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Killing leads support agency to review procedures

Last updated 05:00 02/07/2014

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The Hamilton agency contracted to provide care to a mentally ill woman who went on to bludgeon her neighbour to death will review some of its procedures in light of a coroner's inquest this week.

Richmond Services staff member Christine Christiansen was the community support worker for Christine Morris, who used a hammer to kill Diane Elizabeth White on January 19, 2010.

Richmond Services is a non government organisation that provides community mental health and disability support services nationwide. Operations manager Tony Pipe and Christiansen gave evidence on the second day of an inquest into the death of White, 53, in the High Court at Hamilton yesterday.

Christiansen told coroner Peter Ryan that she, with approval from Pipe, had written a letter to the Waikato District Health Board to provide Morris, who is profoundly deaf, with an official translator as she was not formally skilled.

She never got a reply.

Christiansen said she learned the skill from her mother who is deaf.

Christiansen was in a meeting with Morris at the DHB's mental health unit, the Henry Bennett Centre, before Morris fled and killed White.

Pipe was questioned at length about why Christiansen was charged with being a translator for wherever Morris went: whether it was meetings at the Henry Bennett Centre, police, or Child, Youth and Family.

Pipe said he was unaware of the extent of her role with Morris.

Ryan asked Pipe whether Richmond had a written or formal policy in place for its staff who were multi-skilled - in this case able to provide an unofficial translating service for its patients.

Pipe said they had, up until the start of the coroner's inquest, not planned to make any changes to its processes.

"We never felt that it was unclear but having attended [the inquest] over the past two days I have to accept that we need to make it crystal clear," Pipe said.

The coroner asked whether Pipe agreed a review was in order.

Pipe said "absolutely" and there was "a lot more we can do".

Giving evidence earlier in the day, Christiansen said that Morris and her boyfriend had been living in their Blackburn St flat for two weeks, when they first received a letter of complaint from their landlord on behalf of White.

The tension escalated and they claimed to be scared or "intimidated" by White and her boyfriend, Gary Chadderton, and in November 2009, Morris' boyfriend moved out to try and ease the pressure. White's son, James, who is representing the family, asked Christiansen why Morris felt scared of his mother.

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"Not scared, more intimidated . . . Diane was constantly watching everything that Christine was doing . . . and things [White and Chadderton] were saying when they were walking past Christine's home, even when I was present there inside." She couldn't recall what was said but just remembered it being "abusive".

Joelene Tupu-Kerepa, the neighbour who Morris visited before and after killing White, described how Morris sat with her for about an hour before White's death, writing disturbing notes about how she wanted to kill her.

Morris then left and headed towards White's house before appearing out the front again. "She came out and she had taken her T-shirt off and had blood on her face . . . she had blood all over her."

The inquest continues.

- Waikato Times

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