Record of Investigation into Death (Without Inquest)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
I, Stephen Raymond Carey, Coroner, having investigated the death of
Sher-Ron Louise WILLIAMS
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
(a) The identity of the deceased is Sher-Ron Louise WILLIAMS (Ms Williams) who died on 27 August 2010 at Brooker Highway, Austins Ferry.
(b) Ms Williams was born in Australia on 19 December 1970 and was aged 39 years.
(c) Ms Williams was a single woman who at the time of her death was unemployed.
(d) Ms Williams died as a result of multiple blunt traumatic injuries sustained when, as a pedestrian, she was struck by a utility vehicle.
Circumstances Surrounding the Death:
Ms Williams’ former partner, Mr Paul Hawkins has stated that Ms Williams had stayed with him at 125 Abbotsfield Road, Claremont on the night of 26 August 2010 and that on that night they had argued.
On 27 August 2010 at approximately 7.00am Ms Williams left his home and he believed that she had returned to her mother’s home. When he was unable to locate Ms Williams at her mother’s address he continued to search for her ultimately locating her at the Elwick Hotel. He states that he did not speak to Ms Williams at that time but observed her walking down Howard Road. He followed her and offered her a lift. Ms Williams declined the offer. Some time later Ms Williams sent Mr Hawkins a text stating that she was near the Derwent Entertainment Centre and that she had left a message on one of the "big flowers in the park near Rosetta High School". Mr Hawkins located her there and took her home where they continued to argue. Ms Williams left and it was his belief that she was going to her friend, Michelle’s home.
Mr Gordon Masterton was driving up Abbotsfield Road toward Russell Road and saw Ms Williams run out of the driveway of 125 Abbotsfield Road. Ms Williams was pulling her boots off and was "oblivious to traffic in either direction". Ms Williams threw the boots with one landing near a fence post and the other landing near the centre line.
Ms Williams’ brother, Bradley Williams states that he saw Ms Williams after lunch leave Paul’s home and walk across Abbotsfield Road towards her friend Michelle’s home. He says that Mr Hawkins had advised him that he had picked Ms Williams’ shoes up off the road.
Ms Williams was later observed by a number of people leaning over the railing on the Upper Hilton Road overpass (at different locations on the overpass), with one witness stating that he was concerned that it was her intention to commit an act of self harm.
Ms Williams has then been observed walking along the Brooker Highway in the Claremont/Austins Ferry area.
A number of witnesses have stated that Ms Williams was walking on the road-side of the painted edge line. Her manner of walking has been described as unsteady and she was observed on a number of occasions to lurch into the western most north bound lane, then correcting herself to walk parallel with the road edge line.
It was necessary for a number of north bound vehicles travelling in the left hand (western most) lane to move partially to the right hand lane (north bound) to pass Ms Williams.
Ms Williams has then been observed by further witnesses walking in a southerly direction on the Brooker Highway in the area of the road edge line on the eastern side of the road, south of the Upper Hilton Road Overpass. Her walk was noted to be unsteady and she was seen to lurch into the eastern most south bound lane on a number of occasions. One witness reports Ms Williams stepping directly in front of her vehicle causing her to swerve hard to the right to avoid hitting her.
Ms Williams was wearing blue jeans, black top and a beanie type black cap. She had socks on but no shoes.
The Brooker Highway at the scene is a dual carriageway. The carriageway is separated by a grass median strip and bifron fencing. The roadway has a north/south orientation and there are two lanes of travel in both directions. These lanes are separated by intermittent white lines. On the eastern side of the road the road edge is followed by a bitumen shoulder measuring 2800mm wide and then an Armco railing. The left hand (eastern most) south bound lane measures 3400mm wide and the other south bound lane is 3700mm wide.
Mr Jeffrey Shaun Crosswell of New Norfolk was the owner of a Mitsubishi Triton Utility, registration number ER0945. That vehicle had been registered in Mr Crosswell’s name since 1 May 2008. Mr Crosswell was travelling from New Norfolk to Glenorchy with the intention of attending boxing training. He was the sole occupant of the vehicle. Mr Crosswell states that he was not in a hurry, the sun was not in his eyes and there were no distractions inside his vehicle.
Mr Crosswell reports that he was travelling between 90-100km/h in a 100 km/h speed zone. He states that he was being overtaken at or just before the collision. He was travelling in the middle of the left hand lane and did not see Ms Williams until he heard and felt the impact of the collision.
Ms Williams struck the lower passenger corner of the front windscreen of Mr Crosswell’s vehicle and also the external rear view mirror located on the passenger door of the utility. The force of the impact propelled Ms Williams into the steel tray frame on the passenger side of the cabin compartment. She came to rest under the Armco railing on the eastern side of the road.
Mr Crosswell did not swerve or take any evasive action. He states that he did not see Ms Williams. Mr Crosswell reports that he immediately braked and pulled over approximately 100 metres from Ms Williams. He called 000 and remained on the phone until emergency services arrived.
Tasmania Ambulance Officers arrived at the scene at 3.08pm. Ms Williams was lying on her back with her feet under the guard rail. She had an open head injury with a Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) of 3. She was unconscious and breathing very slowly with no recordable blood pressure. CPR was commenced but at 3.25pm it was established that Ms Williams was in asystole and resuscitation was ceased.
Mr Crosswell submitted to a blood test at the Royal Hobart hospital on 27 August 2010 at 4.13pm. Analysis of the blood revealed a negative result in relation to alcohol and/or drugs.
Mr Christopher Nicholls of Moonah was driving his white VR Commodore Sedan in a southerly direction on the Brooker Highway at approximately 3.00pm on 27 August 2010. He moved to the right hand lane to overtake a slower moving utility who he estimated to be travelling at 95 km/h. When he was 50 metres in front of the utility, still in the right hand lane, he noticed Ms Williams walking in a southerly direction on the left hand side road edge line. He reports that Ms Williams was approximately 100 metres in front of him and therefore approximately 150 metres in front of the utility. Ms Williams had her back to traffic and Mr Nicholls reports that "she was a bit wobbly in her walk but she was walking on the white line and was not in the left hand lane when I saw her".
The collision occurred on the exit of a sweeping but open left hand curve just to the south of the conclusion of the intermittent white lines associated with the Hilton Road slip lane entry. The Brooker Highway in this area is made of a bitumen seal in good condition.
The weather at the time of the collision was fine and the road surface was dry. The sun was shining however it’s position was such that it would not have affected drivers travelling in a southerly direction.
Ms Williams’ mother, Lorraine Wilson states that Ms Williams was living with her in Carnegie Street, Claremont at the time of her death as a result of a Family Violence Order issued against her partner, Paul Hawkins. She last saw Ms Williams on 24 August 2010 when Mr Hawkins picked her up from her home. She states that Ms Williams has never indicated any intention to end her own life.
Tasmania Police viewed a text message sent by Ms Williams to Mr Hawkins at 1.23pm on 27 August which stated:
"If it’s not 2 much trouble you can let my kids Mum and danny know there is a short message to them all near the derwent entertainment centre at park. Wrote on one of the big flowers. Please"
Tasmania Police attended at Grove Park Montrose Bay where Ms Williams, during the morning or early afternoon of 27 August 2010, had written a number of annotations in permanent pen on the petals of a large ceramic flower sculpture:
"19-12-70 SHER-RON LOUISE WILLIAMS WOZ HERE 27-8-2010"
"FIRST BABY COREY LEE MICHELLE WILLIAMS LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART".
"SECOND BABY BROOKE AMBER SIDERIS LOVE YOU ALL MY BIG GIRLS"
"SOFIA PAIGE SIDERIS MY BABY GIRL ♥U HEAPS"
"LORRAINE GAY MARGERT LOVELL ♥ U AND SORRY YOUR BABY GIRL"
"JOSHUA RAY SIDERIS MUM SUDILL ALWAYS ♥U ALL HEAPS"
"DANNY LEE RAYMOND WILLIAMS ♥U BRO"
Jason Hardy, Transport Inspector, Department of Infrastructure Energy and Resources inspected Mr Crosswell’s vehicle on 30 August 2010. He reports that:
"Inspection of the vehicle revealed it to be defective due to an excessively worn leftside outer tie rod end, excessively worn front sway bar connecting rod bushes, excessively worn lower spring shackle rubbers and shock absorber rubbers fitted to the rear suspension, a missing rear taillamp lense, inoperable right rear parklamp and number plate lamp as well as a defective drivers seat belt webbing. In my opinion none of the above defective items contributed to the incident".
Dr Donald Ritchey, Forensic Pathologist performed the post mortem examination of Ms Williams. He reports Ms Williams’ cause of death as "multiple blunt injuries sustained when, as a pedestrian, she was struck by a utility vehicle". He further states:
"…findings are interpreted by me to suggest that Ms Williams was struck, while upright, on the left side of the body above the left hip causing her body to be thrown onto the vehicle and subsequently to the side of the road during which she sustained severe injuries resulting in rapid death."
