Australia

Tanya Day inquest: Police left Indigenous woman in cell for 'privacy'

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A police officer tasked to check on Aboriginal woman Tanya Day while she was in custody says he didn't enter her cell because he wanted to give her "privacy".

A Victorian police officer tasked with checking on Aboriginal woman Tanya Day while she was in custody says he didn't enter her cell because he wanted to give her "privacy and dignity".

Leading Senior Constable Danny Wolters was the watch housekeeper when Ms Day, 55, was arrested and placed in a Castlemaine police cell for being drunk in public on 5 December 2017.

Tanya Day died in December 2017 after being arrested for public drunkenness
Tanya Day died in December 2017 after being arrested for public drunkenness
Supplied

The Yorta Yorta grandmother fell and hit her head five times while she was in custody, including a catastrophic fall at 4.15pm.

Despite being instructed to physically check and rouse Ms Day every half-hour, Sen Const Wolters decided to go up to her cell, but not inside it, every 40 minutes, and check her via CCTV every 20 minutes.

At an inquest into her death on Thursday, Sen Const Wolters was asked why he did not enter the cell to conduct a physical check at 5.35pm.

CCTV footage shows him looking through the cell window for a couple of seconds as she lies across the bench with her legs hanging off.

"I found her to be in a very undignified position for a lady to be in," Sen Const Wolters said.

Coroner Caitlin English is examining whether racism contributed to Tanya Day's death.
Coroner Caitlin English is examining whether racism contributed to Tanya Day's death.
AAP

"I have seen a lot of males in that position in our cells, a lot of males, and I found it a little bit confronting and I spoke to her, I got a verbal response from her, and I left her to her own privacy and dignity."

"You found it embarrassing and confronting to deal with an Indigenous woman?" Peter Morrissey SC, the lawyer representing the Day family, asked the officer.

"No," he replied.

Sen Const Wolters said he would've entered her cell if he saw blood or vomit.

Neither he nor his supervisor entered the cell until 8.03pm, when they noticed a bruise on her forehead and called an ambulance.

Aunty Tanya Day
Aunty Tanya Day.
Supplied

In his triple-zero phone call, played to the Coroners Court earlier, Sen Const Wolters said he'd seen Ms Day slip from a seated position about 7pm.

He told attending paramedics she had gotten up afterwards, was "moving around normally" in the cell and that he had gone through CCTV footage to determine she had only fallen once.

Sen Const Wolters denied this account.

He said he did not see Day fall but inferred, from seeing her on the bed one moment and on the floor the next, that she had fallen.

Lawyer Megan Fitzgerald, acting on behalf of two of the paramedics who treated Ms Day, said he gave the paramedics a "false impression" of the seriousness of her injury, which he denied.

Ms Day was rushed to hospital with a bleed on the brain and died 17 days later.

The inquest continues.

With additional reporting from AAP

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