Coroner findings on Ms Dhu death in custody to be handed down

Updated December 16, 2016 11:44:16

The West Australian coroner will today hand down inquest findings into the death of a 22-year-old Aboriginal woman in police custody in August 2014.

  • Ms Dhu died in police custody in 2014
  • Her family wants the coroner to release CCTV footage of final moments
  • WA coroner cautious of releasing vision, says it could retraumatise family

Ms Dhu, whose first name is not used for cultural reasons, died after being held at the South Hedland Police Station.

She was there because she had not paid $3,622 in fines.

As well as handing down the inquest findings, coroner Ros Fogliani will also decide whether to release CCTV vision of Ms Dhu's final hours.

Ms Dhu's uncle, Shaun Harris, firmly believes the vision is something the world needs to see.

"You can't fake dying, especially over three days, that's why that footage needs to be put out there," he said.

An autopsy found Ms Dhu died of septicaemia and pneumonia caused by an infection from a broken rib.

Her 41-year-old boyfriend told the inquest into her death she had broken her rib during a fight they had.

The pair were arrested and taken into custody together on August 2, 2014.

The inquest has heard Ms Dhu was "calm and compliant" but told officers about the months-old injury and that she had used amphetamines the day before.

Over the next 48 hours she complained to police about severe pain when breathing.

They took Ms Dhu to the local hospital several times but the coroner was told some of the officers believed she was coming down from drugs and faking illness to get out of her cell.

Mr Harris said the vision leading up to her third and final visit was "shocking".

"But we need that footage out there," he said.

"There's a lot in that footage that speaks for itself, not just her falling on her head, not just her being dragged out of her cell, not just her being thrown in the wheelchair when she was deceased, dare I say."

The inquest has heard that by Ms Dhu's second visit to the hospital she was in the process of dying.

But each time hospital staff sent her back, deeming her fit to be in custody.

Mr Harris claims they did not do enough.

"The health staff did not properly examine and diagnose … because the police had already made their own diagnosis, hence she was a junkie coming down on drugs," he said.

In an earlier hearing, the coroner said replaying the CCTV vision had the potential to retraumatise Ms Dhu's family.

Mr Harris disagreed.

"They can't hurt us anymore because they've already done the ultimate, so to speak, by taking Ms Dhu," he said.

Topics:black-deaths-in-custody, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, death, community-and-society, wa

First posted December 16, 2016 06:00:47

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