19 May 2023

UPDATED: Community outrage grows as tasered 95-year-old Cooma woman receives 'end-of-life care'

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Clare Nowland

Clare Nowland is fighting for her life after being tasered in an aged care facility. Photo: Supplied.

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.

And incident occurred at Yallmbee Lodge, Cooma, on May 17.

Snowy Monaro Regional Council has confirmed an incident involving police occurred at Yallambee Lodge aged care facility in Cooma on 17 May. Photo: Facebook.

“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.”

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Margaret Rodd7:08 pm 21 May 23

The care industry has serious flaws. I’m a care worker who cannot get work in an industry that is calling out for workers or maybe the next employer incentive and the question is why were the police called? I would use the example of a tired two year old who was having a tantrum because the child had a knife and refused to give the back to you. You would get an oven mitt or a towel and double it and take the knife off the child by grabbing the blade if needed. If you had any coordination you should be able to achieve that without any great fuss if all communication failed. I know of many deaths, due to neglect, in institutional care. The industry is based on hierarchy and team players. If you do more than required you are ousted because you are not a team player or if you encroach on anybody else job description. If I was investigating the incident I would be questioning the staff where I would assume, as a care worker, the problem originated.

Robert McCauley10:29 pm 19 May 23

You have to be joking.. How on earth could a 95 yo woman with dementia on a walking frame albeit with a knife be a threat to anyone?!!
Unless she had a gun or was an expert knife thrower she could not possibly be a threat.
Release the vision and let’s see how much of a threat she was.

Margaret Rodd7:15 pm 21 May 23

Robert my comment was just blocked so I’ll try and reply here. I’m a care worker who cannot get work in an industry calling out for workers. The industry is seriously flawed and I know of a number of deaths due to neglect. If I was investigating the incident I would be asking why the police were called when it should have been handled by trained staff like myself. Double a towel over and take the knife by the blade if all communication failed like you would do if it were a two year old having a tantrum. The industry is based on hierarchy and nobody is allowed to encroach on anybody else’s job…sad days we live in!!!

Stephen Saunders9:59 pm 19 May 23

This has been reported around the world. Frail 95yo on walking-frame vs spritely and fully-armed cop, it’s not immediately a brilliant look, is it. Be interesting to see what the “investigation” makes out of it.

John Schwazer9:27 pm 19 May 23

In a world where children send their elderly parents to nursing homes be looked after by perfect strangers, and where police officers protect the real criminals, rather than lock them up, what happened to this poor old woman makes perfected sense

Yes the family are outraged. So why did they not love her enough to keep her at home with them?

TruthinMedia7:04 pm 19 May 23

Difficult situation for the police. You can just lock the door and leave her to lose interest because she might self-harm, and it is not their job to risk being cut or worse – no matter how frail she is the police risk having a hand tendon cut or a cut on the face or in the eye just getting close to her, both devastating injuries. I’ve seen overseas police forces equipping and training with other safer forms of restraint at a distance, perhaps these should be looked at.

Really? A 95 yo couldnt be sorted out by a few big burly coppers? Might as well sack them then. Its like saying they needed to use an elephant gun on a tiny Chihuahua, lest it savage thier ankles…..

Tough gig for the staff but how can a bunch of trained coppers not disarm a 95 year old?? Make the body cam footage public or like usual I bet they forgot to turn it on

Of course the story is still incomplete and is shocking and being tasered is intolerable and unacceptable, however having had experience in my own family I can relate somewhat. My mother suffered severe dementia and had frequent violent outbursts causing damage to surroundings, staff and other residents. No-one would suspect that a 90yr old frail 5.3″ lady could lash out with strength to punch and knock down staff and residents causing fractures, rip a TV out of its wall attachment or rip solid doors off a wardrobe, throw solid items at walls and windows. Specialised training is needed to manage such patients. Unless one has the training required it is a recipe for disaster. Perhaps in this latest situation the staff were untrained and overwhelmed if they needed to call police.

Except it is the police in this case that were untrained. Unless aged care workers are meant to be able to disarm weapon wielding assailants? One can only imagine the level of outrage if she were black.

@Sam Oak
Yeah, nice balanced and unbigoted comment, Sam.

Capital Retro8:22 am 20 May 23

You are correct Lois. My family has witnessed something similar and the consequences were fatal.

