Heartless Officers Watched Woman In Custody Suffer To Death

Police officers showed no compassion to dying woman; sergeant branded her a 'junkie'.

A police officer testifying at a coronial inquest has admitted she treated Ms Dhu, a 22-year old aboriginal woman who died in custody, with no empathy and that her actions were inhumane and showed no professional integrity.

Ms Dhu a Yamatji woman, whose first name is not used for cultural reasons, was arrested in August 2014 for unpaid fines totaling $3,622, and died after being held in custody for two days at South Hedland Police Station in August 2014.

Senior Constable Shelly Burgess gave evidence at the Perth magistrate’s court on Tuesday, that former officer, Sergeant Rick Bond, told her Dhu was a junkie who was pretending to be ill.

According to Burgess, Bond, who was station supervisor on 4 August 2014, was frustrated with Dhu, and she did not want to cross him, given that “his word was law” and his reputation of “verbally attacking” those who challenged him.

Burgess told the court that she proposed taking Ms Dhu, who had complained of a numb leg, to the hospital, which made her superior, Sergeant Bond, furious.

Senior Constable Burgess tried to sit up Dhu by the wrist, but she was too heavy. She then let go and Dhu hit her head, which looked in the footage viewed in court like the officer had snapped on Ms Dhu.

Burgess said she told Sergeant Bond, when he arrived, that she just dropped her and that her head hit the floor.

Burgess told the court that Sergeant Bond whispered in Ms Dhu’s ear: “You are a f*cking junkie … you will f*cking sit this out. We will take you to hospital but you are faking it.”

The Senior Constable said she did not disclose what sergeant Bond had said to Internal Affairs investigators because she feared repercussions.

The officers treated Dhu’s condition, which also included some broken ribs, with no sense of urgency claiming they thought she was faking the seriousness of her illness to get quicker medical treatment.

During her third and final visit to the Hedland Health Campus, Ms Dhu died from staphylococcal septicaemia and pneumonia, following an infection in her fractured ribs that spread to her lungs.

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