Australia: 'Please help me': Eric Whittaker made 20 emergency calls before he died in custody - - PressFrom - Australia

Australia 'Please help me': Eric Whittaker made 20 emergency calls before he died in custody

10:11  14 october  2019
10:11  14 october  2019 Source:

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An Aboriginal man who died in custody made 20 emergency calls for help over the intercom in his Sydney prison cell on the morning he was taken to hospital, an inquest has heard.

a person lying on a bed: Eric Whittaker in Westmead hospital on July 3rd 2017, the day before his death, with leg cuffs.© Supplied Eric Whittaker in Westmead hospital on July 3rd 2017, the day before his death, with leg cuffs. However, officers waited for a change of shift to attend to him.

Kamilaroi man and father of four Eric Whittaker, 36, lay unconscious and shackled in leg cuffs in the hours before he died from a ruptured brain aneurysm at Westmead Hospital on July 4, 2017.

A coronial inquest into Mr Whittaker's death, which began on Monday, heard he made 20 emergency calls begging for help and complaining of claustrophobia between 4.52am and 7.51am on July 2 using an intercom in his cell at Parklea Correctional Centre in Sydney's northwest, then privately owned by the GEO Group.

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Father of four Eric Whittaker with his son.© Supplied Father of four Eric Whittaker with his son.

When staff attended to Mr Whittaker at 8.08am, after an 8am changover, he was found crouched in the rear of his cell shouting "please help me" and appeared to have urinated, vomited and defecated on himself.

He was then taken to the prison's medical clinic while unsteady on his feet, slurring his words and unable to sit still. Notes made about 9am on July 2 say Mr Whittaker was disoriented and complaining he couldn't breathe, while his pupils had dialated from 7mm to 3mm.

Corrective Services NSW investigator Kenneth Johnston said it "should have been clear [to officers that Mr Whittaker] was clearly delirious and unaware of his surroundings".

He said  said the tone of the officers who answered Mr Whittaker's calls for help early in the morning suggested "a level of apathy towards the inmate".

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Eric Whittaker , 35, was held on remand in Parklea prison late last month before he sustained head According to his family, Corrective Services NSW said he had fallen in a yard, whereas police said it A crowd of people protesting the death in custody of Eric Whittaker make their way towards NSW

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"A phone call to an ambulance or medical professional could have easily been dealt with during the night," Mr Johnston said. "One might consider it was too much trouble to do anything in the night and it would [be easier to wait] until the day shift [at 8am] ... The fact it wasn’t dealt with until later in the morning … my thought is it was just too much effort."

Mr Johnston said Mr Whittaker was "clearly suffering from a health issue" and that whether his problems were drug induced or mental helath related "is not the issue; some medical intervention should have occurred".

Later tests showed Mr Whittaker screened positive for stimulants and likely died from a subarachnoid hemmorage precipitated by amphetamines.

The week-long inquest will investigate the cause of Mr Whittaker's haemorrhage, whether Correctional Officers could have done more that morning, and whether different or earlier treatment could have improved his chance of survival.

It will also question whether the use of restraints on Mr Whittaker during his ambulance transfer and time in hospital was appropriate.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Peggy Dwyer, said "a significant issue for Eric's family in this inquest is whether authorities were justified in using restraints".

Mr Whittaker was still being held in ankle restraints at midday on July 3, despite showing signs of imminent brain death.

He had been taken into custody on remand in June 2017 after being refused bail for failing to appear in court and possessing a knife in public. He was reported to have been "calm and compliant" during his dealings with police and corrections officers.

The inquest continues.

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