RECORD OF INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH (WITHOUT PUBLIC INQUEST)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
I, Glenn Hay, Coroner, have investigated the death of
Samantha Jane MUIRHEAD
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
I have decided not to hold a public inquest hearing into this death because my investigations have sufficiently disclosed the identity of Miss Muirhead, 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) Samantha Jane Muirhead (‘Samantha’) died on 21 March 2011 at Baintree Avenue, Dynnyrne in the State of Tasmania.
(b) Samantha was born at Toowoomba in Queensland on 7 May 1986. She was aged 24 years at the time of her death. She was a student at the University of Tasmania and did not have any dependants.
(b) Samantha died of multiple stab wounds. There was also evidence of manual and ligature strangulation.
Samantha was born Samantha Jane Hewitt on 7 May 1986 to Jane and David Hewitt. She is said to have been a healthy child and grew into an adult person without any major medical or physical disabilities.
She was educated at Ipswich Girls Grammar School and married Dale Muirhead in November 2006. As husband and wife they travelled and lived predominately in the United Kingdom between November 2007 and late 2009. Just prior to Christmas in 2009 they both returned to Tasmania and lived with her parents at Crabtree. Samantha and Dale separated in January 2010 and Dale left for Queensland to live with his parents.
After the separation Samantha was referred to a psychologist in relation to ‘mixed anxiety and depression’, and attended six sessions between 25 February and 24 June 2010. During these sessions she displayed a determination to get her life back on track. Her psychologist was impressed with her taking responsibility for herself and displaying a willingness to take on board various anxiety management strategies.
Available evidence is that Samantha was otherwise a healthy person without any major medical or physical disabilities.
In 2010 Samantha commenced studying journalism at the University of Tasmania. In addition to studying she provided a tutoring service to a young boy with whose mother she was good friends. Samantha was described as extremely reliable in this task.
The evidence indicates Samantha also had a large number of acquaintances and friends with much of her contact and communication with them by way of the social media internet site known as ‘Facebook’. She has been described as a good and caring person and friend.
In the early part of 2010 Samantha became friends with Ayom Mario-Ring, who was also studying journalism. Through this friendship she was introduced to Ayom’s cousin, Kuol Piyom Kuol (“Mr Kuol”) and very soon after this, she and Mr Kuol were inseparable, sharing a committed relationship for a period of approximately nine months. They were rarely apart and were described as extremely close, committed and loving couple.
Mr Kuol lived alone at Baintree Avenue, Dynnyrne and Samantha would stay at the unit about 3 to 4 nights each week. When she did not stay with Mr Kuol she would stay with her parents at Crabtree with whom she shared a close relationship.
There is no evidence to suggest the relationship involved any form of physical violence or mental abuse. However, it seems Mr Kuol drank alcohol to excess and Samantha’s mother believed so and suggested to him that he should seek counselling in regard to this. There is no evidence he did so, nor is there any evidence his consumption of alcohol has been causative of or a contributory factor in the circumstances surrounding the death of Samantha.
Samantha’s father provided temporary employment to Mr Kuol in his business at Century Battery Warehouse in Moonah, commencing on 28 February 2011.
While in the relationship with Samantha, but within two weeks prior to her death, Mr Kuol commenced a relationship with another woman and it would appear that neither woman was aware of the other.
Circumstances Surrounding the Death:-
On Friday 18 March 2011 Samantha travelled to her parent’s home at Crabtree after having stayed with Mr Kuol. On arrival she indicated to her mother that she wanted to catch up with her assignment work and have a break from Mr Kuol. She stated that her anxiety levels had been high and this was due to his demands for constant intimate attention. While to her mother she did not appear overly upset, she did appear tired and a little sad.
Samantha spent the weekend with her parents and maintained contact with Mr Kuol via mobile telephone and text. Telephone records indicate her last phone contact with Mr Kuol was at 11.24pm on Saturday 19 March 2011 when he called her. This call lasted several minutes and her mother thought the tone of the conversation she could overhear suggested an ending or change to the relationship. ‘Facebook’ comments around this time by Samantha, Mr Kuol and friends of both, suggest that the relationship was experiencing difficulties.