Miriam Rae Connor, Forensic Scientist, Forensic Science Services Tasmania carried out toxicology testing of Ms Williams Blood. Testing revealed the presence of THC (the major psychoactive constituent of cannabis) at 4 µg/L.
Ms Connor reports that:
"THC was identified in the specimen, indicating the possible recent use of cannabis by the deceased. It should be noted however, that a proportion of the THC identified may be due to the post-mortem release of this drug from tissues and therefore may not reflect the concentration at the time of death."
"THC has its greatest effect on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems. It causes cognitive, perceptual and behavioural changes (eg impaired co-ordination, reaction times, judgement). THC May also cause poor time and distance perception, disorientation, eyelid tremors and reduced inhibitions."
Medical records from the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) refer to Ms Williams being an in-patient in March 1997 for a period of five days following an overdose of Temazepam tablets. At that time Ms Williams left a note and the cause of this suicide attempt was due to the death of her Grandmother, Grandfather, Step-Mother, and financial stress. Ms Williams was diagnosed as suffering from an acute depressive disorder. Ms Williams was discharged and advised to "follow up for bereavement" and a possible "appointment at Campbell House". There are no other recorded attempts of suicide or self-harm.
Ms Williams provided a statutory declaration on 1 August 2010 to Tasmania Police stating that:
"I have been in a relationship with Paul Steven Hawkins …for the last three years. I was in the bedroom packing my belongings when Paul pushed me onto the bed, held me down by my throat with his left hand and raise his right clenched fist above his head and threatened to smash me in the face……………Paul walked to the bedroom door and jammed a knife against the door so I couldn’t open it. Paul climbed back into the window about thirty seconds later with a green plastic container which contained petrol. Paul started waving the container around in the air splashing the contents around the bedroom".
Ms Williams did not wish to pursue any charges of assault against Mr Hawkins. Ms Williams made application for a family violence order with full non contact conditions. That order was subsequently made on 2 August 2010.
I am satisfied that a full and detailed investigation has been undertaken in relation to the death of Ms Williams and that there are no suspicious circumstances.
Many witnesses have stated that they saw Ms Williams prior to the crash behaving in an erratic manner and in their statements expressed concerns regarding her safety. It is unfortunate that none of these witnesses called Police to report this behaviour.
I accept that immediately prior to the collision Mr Crosswell was driving his motor vehicle in the eastern most south bound lane of the Brooker Highway. There is no evidence that Mr Crosswell’s speed was excessive or that he was driving in an inappropriate manner. Mr Crosswell’s blood test in relation to alcohol and/or drugs was negative.
Neither the weather nor the road conditions contributed to the collision.
I accept that Mr Crosswell did not observe Ms Williams walking in the area of the road edge line and that evidence supports that Mr Crosswell was overtaken by another vehicle immediately prior to the crash which may have drawn his attention to this vehicle. There is evidence that Ms Williams was unsteady on her feet prior to the crash and it is likely that whilst walking she lurched sideways and impacted with the passenger side of Mr Crosswell’s vehicle.
There is no evidence to suggest that if Mr Crosswell had seen Ms Williams prior to the collision that her death would have been avoided. It is apparent that Ms Williams placed herself in a position of risk of injury or death by her erratic behaviour.
An interim family violence order had been issued against Mr Hawkins on 2 August 2010. One of the conditions of the order was that Mr Hawkins not approach Ms Williams directly or indirectly. It is apparent that Ms Williams by staying with Mr Hawkins prior to the collision initiated a breach of that order. The relationship between Ms Williams and Mr Hawkins’ appears to have been a volatile one and following a disagreement on 27 August 2010 Ms Williams’ was emotional and her behaviour erratic. One must infer that the continuation of this problematic relationship was a significant contribution to the apparent poor mental state of Ms Williams on 27 August 2010.
Whilst Ms Williams was clearly psychologically and emotionally disturbed on the day of her death and notations she made at Grove Park might be indicative of an intent to commit suicide, the evidence does not establish this as a fact. Given her actions of the day it is a reasonable inference that Ms Williams was in a state of turmoil and perhaps pondering what action she might take and those actions were at the very least indicative of her feeling indifferent concerning her personal well being.
I wish to conclude by conveying my sincere condolences to the family of Ms Williams.
DATED: Thursday 3 March 2011 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania.