Grieving man waits for apology

Last updated 05:00 01/03/2013
NZ Police

Police respond to the Independent Police Conduct Authority report into the death of Hamilton woman Diane White, who was killed by her former neighbour Christine Morris on 19 January 2010.

Gary Chadderton
STILL WAITING: Gary Chadderton says the Waikato DHB owes him an apology for its role in his partner’s death.
Diane White
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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A man whose partner was bashed to death by a hammer-wielding mental patient is furious he has had no apology from the health board that allowed the woman to escape.

"I reckon that stinks. Most definitely they should apologise," Gary Chadderton told the Waikato Times yesterday.

Diane White, his partner of 17 years, was bludgeoned to death in her Frankton home in January 2010 in a frenzied attack by former neighbour, deaf woman Christine Morris.

Morris, 42, had threatened to kill 53-year-old Ms White before escaping from the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre, a mental health facility at Waikato Hospital.

Morris was convicted of murder last April and was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years.

While an Independent Police Conduct Authority report released yesterday confirmed police could have prevented Ms White's death, the fact that Morris was able to escape from the Waikato District Health Board facility in the first place has Mr Chadderton fuming.

He fought back tears yesterday as he spoke of how the authorities failed Ms White, over and over again.

"It's such a bad thing that a woman like Diane has had her life taken because of the failures of everyone else. There were heaps of warnings, to the police, to others, yet she still died.

"How do you prevent something like this if nobody is listening?"

Police have apologised for their failings in the case, but Mr Chadderton says he has "not heard a word" from Waikato DHB.

"I've gone through hell"

The DHB yesterday refused to say sorry for any part they may have played in Ms White's death, but did offer their condolences to her family.

Mental health and addictions director of clinical services Dr Rees Tapsell said staff made a "reasonable judgment" when allowing Morris into a courtyard, but she then scaled a fence.

Staff were unable to stop her because her status as a voluntary patient had not yet been changed.

He said no one could have "reasonably predicted this tragedy".

However, they had done a review which identified a number of areas for service improvement.

"There are clearly things that the staff would have done differently in retrospect knowing now what we know about the defendant's state of mind," Dr Tapsell said.

The IPCA report revealed a community support worker had seen an "aggressive" Morris walking along the street soon after her escape, but decided it would have been "unprofessional" to assist her. And while HRBC staff initially alerted police by fax that Morris had escaped, it was not read for over an hour as the police fax machine was not working.

Despite Morris escaping from the HRBC, former Waikato police area commander Allan Boreham - who was in charge of the region at the time - said the blame sat solely with the police, not the district health board.

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- Waikato Times

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