CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses mental health issues and content that may distress some readers.
A 71-year-old woman with a “lengthy and well-documented history of mental illness” starved to death in her Tasmanian home just a few days after a police welfare check. Tasmanian Police did not call an ambulance or seek out Mental Health Services after the check, essentially leaving her on her own to die. ACAB.
Per the ABC, the woman was found alone in her home in Bridgewater. She lived in Centacare community housing.
According to Coroner Simon Cooper the woman, who is only referred to as “HJ” to preserve her anonymity, died a “lonely death, of starvation, in the suburbs of an Australian capital city”, and that the case “raises several issues”.
“[Her] existence was ‘that of a hermit’ — she was estranged from family and had no friends,” Cooper wrote in notes obtained by the ABC.
“Her brother, KN, was probably the person closest to her and said it was 10 years since HJ had let him into her unit. He also said she rarely, if ever, answered her phone.”
Three Tasmanian police officers performed a welfare check on the woman on December 9, 2021.
They reportedly barged into the home after nobody answered the door. Keep this in mind because it’ll come up again later.
Per the ABC, bodycam footage of the welfare check was seen by Cooper, who claimed the woman was “obviously malnourished and frail.”
“Her hair, grey in colour was matted into large clumps. Her eyes were glazed,” he wrote.
“She spoke rapidly of various conspiracies involving the police, people from China, Isis and Jesus.
“It is abundantly plain viewing the footage — which frankly is uncomfortable to watch — that HJ was gravely ill, both mentally and physically.”
You’d think the police would see all of this on a WELFARE CHECK and call a fkn ambulance or alert someone of the woman’s condition. But no, instead they called Centacare to tell them that the door was broken and needed repair. You know, the one they fkn BROKE when they barged in.
The woman was found dead on Jan 7, 2022.
“First, the decision by attending police on 9 December 2021 not to call an ambulance to at least enable a mental state assessment to be carried out was, in my view, wrong,” wrote Cooper.
“Second, the apparent inaction by HJ’s landlord [Centacare Evolve Housing], when called by police to repair the door damaged when entry was forced is difficult to understand.
“Third, the fact that the submission of an internal report by police actually achieved nothing to assist an obviously gravely ill person is very concerning.”
So what did Tasmania Police have to say for themselves? Well, apparently the officers on the job just assumed that by visiting the woman’s house, someone somewhere would have been alerted to the fact and just automatically know the woman needed help. Wild.
“Belief of the attending officer that a street check would generate a notification to mental health services was a misunderstanding by an individual, not a belief embedded across the organisation,” said Tasmania Police in a statement.
In response to the incident, Tasmania Police will be looking into updating its police manual and reinforcing the need for officers to call Mental Health Services if they see something concerning. Or you know, at least call someone. My God.