• Aunty Tanya Day. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Understaffing meant police didn't follow their standards for checking on drunk people in custody, the inquest into Aboriginal woman Tanya Day's death has heard.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

5 Sep 2019 - 8:29 AM  UPDATED 5 Sep 2019 - 8:29 AM

As Aboriginal woman Tanya Day staggered drunkenly in a country Victorian police cell, local officers celebrated their Christmas party.

An inquest into the 55-year-old's death has been told she was checked on less frequently than was usual practice for drunk people in custody because of understaffing.

The Yorta Yorta woman fell and hit her head five times between 4.20pm and 6.40pm on 5 December in 2017 after being arrested on a train at Castlemaine because she was drunk.

On Wednesday, Leading Senior Sergeant Danny Wolters, one of the watch house keepers during the four hour period Ms Day was in police custody, gave evidence in the Victorian Coroner's Court on Wednesday that disputed evidence heard during the previous day.

On Tuesday, the court heard from Sgt Wolter's colleague, Sergeant Edwina Neale. who was in charge the night of the incident. She rejected claims that she was criminally negligent.

Sgt Neale told the court that she asked Sgt Wolters to make the 30 minute routine physical checks on Ms Day every 20 minutes, because Ms Day was Aboriginal and therefore vulnerable in custody.

Sgt Wolters on Wednesday claimed Ms Neale had never said that.


In a statement provided by attending paramedic Lisa Harrup to the court, Ms Harrup stated that Sgt Wolters said he saw Ms Day stand up after falling an hour before calling paramedics.

In a recorded phone call to paramedics played to the court at 8.05pm, Sgt Wolters is heard saying that he “seen her slip over an hour ago”.

CCTV footage shows Ms Day rolling off the bed onto the floor at 6.39pm. That is where she stays until Sgt Wolters and Sgt Neale come into the cell and place her back on the bed.

Questioning of Sgt Wolters will continue Thursday.

Ms Day died in hospital 17 days after sustaining a catastrophic brain injury while in custody at Castlemaine Police Station, after being arrested for public drunkenness.

- with AAP-SBS