, and his family," Mr Lee said.
"It is distressing to know that Aidan's life was tragically cut short at this pivotal moment in his life."
Aidan had been living with his family in Thornleigh, in the city's north, and was a talented rugby league player.
He finished school in year nine, working for a removalist company and then in construction.
"Aidan was also a loving, and loved, son and brother," the coroner said.
"He was particularly close with his sister and the two of them shared an extremely close and strong bond.
"Although Aidan is now physically separated from his mother and sister there can be no doubt that he will always be with them."
Aidan died after an altercation that occurred between 11.30pm and midnight in the bedroom of one of the home's occupants, Jacob Lusted.
Lusted was one of three clients of Talamunde, a transitional housing program operator, who lived in the property owned by the Department of Housing.
The party came about after fellow tenant, Brody Moore, made plans to host a birthday celebration and invitations were circulated via social media.
Police took a number of statements about what had happened before Aidan's death but there was a great deal of inconsistency in them and the precise details varied.
The coroner said the versions provided to police were "inherently unreliable" due to the likely impact of illicit drugs and alcohol and also reluctance or unwillingness to assist investigators.
He said it had been difficult to piece together "in a clear and accurate way" how Aidan died.
But having regard to all of the evidence before him, Mr Lee reached a total of 21 conclusions.
He said a number of people had come into Lusted's room when a verbal altercation occurred.
It was prompted by multiple factors including Lusted's unhappiness with the group size, interference with his belongings and that more people were sharing a bong of cannabis than originally intended.
Lusted armed himself with a folding tactical knife which he retrieved from a bedroom drawer.
He barricaded himself in the room but the door was collectively pushed down by a number of people and Aidan was "still positioned at, or had been pushed forward to, the front of the group".
"The sudden congregation of a large group of people quickly entering the bedroom resulted in Aidan coming into contact with the knife brandished by Jacob (Lusted)," the coroner said.
"This contact resulted in Aidan sustaining two puncture wounds to his chest."
Numerous ambulance crews and police were dispatched after at least four triple-0 calls from 11.35pm to 11.50pm, initially in response to a young woman's suspected drug overdose.
On arrival, they were met with a large congregation of party attendees outside the house and described the situation as "chaotic and volatile", the coroner said.
A number of people at the party were charged and criminal proceedings have been finalised.
Among them was Lusted who pleaded guilty to being armed with intent to commit an indictable offence.
He was sentenced to a maximum term of seven months in jail, commencing in October 2017, and was to be released on parole in February 2018. Lusted has since served his time.