The former partner of a man who died while in police custody was not aware he had been released from prison when he appeared at her Hamilton home - despite the fact trespass orders had been issued barely two months earlier.
"If I had known he was out we wouldn't have been outside, we would have had the house locked up to keep him away," Laura Marston, 21, told the Waikato Times yesterday.
Miss Marston, her son Marley and the boy's father, who has since appeared in court charged with assault and has name suppression, had arrived at her home shortly before midnight on Tuesday when 26-year-old Adam Palmer showed up drunk.
Mr Palmer had been bailed from Waikeria Prison on Tuesday morning, where he had been serving time for charges including repeatedly harassing Miss Marston and damaging her property. The couple had broken up in May.
Miss Marston's son Marley, two, is battling cancer, and the youngster's plight received nationwide attention from a Times campaign earlier this year.
The two men fought after Mr Palmer entered the house uninvited, and became "very, very aggressive", pulling the duvet off her other sleeping son London, and arguing with Miss Marston's mother, who had been minding the baby.
Police restrained Mr Palmer, who, while in handcuffs, lost consciousness.
Miss Marston's mother, a nurse, checked his pulse, but did not check if he was breathing.
"Everyone just thought he had passed out from drinking. He was dead when the ambulance arrived."
Miss Marston yesterday questioned the speed and way in which the two male officers responded to Mr Palmer's condition, saying it took "a long time" for them to call an ambulance after he became unconscious, and that no-one performed cardio pulmonary resuscitation on him.
Miss Marston, red-eyed and exhausted, said Mr Palmer's death was a "tragic, terrible accident that should never have happened" - despite their personal history.
"It's devastating. It should have never ever come to what happened last night."
She described Mr Palmer as "the nicest guy in the world" when he was sober.
"But Adam had a drinking problem, he was an alcoholic, he knew he was."
"I love him very much, I always will and always have, but his drinking was way too much for me."
Yesterday was the fourth time police had been called to her home, and her father Les had also been to her property a number of times previously to get Mr Palmer to leave. He had been trespassed from her property in June.
The Corrections Department was last night refusing to comment on why Miss Marston had not been informed on Mr Palmer's release from prison, as a police investigation was underway.
It was not until yesterday morning - after Mr Palmer's death - that Miss Marston's mother Raywyn received text notification - from an unknown source - about reparation orders related to Mr Palmer's offending, and even then she was not informed of his release.
Miss Marston said she and Marley's father were not a couple, and disagreed with police calling it a domestic incident, insisting it was not a case of "two men fighting over a girl".
An independent homicide investigation has been launched in conjunction with the one being conducted by the Hamilton police.
Waikato District Commander, Superintendent Win van der Velde said yesterday that Mr Palmer's body was likely to be removed from the property last night, and that he would undergo a post-mortem examination today.
Mr Palmer's father Norm asked for privacy and said they were hoping to bring their son home.
"This is an absolute tragedy for everyone involved - for Adam, the young man at the address and the police - an absolute tragedy."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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