– A Victoria Police investigation into the violent death of a patient at a state-run psychiatric hospital was “manifestly inadequate”, with crucial physical evidence not collected and potential witnesses not questioned, a scathing report by the Homicide Squad has found.
Detective Senior Sergeant Sol Solomon described “catastrophic failures” of basic police investigatory procedures as he presented his report to the Coroner’s Court on Monday as part of the inquest into the death of Fred Williamson at the Austin Hospital’s psychiatric unit in Heidelberg in March 2008.
“The deceased and his devoted family deserved far better service than they have received in this situation. Quality control processes…failed on all levels,” Senior Sergeant Solomon said.
Mr Williamson, 52, was found in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor inside the locked room of another patient. He was found with a plastic bag covering part of his head and had suffered several injuries indicating a possible assault.
Despite Mr Williamson’s injuries and the bizarre nature of his death, Heidelberg detectives and uniformed officers attending the scene determined on the day that it was not suspicious, concluding that suicide or misadventure was the most likely cause.
Their conclusion meant that neither the Homicide Squad nor Forensic Crime Scene Investigators were called to attend and potential witnesses, including staff and patients, were not interviewed. The room was cleaned soon after the incident, destroying any forensic evidence.
In 2011, Fairfax Media reported the Williamson family’s disappointment with the police investigation and coroner Paresa Spanos’s request that Senior Sergeant Solomon, then a 19-year veteran of the Homicide Squad, review the case.
Senior Sergeant Solomon told the inquest that his review had identified a “number of aspects” that did not support the suicide scenario. These included an assessment by Mr Williamson’s treating psychiatrists that his risk of self-harm was extremely low, extensive blood spatter patterns at the scene, the fact that Mr Williamson had been recently assaulted twice by other patients and an autopsy report that showed injuries indicating possible assault.
He said important evidence, such as the plastic bag found over Mr Williamson’s head, had not been collected or examined by forensic experts and had since been lost. A cloth towel reportedly found near or inside the plastic bag was also not examined and its whereabouts were unknown.
Senior Sergeant Solomon also found anomalies in statements by uniformed police regarding their claim that no footprints were at the scene when photographs suggested otherwise.
“I cannot reconcile or understand how the attending members could have come to the conclusion they came to [so quickly],” he said. “I have attended hundreds of crime scenes and deaths and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Senior Sergeant Solomon said senior police attending the scene had failed to show leadership and that Mr Williamson’s family had received a “manifestly inadequate” investigation.
Two senior plain-clothes detectives who were called out on the afternoon of Mr Williamson’s death were also strongly criticised by Senior Sergeant Solomon, who found they should have taken control and treated it as a potential crime scene. Police records indicate the detectives spent less than 40 minutes at the scene before leaving it to uniformed officers.
A uniformed junior constable was left with the task of preparing the brief for the coroner with very little or no supervision.
Ms Spanos said the inquest had heard evidence that a junior constable was given the job of preparing the coronial brief – her first – on the basis of a local police convention that deemed the officer who drove the car to the scene also did the paperwork. Senior Sergeant Solomon said he had not heard of such a convention and described it as “absolutely outrageous”.
The inquest continues – Richard Baker & Nick McKenzie


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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