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Rockhampton man admits to driving car that killed James Sidney Murphy in 2019 hit-and-run

James Sidney Murphy died in 2019 at the age of 76. (Supplied)

A Rockhampton man has admitted to driving the car that hit and killed a 76-year-old man almost four years ago.

A coronial inquest has been examining the death of James Sidney Murphy, who was hit by a purple Ford sedan as he was leaving the Brunswick Hotel in Rockhampton at 8:20pm on August 17, 2019.

He suffered severe injuries and died in hospital the next day.

Tony Leonard Rice was charged over the incident in 2021, but the charges were dropped in January this year.

At the time the prosecution noted there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

Mr Rice was called as a witness during the inquest and was offered immunity by Coroner David O'Connell.

Magistrate O'Connell said if Mr Rice answered questions in a way that incriminated him, that evidence could not be used against him in any other court.

"Yesterday I gave you a direction to answer questions," Magistrate O'Connell said.

"The answers you give are protected from use in any other court.

"You’re completely protected — no other court can pick those up and use them unless it is a charge of perjury."

On day two of the hearings, Mr Rice admitted his initial statement to police was untrue and that it was him who hit Mr Murphy.

Tony Leonard Rice admitted his first statement to police was inaccurate. (ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)

Counsel assisting John Aberdeen asked Mr Rice where he was at 8:20pm on August 17, 2019.

"I was on Archer Street, driving a purple Ford," Mr Rice told the court.

"I'm so sorry. I know sorry doesn't bring him back."

In his opening remarks, Mr Aberdeen told the court Mr Rice had been seen on CCTV footage putting petrol in the car at an Albert Street service station on the morning of the hit-and-run.

The court heard Mr Rice's initial statement to police said that he handed the car over to a man at about lunchtime that day in front of the Dean Street IGA.

The inquest heard his statement said he then spent the night in Yeppoon with two friends, returned to Rockhampton at about 10pm to pick up clothes, and then went back to Yeppoon.

The inquest was also shown records indicating that Mr Rice's phone was in use in Rockhampton the night of the crash and connected to a call from Yeppoon at the exact time of the crash.

The inquest was held at the Yeppoon Court House, east of Rockhampton. (ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)

'You've done some good'

Magistrate O'Connell told Mr Rice his admission provided a lot of answers to the court and to Mr Murphy's loved ones.

"I appreciate it's a difficult thing to come and say those things," Magistrate O'Connell said.

"Today you've done some good … and that's appreciated."

Magistrate O'Connell addressed Mr Murphy's partner, Kelvin, who withheld his surname for privacy.

"We've solved quite a mystery — I know that's very little comfort to you, but at least we have answers," Magistrate O'Connell said.

"I'm terribly sorry for what happened and the time it's taken to get here.

"I am pleased that we've got an answer for you."

'He's taken Jimmy's life'

Mr Rice's admission puts almost four years of uncertainty to an end for the family and loved ones of Mr Murphy.

"I'm grateful that we've got a result after all this period of wondering how it happened, why it happened and that this is the result of it all," Kelvin said outside court.

"I'd like to thank all the police work, courts work, Mr Aberdeen and the coroner for his professionalism and eventually getting an answer."

He said he was disappointed Mr Rice’s admission in court could not be used to prosecute him.

"He's taken Jimmy's life," he said.

Editor's note (22/03/2023): This story has been amended to clarify the hit-and-run collision happened in Rockhampton, not Yeppoon where the coronial inquest was held.

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