Police shot Australia Post worker who attacked them with knife, inquest told

A drunken knife-wielding Australia Post worker was advancing on two plainclothes police officers when they opened fire, killing him, a NSW inquest has been told.

Barrister Rob Ranken told Newcastle Local Court on Monday how the officers, Jamie Taylor and Darren Hamilton, pleaded with Stephen Hodge, 51, to drop the box-cutter he was carrying in his right hand before they fired five shots.

Mr Ranken is the counsel assisting acting State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan who is holding an inquest into Mr Hodge's death in the car park of the Warners Bay post office on the afternoon of September 9, 2015.

He said the two shots fired by Constable Taylor hit Mr Hodge in the upper chest and abdomen, which caused his death.

Constable Hamilton fired three shots. Two of the bullets hit Mr Hodge, having a "minor contributing role" in his death, Mr Ranken told the court.

One of the three shots fired by Constable Hamilton missed Mr Hodge.

Mr Ranken said police had been called after reports the mentally-ill Mr Hodge had been threatening to stab his manager Brendan Hogan.

Constable Taylor was the first to confront Mr Hodge, who had been moaning and groaning and talking to himself after slashing one of his wrists in the rear of the post office car park after 3pm.

Mr Ranken said Constable Taylor, with his gun drawn, told Mr Hodge: "Put the knife on the ground right now."

Mr Hodge ignored that direction and raised the knife head high and moved towards the two officers.

Stepping backwards, Constable Taylor told Mr Hodge: "Put it down, mate. Don't make me have to shoot you."

Mr Ranken said Constable Taylor repeatedly pleaded with Mr Hodge to put the knife down, telling him the officers would have to shoot him if he didn't do what they asked.

At one stage, Constable Taylor told him: "Come on, mate, stop mucking around. You don't want to do this. Put it down, mate. We're here to help you."

Mr Ranken said Mr Hodge started to move towards Constable Taylor in a "striding manner" before backing the officer into a corner against a gate.

Continuing to yell "put it down, put it down" both officers opened fire as Mr Hodge advanced.

Mr Ranken said it had been just 40 seconds from the time the officers had arrived to confront Mr Hodge to when they opened fire.

The inquest continues.