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District health board expresses condolences following coroner’s findings

Waikato District Health Board (DHB) has extended its condolences to the family of Diane White following the release of the coroner’s findings into her death in Hamilton on 19 January 2010.

Coroner Peter Ryan in his findings found that Mrs White died at her Dinsdale home with head injuries due to blunt force trauma. She was attacked in her home by Christine Morris who had absconded from the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre, where she was a voluntary inpatient, earlier in the day.

Morris was convicted on 2 April 2012 in the High Court at Hamilton of the charge of murdering Mrs White and is serving a life sentence.

There is one issue for Waikato DHB in the findings which relates to the lack of compliance with a DHB policy on the use of interpreters. Morris is profoundly deaf and communicates by a combination of sign language, vocalising and writing notes.

The DHB did not use an official interpreter during a psychiatric review of Morris in the hours before the murder.

The DHB held its own serious event review which noted this matter had been addressed by communicating to all clinical staff the need to comply with its official interpreters’ policy.

Dr Rees Tapsell, Director of Clinical Services for the Mental Health and Addictions, Waikato DHB, said the DHB commissioned review into the care and treatment of Ms Morris in the period leading up to the murder of Ms White showed all staff had acted in a humane and professional way.

Coroner Ryan noted the DHB had implemented measures to reduce the chance of a recurrence and made no recommendations in relation to the DHB’s policies and procedures and the actions of staff.

“Whilst it is easy to see a number of things that we would have done differently, had we known then, what we know now no one could reasonably have predicted that Ms Morris would act in the way that she did,” said Dr Tapsell.

“Our thoughts remain with Diane White’s family and we offer our sincere condolences to them,” said Dr Tapsell.

“In particular we acknowledge her son James who represented his mother at the inquest as it would not have been easy for him given the nature of his mother’s death.

“We also thank Coroner Ryan and other counsel for the time they spent on this case,” said Dr Tapsell.

ENDS

General media enquiries
Mobile: 021 671 239
Email: news@waikatodhb.health.nz

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