NOON UPDATE: A NSW police officer is under review following an incident that has left an elderly woman clinging to life, NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Peter Cotter has confirmed.
Clare Nowland, 95, was injured when tasered by police called to Yallambee Hostel in Cooma at about 4 am on 17 May because she was carrying a knife.
Mr Cotter said police had tried to convince her to put down the knife. When she did not and approached a door near the police officers, one senior constable discharged his taser, striking Mrs Nowland and causing her to fall.
The fall caused a fractured skull. Mrs Nowland is now in hospital, surrounded by family, and clinging to life.
The Assistant Commissioner said the homicide squad was investigating the incident and the officer in question was under review.
“What I can say is that this is a very alive and serious investigation of which the homicide squad is investigating,” he said .
He would not be drawn on whether the officer could face criminal charges.
9AM: Ninety-five-year-old Cooma resident Claire Nowland is clinging to life after sustaining a fractured skull and suspected bleeding on the brain when she was tasered by police late on Wednesday at a Cooma aged care residence.
Mrs Nowland, who uses a walking frame, is believed to have fallen after she was tasered from both directions when police were called to Yallambee Lodge to manage an incident. Reports yesterday alleged that Mrs Nowland was holding a knife at the time.
Region understands family members have been told bodycam images of the incident, which they will be shown, are “confronting”.
Monaro community advocate Andrew Thaler, who is in touch with family members, said there’s an urgent need for answers.
“Police are putting a blanket over this and it’s not helpful at all,” he told Region.
“We need to know what happened. Don’t sugar coat it, don’t downplay it, tell us the truth. This is a tiny, frail elderly woman with a walking frame. She stands at about 5’2”, she weighs 43 kilos and she has dementia and now she is on end-of-life care.
“I’m calling on the NSW Police Commissioner, Karen Webb, to come down here and be accountable to the family. She can manage what happens when they see that bodycam footage.”
Member for Monaro Steve Whan described the incident as “awful” and says he’s attempting to speak directly with the Nowland family to offer them support and understand more about the incident.
“Clearly, your first reaction is, how on earth could this happen?” he told Region.
“I think there are a lot of enquiries that need to be made and we will clearly need to know more about staff training as well as the police response. My understanding is that the facility is compliant with regulations, but it’s a bit early to comment further.”
Mrs Nowland is a well-known member of the Cooma community and a longtime volunteer with St Vincent de Paul. A mother of eight, she is part of a large local family, a regular parishioner of St Patrick’s Catholic Church and a member of the Cooma Golf Club.
A critical incident team is now analysing the circumstances surrounding the incident, and police say the investigation will be subject to independent review.
Police and Snowy Monaro Regional Council were unable to provide further comment about the incident yesterday, but Police Commissioner Karen Webb said today that she “shares the community’s concerns” about the incident.
“My thoughts are with the family at this difficult time. I understand and share the community concerns, and assure you that we are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness,” Commissioner Webb said in a statement.
Yallambee Lodge is a council-owned and operated aged care facility that was built and opened in 1995. The 40-bed residence does not include specific provisions for dementia care.
It’s been the subject of ongoing community concern as Council considers ending its involvement and seeking a provider with experience in the aged care sector.
“Council has significant responsibility here,” Mr Thaler said.
“This is not a dementia-equipped facility. But how were staff unable to de-escalate a situation with a 95-year-old woman on a walking frame?
“And what is the purpose of anyone saying she had a knife? There is a communal kitchen at the Lodge. There could be any number of reasons why she was holding a knife.
“This is someone who has given her life to community service. How is she a monster who has to be tasered? The family are looking at photos of their Nan, they’re sitting by her bedside and they just can’t compute how this has happened.”