• A photo of Veronica from her younger years. (Supplied)
Veronica Nelson was on remand in the maximum security Dame Phyllis Frost Centre for shoplifting after she was refused bail on New Years Eve.
By
Madeline Hayman-Reber

Source:
NITV News
10 Jan 2020 - 6:05 PM  UPDATED 10 Jan 2020 - 6:05 PM

The family of a Yorta Yorta woman are demanding answers from the Victorian government, following her death in custody two days after being locked in a maximum security prison for a petty crime.

Veronica Nelson, 37, had been on a Community Corrections Order when she was charged with shoplifting.

After representing herself in court on New Years Eve, she was refused bail and remanded at the Dame Phyllis Frost centre - a maximum security prison.

Ms Nelson was found dead in her cell at the centre at around 8am on January 2.

Her family told NITV News on Friday they still don't know what happened to her.

"I've been asking questions, like how and why and this and that and I still haven't been given any answers," said sister, Belinda Atkinson.

Ms Atkinson said she believes her sister had been on methadone at the time, and was allegedly refused the medication by the facility.

"She'd gone up to medical asking for help, could she get something for her drug problem," she said.

"She'd gone up there and asked for help and they've knocked her back, and then she was sitting in the cell crying. Crying, crying, crying, because she couldn't get no help."

Ms Atkinson said other inmates at the prison reported hearing her sister screaming for help, in pain, during the hours before the death.

The Department of Justice and Community Safety said they were unable to comment on specifics of the event, including whether or not medical attention or cultural support was given at any point, because the death is being investigated by the state's coroner.

In a statement, the department confirmed that the matter was a death in custody.

"As with all deaths in custody, the Coroner will investigate and formally determine the cause of death. As the matter is the subject of an ongoing coronial investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment," it said.

Shocked community members expressed their grief and sorrow via social media of yet another death in custody. 

The CEO of domestic violence service Djirra, Antoinette Braybrook, told NITV News she had heard that some women on the inside were "traumatised and fearing for their lives".

“We have said time and time again that the strict bail laws will impact on Aboriginal women. It’s unacceptable that our women are losing their lives. There are so many questions to ask," Ms Braybrook said.

"Justice needs to be served. I want to know how she passed away in jail," said Ms Atkinson.

"Why didn't they give her what she wanted in medical? Why was she locked up for two days in those cells... she was refused bail just for shoplifting. Why did they put her in maximum security?"

A funeral for Ms Nelson will be held on Monday 13 January at Cummeragunja Mission.

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