Record of Investigation Into Death (Without Inquest)
Corners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
These findings have been partially de-identified in relation to the name of the deceased and her friends by direction of the Coroner pursuant to S.57(1)(c) of Coroners Act 1995
I, Stephen Raymond Carey, having investigated the death of Mrs D
have decided not to hold a public inquest hearing into his death because my investigations have sufficiently disclosed the identity of the deceased person, the time, place, cause of death, relevant circumstances concerning how the death occurred and the particulars needed to register the death under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1999. I do not consider that the holding of a public inquest hearing would elicit any information further to that disclosed by the investigations conducted by me.
(a) The deceased died at the Austins Ferry Boat Ramp, Austins Ferry Road, Austins Ferry in December 2012.
(b) The deceased was aged 37 years at the date of her death.
(c) The deceased was employed as an aged carer and was a married woman but separated.
(d) The deceased died as a result of carbon monoxide toxicity due to the inhalation of motor vehicle exhaust.
Circumstances Surrounding the Death:
In 1992 when the deceased was approximately 16-17 years of age she met ‘Mr D’, and the pair were eventually married in November 1995. Subsequently there were six children of that union ranging from 16 years to 4 years. From approximately 1996, the deceased suffered on and off with depression and was prescribed anti-depressant medication. Whilst the deceased was taking medication, she is described as being cheerful and stable, however there would be a dramatic change in her behaviour and attitude should she not take that medication.
In 2010 the deceased decided to obtain employment; up until that time she had not worked during her marriage. She found employment and, during this period the deceased commenced an affair with a male co-worker. In March 2010, she informed her husband of this fact and she moved out of the family home. The deceased relationship with co-worker ended shortly thereafter however she commenced another relationship with ‘Mr M’.
They both had separate residences but most of the time cohabited. The deceased and her husband attempted to maintain a positive relationship in order to assist the children. ‘Mr M’ became aware of the deceased's prior history with depression and during their relationship she was taking anti-depressant medication.
‘Mr M’ records that the deceased became increasingly upset over time about her relationship with her children. Her concern was the fact that she had moved from being a fulltime mother to circumstances where she saw her children only occasionally. It is apparent the deceased felt guilty about leaving her children. Other family members who provided information during this investigation confirm that the deceased was struggling with her feelings about abandoning her children.
The deceased is reported as making comments to persons along the lines of:
• “It would be better if I wasn’t here.”
• “I’m sick of everything.”
• “I’ve had enough.”
Additionally ‘Mr M’ states that the deceased would, on a number of occasions, state that she was “fucking” everything up all the time. However, she would not elaborate further.
At the time of her death, the deceased was working as an aged carer at a Southern Tamanian Nursing Home. The staff members who worked with her in the days before her death reported that she was her normal self and no appreciable change in her behaviour or mood was noted.
At approximately 9:00pm on 30 November 2012, the deceased was at the residence of ‘Mr M’ and the couple had an argument over ‘Mr M’ wishing to examine recorded activity on her mobile phone. She removed the sim card from her mobile phone, threw the phone down then left the address in Claremont in a Suzuki hatch motor vehicle.
At approximately 9:20pm the deceased attended a Nightclub in Harrington Street where she spoke to a friend, ‘Mr R’. At the time she was upset and crying. He attempted to persuade her to come in to the club however she did not wish to stay as ‘Mr M’ may have come to the club. ‘Mr R’ states that she asked him to tell ‘Mr M’ and all of her kids that she loved them. She said that she was sick of screwing everything up and that she was going to be leaving. He enquired where she was going and she responded that she did not know, just that she was going away from everything here. After she left, ‘Mr R’ rang ‘Mr M’ and conveyed what had been said.
At approximately 10:30 that evening she telephoned her husband, ‘Mr D’, and the conversation between the two was overheard by her eldest son. The phone call was from a public phone box. During this conversation the deceased is described as being uptight and perhaps hysterical and is noted as making comments along the lines of:
• That she had “fucked up, fucked up really bad.”
• “It can’t be fixed.”
• “I’m sorry for everything.”
The deceased also requested that her husband tell her children that she loved them. She kept repeating this and also apologised to ‘Mr D’. ‘Mr D’ attempted to reason with her and told her to go back to ‘Mr M' and sort things out. She mentioned that they had had an argument. ‘Mr D’ became increasingly concerned for her and enquired as to where she was. She was reluctant to give this information and then the phone call discontinued due to the call expiring. ‘Mr D’ had her son ring ‘Mr M’ and tell him what had happened. The deceased’s son also called the police and passed on the family’s concern for the deceased welfare.
‘Mr M’ advises that immediately after the deceased initially left the house, he decided to go after her as she had thrown her phone down and therefore did not have the ability to be contacted. He says that after a period he could not find her and returned home. He says that he received a telephone call about 10:00pm from his friend, ‘Mr R’, who advised as to what had been said by the deceased earlier in the evening. He says that about half an hour after that he received a telephone call from the deceased son with details of what had been said to them. ‘Mr M’ then left the house with a friend who was at his residence at that time and they went for another drive to see if they could find the deceased. They drove around checking the residences of close friends and family in the local area but could not find her car.
At approximately 6:50am on 1 December 2012, ‘Mr W’ was walking his dog near the Austins Ferry boat ramp. He located a dark Suzuki motor vehicle. As he approached the vehicle he noted the stereo was operating at a high volume and he observed a hose coming from the muffler and into the car. He opened the driver’s door, observed a female who appeared deceased in the driver’s seat. The vehicle was not running but the ignition switch was on and he turned the ignition off and contacted police.
Police and ambulance officers attended and the ambulance officers confirmed that the female was deceased and no attempt was made of resuscitation.
The scene examination identified that the deceased was sitting in the driver’s seat with the back rest tilted backwards. There was a long green garden hose coming from the exhaust of the vehicle which had been blocked with a black towel. The hose went through the rear driver’s side window which had been blocked with a black jumper. The hose went over the back seats, around the front headrest and under the deceased legs. There were no signs of violence of interference on the deceased’s body and no signs of a recent struggle inside or around the vehicle. The police investigation did not identify any suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.
I am satisfied that the deceased’s death was as a result of action she took to end her life.
Comments and Recommendations:
The deceased had clearly, in the period leading up to her death, become increasingly depressed. The main contributor to this appears to have been her concern as to the impact that life decisions she had made had had on her family relations in particular with her children. She had clearly become concerned as to the loss of the close contact and relationship she had with her children and centred all blame for her changed personal circumstances upon herself. Tragically this blame became self-destructive.
Once again this is a sad example of a person suffering a depressive illness not realising the danger this created nor seeking intensive medical intervention. It also highlights again the need for those close to a person exhibiting signs of depression to support and encourage them to seek such intervention.
Although I find that the deceased took her own life, I consider the decisions she made in that regard were made at a time when her ability to make sound and reasoned decisions was impaired by the state of her mental health.
Before I conclude I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family of the deceased.
DATED: 14 day of August 2013.