Samantha remained at her parents' residence at Crabtree until Monday 21 March when she left to attend a previously arranged appointment at Oral Health Services, Archer Street, New Town. She arrived at the surgery between 9.30 and 10am and she had to wait until an appointment time became available.
While at the dental surgery Samantha was contacted by her father who indicated that Mr Kuol had failed to attend his work place as required and asked if she knew his whereabouts. She provided Mr Kuol’s mobile telephone number to her father and also attempted to contact him herself. All attempts were unsuccessful, even after posting a message on ‘Facebook’, asking their friends for assistance in finding him.
Samantha left the dental surgery at about 12 noon and concerns were raised for her when she had not collected the child she was tutoring at 3pm as arranged and the school was unable to contact her. All attempts by family and friends to contact her failed and at about 9pm that evening Samantha’s mother went to the Baintree address. She found her car but the unit was in darkness with the curtains drawn, restricting her ability to look inside. After making further enquires and then returning to the unit to find nothing appeared to have changed, she contacted police.
Police attended Baintree Avenue at approximately 10.15pm and, on finding the unit itself in darkness and the door locked, looked around the area. In doing so they moved the shed door sufficiently to be able to see Mr Kuol hanging from the roof support and blood in his vicinity. Entry was forced to the unit and Samantha’s body was located on the floor of the main living area.
Unfortunately there were no witnesses to what occurred at the Baintree Avenue address on the afternoon of Monday 21 March 2011 and my determinations are made with the available scene evidence and subsequent police investigation.
It is likely Samantha arrived at the Baintree unit shortly after leaving the dental surgery and it is also likely Mr Kuol was present on her arrival. It is likely an argument and physical altercation between Samantha and Mr Kuol has occurred in the main living area of the unit, however no determination can be made as to why this occurred.
During the course of this altercation Mr Kuol has struck Samantha in the face a number of times with what is believed to have been an electric iron. He has also attempted to strangle her by hand and also by wrapping an electrical cord of the iron around her neck and pulling tightly. He has at some stage obtained a knife and stabbed Samantha repeatedly in the head, neck, chest abdomen and arms. Several stabbings pierced internal organs and blood vessels leading to severe internal bleeding and her death on the floor of the living area. It is clear Samantha attempted to defend herself from Mr Kuol and attempted to flee from him, but was unable to do so.
Mr Kuol has then covered the upper portion of Samantha’s body with clothing before cleaning the knife used by him in the shower and leaving it in front of the shower bay. He has then locked the unit from the inside and barricaded the main entrance door with items of furniture before going to a small shed adjacent to the unit. He has secured the door from inside and to restrict the view in from outside placed a doona cover over an area of the external wall which was not covered.
Mr Kuol has then attached a length of rope to a roof support beam, tied one end of the rope into a noose and placed it around his neck before hanging himself. Prior to hanging himself he has stabbed himself on the inside of the left wrist and also on the inside of the left elbow. The knife used for this was then placed on an adjacent wooden support beam.
Findings, Comments and Recommendations:
I am satisfied that a full and thorough investigation has been carried out in relation to the death of Samantha Muirhead and find she died on the 21st March 2010 at Dynnyrne in Tasmania and that she died of multiple stab wounds following attempts at strangulation. I find that the stab wounds and attempts at strangulation were deliberately inflicted upon her by Kuol Piyom Kuol.
It is clear Mr Kuol acted alone in his attack on Samantha and has then taken his own life by hanging himself. In making this finding I am cognisant of the fact that he did not leave any note or writing that could be construed as a suicide note.
While their relationship was deteriorating over the days leading up to their deaths, there is no evidence to suggest that Mr Kuol had in the past committed acts of domestic violence. Nor is there any evidence to suggest Samantha was concerned about her safety when in his company. Both deaths appear to be the result of the deteriorating relationship, however there is insufficient available evidence for me to find the definitive reason as to why Mr Kuol acted in the brutal and vicious manner in which he did.
In closing I wish to convey my sincere condolences to Samantha’s family.
DATED 9th May 2012 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania.