'I don't recall a threat to kill' - police officer

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 13:55 04/07/2014

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A Hamilton policeman made a "tragically wrong" assessment of the circumstances that led to the death of Frankton woman Diane White, he has admitted.

White was bludgeoned to death by her mentally ill neighbour, Christine Morris, after she climbed the fence of Waikato Hospital's mental health facility, Henry Bennett Centre (HBC), on January 19, 2010.

Detective Constable Adrian Woodgate says he was unaware Morris had made a specific threat against White before she escaped from the unit.

Coroner Peter Ryan is today finishing his five-day inquest in Hamilton into the 53-year-old White's death.

Of the two officers first sent to the scene to try to find Morris, Woodgate was the more senior.

Police lawyer Philip Crayton asked Woodgate if he would accept, for several reasons, that his assessment of the level of risk of that job had been "tragically wrong".

"Yes," Woodgate replied.

Woodgate told Waikato DHB lawyer Paul White that he had initially treated the job as low priority - 1 or 2 on a scale of 10 - as he was "dubious" about whether the call was legitimate or not.

Woodgate said he also knew nothing of there being a threat against a specific person so had planned to assess the priority after he got to the job.

Responding to jobs involving threats and threats to kill were common, he said, occurring daily "at least".

White asked Woodgate why he could not have asked the police communications service North Comms if a specific threat had been made.

Woodgate replied that wasn't what officers did. They instead took jobs at "face value".

"I'm not in the habit of asking for more information," Woodgate said.

"We rely on being updated as information comes through."

However, White said the 111 transcript showed Woodgate had been told that Morris had threatened to kill a neighbour after escaping the HBC.

"It seems that you didn't appreciate that information being conveyed to you," White said.

"I don't recall a threat to kill," Woodgate replied.

Woodgate said he had just come from a domestic violence assault job in which an offender was still at large so he had had that in the back of his mind.

Woodgate was repeatedly asked by the coroner whether he accepted the Independent Police Conduct Authority findings, if he was comfortable with his actions on the day and what he learnt from it.

"In principle, we did the best we could on the information that we had, but in hindsight, I accept [IPCA findings]," Woodgate said.

The inquest will wrap up this afternoon.

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- Waikato Times

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