– Senior police have ordered an urgent review of the investigation into a Melbourne murder-suicide after discovering local detectives conducted the probe despite officers from the same station failing to respond to a call for help on the night of the killing.
The parents of Kelly Thompson, who was stabbed to death by her ex-partner in February, are demanding answers as to why the conflict of interest was not detected earlier.
And while Kelly had taken out an intervention order against Wayne Wood – who had a history of violence against her – the Thompsons want to know why he was not jailed, despite breaching the order.
“When we spoke to her on the Friday night [her father] John had said to her ‘Make sure all the doors are locked,’ and she said ‘Yeah, everything is locked, the windows are locked, the doors are locked, I’m fine, everything’s fine,'” Kelly’s mother Wendy told 7.30.
“They have failed, miserably failed – they have failed two people that are now dead and families that are shattered and it should never have happened and it quite simply was so preventable,” Wendy said. “So what do you do?”
Kelly and Wood, a truck driver, began going out in 2009. At first, Wood was likeable enough. Kelly’s dad John described Wayne as “pretty harmless … a quiet sort of fella”.
During 2013, however, he began to change. He became moodier and more controlling of Kelly. In a statement Kelly made to police later, she said he became possessive and restricted her from doing “everyday things”.
Things came to a head on a trip the couple took to China in December. John and Wendy would talk to Kelly via Skype, and noticed there was something amiss.
It was as if they were saying ‘it’s okay, the intervention order is there, you take notice of it or you don’t, we’re not going to do anything’.
“It wasn’t until she came home that she started opening up about what had happened over there, how he had locked her in hotel rooms and tried to choke her a few times,” Wendy said.
“The other partners they were in business with were in China with them. They’d said to Wood that he had to get some psychological help when he came back to Australia or he would no longer be part of the business. But as we know now, things just escalated from there.”
Kelly phoned police 34 times in weeks before death
When the couple returned to Australia, Kelly knew she had to act to protect herself. After Wood tried to run her over with his car, Kelly was granted an interim intervention order.
Under the order, Wood could not come within five metres of Kelly or communicate with her. Over the next few days, Kelly rang police in the nearby suburb of Tarneit numerous times.
On January 19, Kelly gave a statement to police at the Wyndham North police station at Tarneit saying Wood had breached the order by approaching her while she was having dinner and drinks at the Sanctuary Lakes Hotel. She said he had also tried to question her friends about her activities.
On January 23, during a hearing at Werribee Magistrates Court, Kelly was granted a full intervention order. She told her family that despite this, she was still frightened of Wood, and that he was continuing to stalk her.
On January 24, Kelly phoned the police station at Werribee nine times. Phone records show in the weeks leading up to her death, Kelly phoned Wyndham police 34 times.
The content of some of these calls is known, but the purpose of others is unclear. Victoria Police will not comment on what Kelly was telling the police officers she spoke to, because the case is now before the coroner.
‘Call us back if you hear screaming or broken glass’
However, John and Wendy believe Kelly was reporting breaches of the intervention order and that the response by police was inadequate.
“The magistrate had said to him if you breach this order you go to jail, [but] there were never any consequences for Wayne,” Wendy said.
“Every time he breached that intervention order, the police reinforced what he was doing by not acting – they just let him keep going and there were never any consequences for him.
“It was as if they were saying: ‘It’s okay, the intervention order is there, you take notice of it or you don’t, we’re not going to do anything.’ So he just kept going.”
On February 7, police escorted Wood to Kelly’s house, where he collected his belongings. Just before midnight the next day, Kelly’s next door neighbour texted her to say she had seen Wood driving past the house a few times and asked if she was okay.
Kelly did not respond to the text, so the neighbour’s husband phoned police to tell them of his concerns about Wood. While he was on the phone, his wife looked out the window into Kelly’s house and saw Wood in Kelly’s bathroom.
The neighbour’s husband immediately told the police this and mentioned that he knew there was an intervention order in place. According to the Thompsons’ lawyer, Paula Shelton, Wyndham police did not respond as he hoped.
The system’s failed in ensuring that what we thought would occur has occurred. We’ll be looking at that making sure it doesn’t occur again.
Assistant police commissioner Tim Cartwright
“In the hours before Kelly was killed, we understand that Wayne was sighted in the area on a number of occasions, and we do know that shortly before midnight there was a call made to police by one of Kelly’s neighbours, concerned about his proximity, and that he had in fact been sighted in her bathroom,” Ms Shelton told 7.30.
“The caller was told: ‘Don’t worry about it, call us back if you hear screaming or broken glass.'”
It was only three days later, after Wood’s brother had phoned police twice, urging them to conduct a welfare check on Wood and Kelly, that police went to the house and found the bodies.
‘The system has failed’, assistant police commissioner says
In the weeks and months after Kelly’s death, the Thompsons became concerned, then angered, by Victoria Police’s handling of Kelly’s case.
The thing that worried them most was the fact the deaths were being investigated by local detectives, despite the possibility that other local police failed Kelly in the lead-up to her death.
“It smacks of conflict of interest from the bottom right through. And even with the detectives that investigated the murder, [they] have from the word go had this attitude that it was a simple murder-suicide,” Wendy said.
When 7.30 asked Victoria Police some weeks ago about the perceived conflict of interest, it was told the detectives preparing the crucial brief of evidence for the coroner were being “oversighted” by the homicide squad and professional standards command, and that this was entirely appropriate.
However, this week, Victoria Police command admitted the investigation should never have been handed to the local detectives.
How many times do I walk around the house and think ‘I’ll just ring Kelly’? … But she’s not there anymore. And she should be.
Kelly Thompson’s mother Wendy
When assistant commissioner Tim Cartwright was asked why it took so long for this to be acknowledged, he admitted senior police were unaware the investigation had stayed with Wyndham police.
“I would say we actually believed that the investigation was being undertaken from outside the division. It’s only when the family’s raised it that we’ve understood that the system’s broken down there somewhere and that the investigation was remaining in that local division,” Assistant Commissioner Cartwright said.
“It concerns me, it concerns the chief commissioner, it concerns the people down the line. The system’s failed in ensuring that what we thought would occur has occurred. We’ll be looking at that making sure it doesn’t occur again.”
Assistant Commissioner Cartwright said he was also seeking answers as to why professional standards command officers, who were apparently monitoring the preparation of the brief, did not point out the conflict of interest.
However, Assistant Commissioner Cartwright disputed that the brief was not suitable to be handed to the coroner, despite the fact it was prepared by local detectives. He said experienced homicide investigators are now examining it as a further safeguard.
Chief Commissioner Ken Lay – who has made the fight against domestic violence a cornerstone of his term in the top job – has also agreed to meet with the Thompsons to hear their concerns about the handling of Kelly’s case.
However, the Thompsons are still angry and doubtful about whether the investigation as it stands will reveal the real circumstances around their daughter’s death. They are calling for a full, public inquest to be held as soon as possible.
“In the last six months we’ve had a beautiful daughter that had so much to live for, was embarking on a whole new way of life in a business that she was setting up with people, who has now died,” Wendy said.
“We’ve had to bury her, we’ve had her birthday and mother’s day and I’m never going to hear her ring me and say ‘Hey Mum, how do I cook this?’ or ‘What do I do with this, Mum?’
“How many times do I walk around the house and think ‘I’ll just ring Kelly’ or I’ll be looking at the enormous amount of paperwork I’ve been doing to close up her estate and I’ll look at it and think ‘Why did you do it like that? I’ll just ring her and ask her’.
“But she’s not there anymore. And she should be, she should be.”