• Tsheena Cooper, the cousin of Ms Wynne says the family is hoping for answers at the inquest into her death (NITV: Aaron Fernandes)Source: NITV: Aaron Fernandes
The family of Ms Wynne hope an inquest later this year will explain how she died following several incidents involving WA police.
Aaron Fernandes, Karen Michelmore

The Point
8 Jun 2021 - 11:12 AM  UPDATED 7 Sep 2021 - 4:51 PM

It’s been more than two years since Ms Wynne lost consciousness in a Perth suburb, surrounded by police and reportedly in the grip of a mental health episode.

On the morning of Thursday 4 April 2019, officers from WA Police had twice restrained and placed the 26-year-old Noongar-Yamatji woman in handcuffs.

The first was after a case of mistaken identity when officers attended her mother’s Victoria Park home. The second was a short time after, when a member of the public reported that Ms Wynne was self-harming in a nearby street.

But the events of that morning have largely remained a mystery to the people that loved Ms Wynne most.

“She was such a beautiful person. Yeah she lived a hard life, but she never took that out on anybody. She was always positive and smiling like when she came around, she just lit up the room because she was always so happy,” her cousin Tsheena Cooper tells NITV’s The Point.

Born only a few months apart, Ms Cooper and Ms Wynne shared a bond like sisters.

Ms Cooper has been trying to piece the events together ever since, but like the rest of the family, still does not know the cause of death, or what triggered her to lose consciousness.

“Its still unclear to this day what happened, why she died. I would just like to know why”.

Inquest called

A coronial inquest into the death of Ms Wynne has now been scheduled and will be held in Perth from 14-19 September.

For her grieving loved ones, it provides the first opportunity to find out how the mother of three died, and for the chain of events that ended with Ms Wynne on life support to be publicly examined.

Those events began with WA Police arriving at her mother’s house in the early hours on Thursday April 4.

“Police came in...they put her on the floor,” her mother Shirley Wynne says.

Several officers had arrived at the property at around 5:45am, looking for another person over a separate matter.

At around the same time, a police car was patrolling the area nearby, after reports of home burglaries. The officers inside saw Ms Wynne running towards her mother’s house.

Several officers converged at the property and entered, finding Ms Wynne inside. They proceeded to restrain and handcuff her, before confirming her identity.

When police realised that Ms Wynne was not the person they were looking for, and confirmed she was not in possession of drugs or weapons, they released her into the custody of her mother.

But a short time later, Ms Wynne left the house in a distressed state. A passer-by reported seeing her self-harming on a nearby street. Both an ambulance and police were called.

Ms Wynne was placed in the ambulance, which attempted to drive her to Royal Perth Hospital, but she got up out of the bed and escaped the vehicle.

She was then reportedly seen running in between traffic near Berwick Street and Hillview Terrace, when police were again called to assist.

NITV understands that the responding officers restrained Ms Wynne in the street and pulled her to the side of the road, where she was placed in handcuffs. It was while she was restrained that Ms Wynne reportedly lost consciousness.

CPR was performed before she was again placed in the ambulance and taken to hospital, where she was kept on life support for five days.

“As each day went by, I was anxiously waiting in Broome for news. It just got worse and worse, her condition deteriorated,” Ms Cooper says.

“Slowly things were coming out that police were involved and it just brought back a lot of things about her dad and what happened with him. He was in custody 20 years before she passed away. So I just instantly thought of my family going through this all over again.”

Ms Cooper drove with almost no rest from Broome to Perth, and went directly to see Ms Wynne in hospital.

“She had a neck brace on…(doctors) said it was there for the safety of her neck because she had sustained injuries. The doctors said she had a three-inch gap in her spine, we still don’t know why, how that injury happened,” Ms Cooper says.

The family waited desperately for any signs of recovery, before the decision was made to turn off life support.

Ms Wynne died in Royal Perth Hospital on Tuesday April 9.

“We were basically instructed to say our goodbyes. Because she had swelling on the brain. We were just there every day of the hospital, trying to find out what happened, trying to make sense of the whole situation,” Ms Cooper says.

“We were holding onto hope that she would come back to us. It took me back to when I was a kid and we went to hospital to say our goodbyes to her dad.”

WA Police investigated the death on behalf of the coroner, but did not classify Ms Wynne’s death as a death in custody or in police presence.

Search for answers

The upcoming inquest will examine the second death in an institutional setting that Ms Wynne’s immediate family has mourned.

Twenty years earlier, Ms Wynne’s father died after being found unresponsive in a police watch house in Albany.

He was also 26 years old, and Ms Wynne had marched against deaths in custody, carrying a flag with her father’s name.

“Our family's very upset. We're still grieving the death of my brother, Ms Wynne's father 22 years ago, and 20 years later, his only daughter ends up arrested by police and another death in custody,” Ms Wynne’s uncle Derrick Cooper says.

“It’s just unacceptable. We are just trying to get to the bottom of it so no other family members can go through this, what we’ve been through.

“Clearly she wasn't in the right frame of mind at the time, and I cant understand why the police didn't notice that themselves. They're supposed to be trained to do this sort of thing.”

There are obvious questions about the actions of police and health workers that the family want answered.

But as the coronial inquest nears, Ms Wynne’s family want not just the events of 4 April examined, but her interactions with government health and welfare services in the weeks prior.

Ms Cooper says Ms Wynne’s infant daughter had been removed from her at Joondalup Health Campus after she’d taken the baby there for medical attention.

She says Ms Wynne was then placed in a secure mental health unit, but released after approximately two days.

Tsheena wants the circumstances around that reported child-removal and mental health treatment to also be examined during the inquest.

“She was very traumatised in a very distressed state, and I've never seen her like that before. And I asked her what was wrong and where (her baby) was, and she said that DCP has given her baby (away) and she needs to get her back and she was just very scared and distressed,” Ms Cooper says.

Ms Wynne’s youngest child has since been returned to the family, and is in the care of a loved one.

But the family want to know if more could have been done to help her in the weeks before her death.

“I would just like to know why we haven't gotten any answers about what happened with her daughter. What happened, why did they take her daughter? Why did DCP intervene and take her daughter? They're supposed to be all about helping families stay connected with their children. In this instance they haven't done that.

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