Queensland police took hour to respond to Doreen Langham’s domestic violence 000 call, coroner told

Ben Smee in Brisbane
·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Darren England/AAP</span>
Photograph: Darren England/AAP

A pre-inquest hearing into the suspected domestic violence-related death of a Queensland woman, Doreen Langham, has heard that police took an hour to respond to her emergency call on the night of 21 February and that when officers arrived at her unit, they knocked on the door and left.

The state coroner’s court will investigate the adequacy of the Queensland police response to Langham’s pleas for help, including a triple-zero call she made “seeking protection” on the night she died.

At 3.55am the next morning, a neighbour phoned 000 to report a fire in the unit at Browns Plains, south of Brisbane. Inside, Langham and her former partner Gary Hely were found dead. Police believe the fire was deliberately lit.

Related: Queensland woman dies in suspicious house fire after gaining protection order

In a brief summary of the case at a pre-inquest conference on Wednesday, the court heard that Langham and Hely had been in a relationship for two years, which ended shortly before their deaths.

“At the time of the deaths there was a temporary domestic violence order in place,” said Kathryn McMahon, the counsel assisting the inquest.

“Amongst other conditions the order contained what is colloquially called an ‘ouster clause’ … he was no longer permitted to live in the unit which he and Ms Langham had shared.

“Between 14 February and 17 February, Ms Langham reported breaches of that order to the Queensland police service. She also had the locks changed.

“On the night of 21 February, Ms Langham phoned 000 again seeking protection from Queensland police. Police did not attend the home until an hour later.

“They knocked on the front door and, receiving no response, they left.”

It is expected that individual police officers who might have interacted with Langham will be legally represented during the inquest. Police investigations are expected to conclude in August.

Police are undertaking an ethical standards investigation into officers’ handling of Langham’s domestic violence allegations, similar to a concurrent investigation into the death of a Gold Coast woman, Kelly Wilkinson.

  • In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 and the domestic abuse helpline is 0808 2000 247. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org