Veronica Nelson inquest findings delivered: Coroner to call for sweeping bail changes

A state coroner will today pave the way for major changes to be made to the way Victorians can apply for bail when he delivers damning findings into the death of Indigenous woman Veronica Nelson.

Nelson died in custody in January 2020, while on remand on allegations of shoplifting.

Veronica Nelson’s family and friends at the Victorian Coroners Court on Monday.Credit: Joe Armao

Coroner Simon McGregor said Nelson was loved and respected by all who knew her, but died in custody, covered in her own vomit after using the prison intercom in her cell 49 times during her 36 hours at the women’s prison, Dame Phyllis Frost Centre.

“The sounds of Veronica’s last pleading calls for help echoed around the courtroom during the inquest, prompting me to ponder how people who heard them and had power to help them did not rush to her aid,” Mr Gregor said.

“[She was also] separated from her family, community, culture and Country at the time of her passing in a devastating and demoralising circumstance.”

Veronica Nelson died in jail in January 2020 after calling for help about 40 times. Her family has given permission for her photograph to be used.

Nelson was arrested on Spencer Street on December 30, 2019, and taken to a nearby police station for questioning on suspicion of shoplifting. But instead of being released on bail from the station, she was transferred to Melbourne Magistrates’ Court where she was placed on remand to await a court date weeks later.

Over the following two days, as she withdrew from heroin dependency and her body was ravaged by an undiagnosed medical condition, Nelson made more than 40 calls for help on the prison intercom in her cell.

She was later found dead in her flooded cell on January 2, 2020, laying in the fetal position on the floor. Ambulance officers believe she had been dead for some time.

On the door of her cell was a sign stating: “Do not unlock.”

In a subsequent review of the death, Dame Phyllis Frost general manager Tracey Jones said she was “proud” of the way Nelson was treated in her final hours and that staff “sensitively managed the intercom calls”.

But the coroner described the five-week inquest that followed as “confronting and traumatic”. He found Nelson died of complications of her withdrawal from chronic opiate use and Wilkie’s syndrome in the setting of malnutrition.

Findings and recommendations regarding Veronica’s death are being handed down on Monday in a hearing expected to last three hours.

More to come.

The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.

Most Viewed in National

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article