Murder victim's family long wait to hear the truth

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2014
Diane White
FAIRFAX NZ
VICTIM: Diane White, 53, was killed in her Frankton home in January 2010 by her former neighbour, deaf woman Christine Judith Morris, 42.

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The son of a Hamilton woman murdered by her mentally-ill neighbour can't understand why his family has had to wait 4 years for answers.

James White yesterday gave an impassioned speech at the end of a week-long inquest in Hamilton into the murder of his mother, Diane Elizabeth White, on January 19, 2010.

On that day, Christine Morris slipped out of a mental health unit after threatening to kill White, and proceeded to do exactly that.

James White said he appreciated that he had to wait for criminal proceedings to wrap up, which happened in 2012, but couldn't believe the process had dragged out so long.

He struggled because not only was it hard for the family, but it also meant witnesses struggled to remember events from so long ago.

"You don't need an expert witness to tell us that after 4 years they can't remember.

"And in fact, 17 times this week witnesses have said . . . ‘it was 4 years ago, I don't know'," he said. "There had been a further 167 times during the week that witnesses said ‘I don't remember or I don't recall'."

He also urged companies, agencies or government departments involved in future inquests to be more open, especially with the New Zealand public.

He praised police for their transparency and owning up to their mistakes, but was not impressed with Richmond Services Ltd, which was contracted by the Waikato DHB to care for Morris, who had not spoken publicly once during the inquest.

Throughout the week, the inquest heard that White, 53, and Morris, 44, had an acrimonious relationship.

Just two weeks after Morris moved in to her flat, she received a letter of complaint from White.

Six days before White died, Morris had her baby taken by Child, Youth and Family, for which she wrongly laid the blamed with White.

And on January 19, just over two hours before the killing, Morris got upset and threatened to kill White during a meeting held in the DHB's Henry Bennett Centre (HBC) with her carer, a specialist, a nurse and an intern.

Morris was able to walk out of that meeting into the courtyard, roll a cigarette, before marching around infuriated, shaking a gate, walking to the fenceline before turning around to look at nursing staff and jumping over.

What struck Coroner Peter Ryan this week, was how there was no accurate time recording of when the meeting took place which Morris was able to walk out of.

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He put it to former HBC nurse Phillipa Barton that time keeping for nurses was critical, to which she could only agree.

The only agreed times were those recorded by the police communication centre of the three 111 calls, 11.07am, 11.30am and 12.19pm.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Chris Page, Waikato police district manager for criminal investigations, told the inquest that police were currently considering a new "single non-emergency number".

It would incorporate calls for missing people for which police respond to 20,000 a year.

Of those, about 54 per cent were about patients missing from a mental health provider.

Currently, local police stations deal with calls about missing people, he said.

Page also noted that calls regarding mental health patients had increased over the past five years, 1 per cent, year-on-year.

The number was higher regarding suicides - an 8 per cent increase year-on-year over the past five years.

But Ryan had to repeatedly ask Page for his views about the fence at HBC which patients are so easily able to climb over.

Ryan said he was thinking of writing a recommendation that the fence should be further strengthened or heightened after hearing evidence this week that a patient had fled as recently as last month.

Page said the Waikato DHB had its own policies in place for specific legal reasons regarding the fence and making it higher could breach the Bill of Rights.

But Ryan was determined and in the end put it to Page that if the fence was adjusted to prevent people escaping, therefore reducing the amount of calls to police, would it benefit police.

"Yes, sir, that's correct," Page replied.

- Waikato Times

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