Most of the people “outraged” by this Cooma incident have no idea what happens in end of life care in fact when they get dementia are in the same facilities they won’t know either.

In 2022 a 93 year old disabled UK man, Donald Burgess, with one leg and in a wheelchair was tasered. He died soon after. The tasering of a 95 year old woman in Cooma has made international news, and she is probably the oldest person ever tasered, anywhere. I cannot envisage any circumstance that would justify the brutal tasering of a frail, weak 95 year old, with dementia in supposedly ‘aged care’. For those who would excuse the actions of the police officer, or call it a media beat-up, what if it was your mother?

Your comment nails it Acton!!

Capital Retro3:00 pm 19 May 23

It’s becoming a typical media beat-up frenzy.

The reporters have no idea what happens in these facilities where staff are always behind the eight ball. Some people with dementia are in secure care primarily for their own safety but sometimes they become uncontrollable.

It is noted that the facilty where the incident occured was not a dementia -equipped one so it would appear that it was appropriate to seek assistance from the police in this case and they also would have had limited choices as to what could be done. I doubt if they have training in how to subdue someone in situations like this.

If Steve Whan spent some time in one of these places he might reconsider his response.

We should all wish it hadn’t of happened and we hope for her recovery. Meanwhile, the media are trying to turn the police officers into pariahs for doing the best they could.

Peter Stanley3:37 pm 19 May 23

‘The best they can’ can surely hardly ever include tasering a 90+-year-old woman with dementia, even if she had a knife! In what universe can an adult police officer not move more swiftly and restrain a frail old woman without the aid of an electric stun gun? We all support police who do their job conscientiously and well, but when they fail – as this officer plainly has – we must call it out for what it is – a gross and inappropriate over-reliance on force.

HahaNo NoHaha3:42 pm 19 May 23

Exactly. It’s just the most disgusting comment. Operational safety and skills competencies are at the worst standard in Australian history with the NSW Police.
Shame on the staff at the aged care too. Just woeful.

A media beat-up CR? Police tasering a frail and much loved 95-year old women. An elderly women suffering dementia who is supposedly uncontrollable!
Just what universe do you live on CR?
I wonder how you would feel if this woman was your elderly and dearly loved family member – your sister, mother or grandmother.
An elderly and much loved family member forcefully and painfully restrained and tasered by a group of burly police officers? I certainly know how I would feel!
And now this poor lady is fighting for her life!!
And guess what, we now have an internal police investigation!!

@Capital Retro
“If Steve Whan spent some time in one of these places he might reconsider his response.”
Only a partisan bigot like you could bring politics into such a tragedy, CR.

Just exactly what is wrong with the local MP describing the incident as “awful” and stating “Clearly, your first reaction is, how on earth could this happen?”?

I know my first reaction was ‘why on earth is it necessary to taser a 95yo woman’? And I agree with Mr Whan – “… 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.” Again what’s wrong with that?

Capital Retro8:00 am 20 May 23

This is what has happened before and what can and will happen again:


There are lot’s more incidents like that that don’t make the news. I had a close family member involved in one.

Some of you people have got to understand that while it may be repugnant to some of you this is what happens in the real world. That comment is especially for you, JD.

Capital Retro8:25 am 20 May 23

Hello? When Steve Whan says something it’s not political?

You are really something else, JS.

@Capital Retro
LMAO at you, CR.

You really have a problem with political myopia don’t you?

The local Labor MP is just doing his job, and expresses concern at a distressing incident which has occurred in his constituency and you take him to task. I’m surprised you didn’t accuse him of exploiting the situation to get votes.

So I assume you are equally put out by the fact that Peter Dutton also commented on the incident? I’ll take it as read that you don’t think Albanese had any right to comment.

Yes – thankfully, I’m definitely something else when compared to the likes of you.

Margaret Rodd7:25 pm 21 May 23

Whatever has happened to commonsense or do they have to have training for that to? What would you do if it was a child having a tantrum, maybe get a towel, double it over and take it off the lady by the blade if you had the coordination at all. I’m a trained care worker who cannot get a job in an industry calling out for workers. I have a life of a farming background and I can assure you I know how to problem solve without a course on spur of the moment things. One example was pulling my daughter out of a dam dead! Wake up, grow up and do the job your paid to do!!!!

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