Warners Bay post office inquest day two: Stephen Hodge shot four times after lunging at police with large knife

 Steve Hodge, left. A woman lays flowers at the Post Office, right.
Steve Hodge, left. A woman lays flowers at the Post Office, right.

A CORONIAL Inquest into the death of Stephen Hodge has been shown an 18-minute compilation video of CCTV and mobile phone footage documenting the final hours and minutes of the troubled postal worker’s life. 

Mr Hodge was shot dead by two police officers in the car park of Warners Bay post office on September 9, 2015, after chasing his boss, Brendan Hogan, with a large kitchen knife.

Several passersby tried to defuse the situation and convince Mr Hodge to drop the knife before two Lake Macquarie constables arrived and demanded repeatedly that Mr Hodge ‘put it down’. 

But when an advancing Mr Hodge backed a police officer in behind a gate in the car park, both officers discharged their weapons, shooting him four times and killing him.

The week-long coronial inquest in Newcastle Coroner’s Court is expected to explore a number of issues relating to Mr Hodge’s death, including the significance of the fact that one officer became trapped behind the gate before Mr Hodge was shot and whether a change in managing Mr Hodge’s behaviour and performance by Australia Post contributed to his erratic behaviour on the day he died.

On Tuesday, Acting State Coroner Magistrate Teresa O’Sullivan was shown an 18-minute compilation video capturing snippets of Mr Hodge’s last day.

The compilation showed Mr Hodge at an ATM in the Warners Bay shopping precinct about 8.30am, before he bought a drink and cigarettes from a newsagent and headed into work.

There was no issues with Mr Hodge until midday, with Mr Hogan telling the inquest September 9, 2015, “started off as one of the best days working with Stephen in a long time”. 

At about 10am, Mr Hodge is captured on CCTV at a bottle shop buying a cask wine.

The inquest heard on Monday that Mr Hodge was spotted surreptitiously drinking the wine at a cafe over his lunch break and disappeared for several hours. 

When he returned he and his boss, Mr Hogan, argued and Mr Hodge was sent home.

He was spotted about 2.45pm looking “disheveled and intoxicated” near Coles and soon after purchased a 30cm kitchen knife from the supermarket self-checkout.

CCTV cameras captured him talking on the phone for two minutes, with call records showing he had called home to speak to his mother.

His mother, Janet, later told police her son told her: “you’re going to see me on the news tonight”. 

Suddenly, Mr Hodge appeared at the rear of the post office with a large knife and blood on his hands.

CCTV footage from inside the post office showed Mr Hogan backing up as Mr Hodge, a knife in his right hand and held up to head height, advanced on him.

The post office was full of customers, but the majority fled outside when they saw Mr Hodge. 

A terrified Mr Hogan fled outside and down the side of the post office before managing to get in the back door. 

The inquest heard yesterday that an agitated and bleeding Mr Hodge slammed his body up against the back door twice, but Mr Hogan was pressed up against it on the other side.

It was then that a number of passersby began trying to negotiate with Mr Hodge in the post office car park. 

A short time later the two police officers arrived and for 40 seconds demanded Mr Hodge drop the knife.

Mobile phone footage played during the inquest showed the two police officers arrive, shout ‘police’ and begin trying to negotiate with Mr Hodge. 

“Put it down, don’t make me shoot you,” one police officer said

“You don't want to do this mate, put it on the ground.”

Then, with Mr Hodge advancing and one police officer trapped behind the gate, the two officers shot five times, striking Mr Hodge four times in the chest and abdomen. 

The inquest continues.