• Tanya Day died from a brain haemorrhage after falling and hitting her head while in custody. (AAP)Source: AAP
An inquest into the death of an Aboriginal grandmother who died after a series of falls in custody has been shown video footage of her movements inside a Victorian police station cell.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

2 Sep 2019 - 8:47 PM  UPDATED 2 Sep 2019 - 8:49 PM

Distressing footage of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day falling over and hitting her head multiple times in a Victorian police cell has been played at the inquest into her death on Monday.

Relatives and supporters of Ms Day gasped, cried and shook their heads as CCTV video showed her falling and hitting her head five times at Castlemaine Police Station on 5 December in 2017.

The 55-year-old mother and grandmother died from a brain haemorrhage 17 days later.

The video played in the Coroners Court on Monday showed Ms Day staggering, falling and striking her head but police did not enter her cell until she was due to be released that night.

The court heard from Leading Senior Constable Wayne Rowe, the Assistant Watch House Keeper, who was present when Ms Day arrived at the Castlemaine Police Station.

In giving evidence, Snr Const Rowe said he observed radio communications that said Ms Day was allegedly "drunk and causing trouble".

Snr Const Rowe told the court that Ms Day was slurring her words and was unsteady on her feet when she was brought to the station.

He told the inquest Ms Day would have been "about a seven (out of 10)" in terms of drunkenness.

The Snr Const said he had to hold Ms Day to keep her still while her photo was taken and told the inquiry how she knocked his hand away as he held her jacket, indicating it would have to be removed before she could enter a cell.

"I spent about the next 10 minutes explaining to (Ms) Day that because she was going into the cell, she needed to remove her jacket (which contained a drawstring), shoes and jewellery," he said.

He said he was the one who asked Leading Senior Constable Mathew Fitzgibbon to make the call to the Aboriginal Community Justice Panel to arrange for someone to pick Ms Day up.

"I treated her as we treated intoxicated people... they're there for their own safety... it was my belief that the cell was the best option," Snr Const Rowe told the court.

Another Leading Senior Constable in Wayne Cairnes, told the court that he was asked by Leading Senior Sergeant Danny Wolters to join him in performing a visual check on Ms Day.

Snr Const Cairnes told the inquest he and his colleague only looked through the cell window partly because of Ms Day's gender.

"To me it would be a very personal thing for a female to be in custody and have two men enter her cell," he said. "People deserve their privacy and dignity in the cell."

Snr Const Cairnes told the court that he had observed Ms Day giving a verbal response to Snr Sgt Wolters and that he recalled seeing Ms Day standing in the cell, but later conceded this was wrong after being played footage of her sprawled on the cell bed.

The CCTV footage showed the pair walking to the door, Snr Sgt Wolters peering in and the pair walking away.

Sergeant Edwina Neale also gave evidence.

On the evening of Ms Day's arrest, Sgt Neale told the court the Castlemaine Police Station was understaffed and while there were meant to be two watch house keepers, there was only one.

Sgt Neale will continue to give evidence on Tuesday.  The court will also hear from Leading Senior Sergeant Danny Wolters.

A timeline of events

16:21pm: Ms Day gets up and is seen wondering around the cell before falling onto the bed. She falls forward and appears to hit her head on the ground.

16.44pm: Ms Day falls backwards onto the bed and hits her head on the wall, before she falls back onto the bed and pulls blankets over her.

16.51pm: This is the most significant fall. Gasps are heard from the family’s side of the courtroom as she is seen falling with great force onto the bed, hitting her head on the wall. Following this fall, Ms Day can be seen laying back with her hands holding her head. She then rolls onto her left side and using her right arm she pulls the blankets up over her from the floor.

17.05pm: she appears to sit up and then fall back onto the bed, lightly hitting her head on the wall.

17:34pm: Constable Wolters comes down the hall to perform a check on Ms Day. He is seen peering into the cell and it appears that he is verbally communicating with Ms Day. She appears to move slightly, and then he walks away.

18.39pm: Ms Day rolls off the bed onto the floor. It’s here that that she appears to have lost movement of her right side of her body as she tries to sit up, can't and instead tried to pull the blanket over her with her left arm.

18:43pm: Ms Day is still laying on the ground with her blanket over her, Constable Wolters comes down, peers in for a few seconds before walking away.

20.03pm: Police come inside the cell. They appear to examine cushions and place them back on the bed. One constable is wearing gloves. They remove her blankets and appear to be trying to communicate with Ms Day. Her right side still appears to be no use. Constable Wolters and Sergeant Edwina Neale lift her up and place her back on the bed. She slightly moves her left arm. They cover her again in a blanket and leave the cell.

20:18pm: Police are inside the cell and appear to be checking on her. Constable Wolters appears to be touching her face or head. Neale pulls back blankets. Constable Wolters appears to be trying to stir her by shaking her gently. They pull the blanket off her again, and at 20:21pm they leave the cell.

Tanya Day inquest: Officer in case was Aboriginal liaison
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