Record of Investigation into Death (Without Inquest)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
I, Christopher Webster, Coroner, having investigated the death of
Norman Leslie Miller
have decided not to hold a public inquest hearing into his death because my investigations have sufficiently disclosed his identity, 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.
I Find :
(a) Norman Leslie Miller (Mr Miller) died on 1 April 2009 at Andrew Street, New Norfolk, Tasmania, aged 56 years.
(b) Mr Miller was born in New Norfolk, Tasmania, on 2 August 1952. At the time of his death he was separated from his wife and was in receipt of an invalid pension.
(c) Mr Miller died due to multiple blunt and incised (chop) trauma sustained during an assault.
Mr Miller grew up in New Norfolk and spent his early years in the area. He had worked as a bushman until the mid 1980's when he required an operation on his ear which resulted in him suffering poor balance. This condition required medication and subsequently restricted his ability to continue working. In 2002 Mr Miller separated from his wife of about 25 years however they remained close friends. They did not have any children. Ms Wendy Cooper resided with Mr Miller but was a patient in the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) at the time of his death.
Mr Miller was known by his friends and neighbours as a friendly man who generally kept to himself. He usually worked in his garden and on his cars. He was known to regularly consume a fair amount of alcohol
On the 31 March 2009 Mr Miller and a Mr Marcus Lovell (Mr Lovell) were together at Mr Miller's unit. The association between the two was not known to Mr Miller's family or friends and is not known to have occurred previously They were seen by nieghbours to be both inside the house and on the front patio together before being noted to leave the residence in Mr Miller's vehicle, at about 9.15pm. They were not seen to return but were observed on the front porch of Mr Miller's residence, drinking alcohol and laughing between 11:00pm and midnight.
Between midnight and 2:00am on the 1 April 2009, for reasons unknown, Mr Miller was viciously attacked by Mr Lovell inside the unit, using a large kitchen knife and tomahawk (small wood axe). Mr Miller is believed to have died as a result of the injuries he sustained during this attack. Mr Lovell has then used the weapons to sever Mr Miller's right hand, which he wrapped in towels. He then set a fire in a front room of the unit before leaving and going across the road to a neighbour's house, taking Mr Miller's severed hand with him. At this house he changed his clothing and removed his boots before returning to Mr Miller's unit, possibly due to the unit not being alight. He left Mr Miller's severed hand at the house, still wrapped in towels.
Tasmania Fire Service were called and attended the reported fire about 3:30am. Mr Miller was located by them and removed from the burning building but was unable to be resuscitated. At this time his injuries were discovered. Mr Lovell was also located inside the burning unit and removed by Fire Service personnel but also found to be deceased. While police were in attendance they recovered Mr Miller's hand after being approached by a distressed resident who stated Mr Lovell had left it at his house.
A thorough police investigation was conducted during which it was ascertained that Mr Lovell had murdered Mr Miller on the morning of the 1 April 2009, before setting the unit alight in order to conceal the crime. Upon his return to the unit Mr Lovell appears to have been overcome by smoke in the burning residence and died inside the building due to smoke inhalation.
A post mortem examination was conducted by Forensic Pathologist, Dr Donald Ritchey, on Mr Miller and determined cause of death to be multiple blunt and incised (chop) trauma sustained during an assault. Dr Ritchey further stated,
"The appearance of these injuries, that have both blunt and incised characteristic (called chop injuries) is most consistent with having been inflicted with a heavy, sharp implement; such as the hand axe found at the scene.
In addition there were multifocal incised injuries that did not have an associated blunt component that appears most consistent with having been produced by a sharp blade such as a knife (rather than with a hand axe). The distribution of incised injuries on the palmer surfaces of the hands is suggestive of defensive type injuries."
Toxicology of a post mortem blood sample was negative for carboxyhaemoglobin. According to Dr Ritchey this is, "suggesting that Mr Miller was dead at the time of the fire".
Findings & Comments :
I find that a thorough and comprehensive investigation was conducted into this matter and conclude that no other person, other than Mr Miller and Mr Lovell, were involved in this incident.
I am unable to determine what may have occurred between Mr Miller and Mr Lovell to initiate the set of circumstances that resulted Mr Millerfs death in such violent circumstances and find that it is unnecessary to make any recommendations specific to this incident.
Recommendations have been made in the findings relating to the death of Mr Lovell concerning lack of services to allow integration of prisoners suffering from psychiatric conditions back into the community
I conclude this matter by conveying my sincere condolences to Mr Miller's family.
DATED : 3 January 2012 at Hobart in Tasmania.