Outback nurse was raped and murdered because of 'a catalogue of blunders', inquest hears

| 13.01,20. 10:33 PM |

Outback nurse was raped and murdered because of 'a catalogue of blunders', inquest hears

Photo: Remote area nurse Gayle Woodford was murdered in South Australia's far north. (Facebook)

A coronial inquest into the rape and murder of South Australian outback nurse Gayle Woodford has heard "a catalogue of blunders" allowed her killer to "slip through the cracks".

Ms Woodford's body was found in a shallow grave near the outback community of Fregon, in South Australia's APY Lands, in March 2016.

She had worked as a nurse with Nganampa Health Council for nearly five years and was on call the night she was killed.

Dudley Davey was sentenced to life in prison with a non-parole period of 32 years for her abduction, rape and murder.

The inquest is expected to probe the overall safety of on-call remote area nurses, the police presence in remote communities and Davey's release from prison prior to the attack.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Ahura Kalali, said Davey had a "very long history of violent offending" which included assaulting other nurses and sexually assaulting girls and women.

"Why he was released on parole is unclear — he couldn't even complete his parole conditions for eight days," he told the inquest.

"It appears Davey did not receive any intervention programs.

"A catalogue of blunders occurred … in essence he slipped through the cracks."

The inquest heard nurses would turn on the light at their house in Fregon when they were on call, which Mrs Woodford had done the night she was killed.

But medical staff had a cage around their home which was designed to protect them from a patient who might be violent or affected by drugs or alcohol.

Fellow nurse 'shocked' patients could attend their homes

Registered nurse Belinda Schultz, who worked for the Nganampa Health Council between 2012 and 2015, said she was shocked that the policy was for patients to attend nurses' houses.

"When I first started I was shocked that that was the process — that's not something that would happen in a metropolitan or even a rural setting," she said.

"I felt that was an inappropriate process … we did raise it numerous times [but] because the solutions were too difficult there was nothing really done in regards to our concerns."
Ms Schultz said women and children escaping domestic violence would often visit on-call nurses' houses after hours for safety and to ring the police.

She said it was against the health council's policy to assist someone in that situation, but that was impractical and nurses would often let them into the secure yard of their house.

"You worry about backlash from the community if you [follow the policy] and something goes on to happen," she said.

Ms Woodford's husband, Keith Woodford, told the inquest he witnessed a lot of violence in Fregon and it was "very hard" for police to stop alcohol and drugs being brought into the dry community.

The inquest was told there was no permanent police officer based in Fregon and the minimum response time for officers travelling from the nearby community of Mimili was an hour.

Mr Woodford told the inquest a greater police presence in Fregon would have reduced alcohol-fuelled violence.

"I don't think Anangu [people] would have been quite as willing to openly drink … if there had been police," he said.

"I never, ever reported. It was just part of the life."

Mr Woodford said his late wife would receive verbal abuse nearly every second day on the job, despite being a well-respected nurse in the community who spoke Pitjantjatjara.

He also said any suggestion that Ms Woodford was attending to a personal matter instead of her role as an on-call nurse on the night she was murdered was "disgusting".

"The statement … that she was outside for some personal reason was absolutely woeful and put a slur on her name," he said through tears.

"Gayle was there to do her job and the only reason she would have been outside was to help Davey."

The inquest will run for two weeks.

Topics: murder-and-manslaughter, crime, courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, death, doctors-and-medical-professionals, health-policy, fregon-872, coober-pedy-5723, adelaide-5000, port-augusta-5700, sa, australia

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