20 May 2023

Cooma taser probe now at "highest level" of seriousness, as 95-year-old's condition worsens

| Genevieve Jacobs
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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 Wednesday (17 May). Photo: Facebook.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb says she won’t watch bodycam footage of the incident that left 95-year-old Cooma woman Claire Nowland with a fractured skull and suspected bleeding on the brain after being tasered by police.

Mrs Nowland, who uses a walking frame and has dementia, had been holding a steak knife with a serrated edge at Yallambee Lodge in the early hours of May 17 when staff called police to assist them. She was then tasered by a senior constable.

It’s believed she is unlikely to survive the incident, which is now the subject of an investigation led by Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter. The matter has been declared a critical incident, triggering the involvement of homicide police and external monitoring by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.

NSW police officers wear body cameras while on active duty, but Commissioner Webb told journalists in Sydney today (20 May) she did not intend to view footage of the incident, which will also not be made public. Police have noted this is standard procedure as the footage is subject to legislative requirements.

“I’ve heard what’s in the body worn, and I don’t see it necessary that I actually view it,” Commissioner Webb said. “We don’t intend to release it unless there’s a process at the end of this that would allow it to be released.”

She added that police had maintained close contact with Mrs Nowland’s family since the incident and would continue to do so. Commissioner Webb also visited Cooma on Friday and spent time with Mrs Nowland’s family at the Cooma District Hospital.

“What we know so far is what happened, what we don’t yet know is why it happened,” she said. “Mrs Nowland and her family deserve that this is done properly. This will take time.”

READ ALSO Community outrage grows as tasered 95-year-old Cooma woman receives ‘end-of-life care’

Commissioner Webb said officers involved in the incident deserved procedural fairness and care should be taken that statements made by senior leadership did not prejudice the investigation.

Police have also refused to say whether the senior constable involved, a 12-year veteran of the force, would face criminal charges over the incident.

He has been stood down from his duties and is also receiving welfare support. Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter told journalists he had seen the body camera footage and agreed it was not appropriate for public release.

Further details of the incident have emerged, and it’s now understood Mrs Nowland was in a small treatment room at Yallambee Lodge, using her walking frame but holding the knife, when officers attempted to negotiate with her.

She was approaching officers “slowly”, according to Assistant Commissioner Cotter, when a senior constable responded by firing a taser before Mrs Nowland fell, striking her head on the floor and fracturing her skull.

Commissioner Webb said it was likely the investigation would require extensive interviews to establish what had occurred, and this would take time. “It’s a delicate and time-consuming role,” she said of the investigation.

“My condolences and thoughts are with the family.”

Monaro community advocate Andrew Thaler, who is in regular contact with family members, says Mrs Nowland’s condition has declined and her breathing is now shallow.

An investigation has also been launched by the Aged Care Quality & Safety Commission, and spokesperson for Federal Minister for Aged Care Annika Wells confirmed she has contacted Yallambee Lodge’s operators. The 40-bed aged care residence is owned by the Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

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It’s frankly appalling that some in the community are trying to defend the police by saying it’s appropriate use of force. Can you imagine if this was a 95 year old black woman? It wouldn’t even be a question. 95 years old, caucasian and the police were defending themselves from supernatural devil-possessed strength. 40 year old, 6 ft 4, 100kg black man who was being restrained on the floor to keep him from lashing out and the police officer gets 21 years in jail. Absolutely disgusting hypocrisy.

Capital Retro6:19 pm 22 May 23

I read somewhere that the facility didn’t have dementia care so she shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Also, the Snowy Monaro Council has dementia care units planned but funding may be the problem. I have a property in that area and I was recently advised that rates were going to increase 50% as a “one off” to fund necessary stuff.

Is the age care facility run by the local council, CR?
If so, your “one off” rate rise may only be the start once the dust settles.
One can imagine that the ambulance chasing lawyers are already queuing up to spruik to the family their magnanimous ‘we’re-there for-you-no-win-no-pay’ legal services, as they offer to sue, on the family’s behalf, any entity even remotely associated with this incident. And the lawyers would definitely have their sights set on the operator.

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