Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Amy Lee WENSLEY

Inquest into the Death of Amy Lee WENSLEY

Delivered on : 9 September 2021

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : Amy Lee Wensley died on 26 June 2014 at her home as a result of a shotgun injury to her head.  She was 24 years old.

A discretionary inquest was ordered, following consideration of a request from Ms Wensley’s family, and a date for the hearing was set down for August 2018. However, prior to the inquest commencing an expert biomechanical report was received. Based on the expert opinion contained in this report, the inquest hearing was adjourned, and the matter was referred to the WA Director of Public Prosecution. This referral resulted in the WA Police Cold Case Homicide Squad conducting a review of the earlier police investigations into Ms Wensley’s death. The review concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish the involvement of another person in Ms Wensley’s death. The WA Director of Public Prosecutions agreed with these findings and referred the matter back to the Coroner’s Court to continue the coronial proceedings. After further delays due to COVID-19, an inquest finally proceeded in February 2021.

The Deputy State Coroner conducted the inquest with the focus to ascertain whether there was any additional evidence that could be obtained, through calling witnesses to speak to the materials already available in the coronial brief, that might assist the Coroner to determine how Ms Wensley came to suffer the shotgun injury that caused her death, or whether that question must remain unanswered. The quality and conduct of the police investigations was also explored.

At the time of her death, Ms Wensley was in a relationship with David Simmons. They had been together since 2009 and had one daughter together. Ms Wensley, also had another daughter from a previous relationship. Ms Simmons and her two daughters lived with Mr Simmons in a small house on Mr Simmons’ father’s property in Serpentine. The Court heard evidence that the relationship at times was tumultuous and characterised by arguments, often prompted by Mr Simmons’ drinking and drug use.

In March 2013, Ms Wensley and Mr Simmons were involved in a traffic accident, where Mr Simmons was the driver. Ms Wensley was seriously injured as a result of the crash. The injuries affected her ongoing health and were a further source of tension between the couple.

Mr Simmons was a gun enthusiast and owned a number of firearms. Ms Wensley also became involved in shooting during the relationship and owned her own firearm.

On Wednesday, 25 June 2014, Mr Simmons and a friend went pig shooting and Ms Wensley spent the day with the friend’s wife. The friends stayed overnight at the Serpentine property. The next day, Mr Simmons went out the back of the Serpentine property to cut firewood with another friend. Ms Wensley and her friend had gone shopping and then to collect the children from school. Mr Simmons was supposed to have returned home with the firewood as someone was coming to purchase the firewood. Ms Wensley had difficulty contacting him, as Mr Simmons had damaged his phone, and it appears she became angry as she thought he was deliberately avoiding her.

In the afternoon, Mr Simmons collected another friend and purchased a carton of beer before returning to the Serpentine property. When the three men arrived back home, Ms Wensley was not at home. However, she returned soon afterwards with her two daughters, at a time estimated between 4.00 pm and 4.15 pm.

Ms Wensley appeared to be upset about the events that afternoon and an argument quickly started between Ms Wensley and Mr Simmons. There was evidence that Ms Wensley tried to strike Mr Simmons with a mirror and headbutted him, and that he wrestled her to the ground. Ms Wensley then went outside the house to a shed and smashed a lizard tank. Ms Wensley had a short telephone conversation with her mother at 5.00 pm in which she advised her mother about the argument with Mr Simmons. She was described as extremely upset and hysterical during the phone call. Ms Wensley arranged with her mother that she would take the two children and go and stay with her mother. After ending the phone call, Ms Wensley told Mr Simmons that she would be taking the children to stay with her mother. She began packing some belongings while Mr Simmons took the two children and placed them in Ms Wensley’s car.

Mr Simmons told the Court that he waited with the children at the car. While he was there, he shot a bird with a .22 firearm and this was supported by one of the children and Mr Simmons’ friend. Mr Simmons and his friend gave evidence they were standing outside the house, near the car, when they heard a sound like a ‘thud’. They went inside the house to investigate the noise. Mr Simmons entered the main bedroom, where he found Ms Wensley sitting on the bedroom floor with a shotgun next to her and a gunshot wound to her head. Mr Simmons ran outside the room and his friend then entere d the room and moved the shotgun and placed a piece of fabric on her head. Neither men had working mobile phones, so they left the house and drove to the nearby Serpentine Roadhouse, to use the phone to call an ambulance. The call was made at around 5.20 pm, only 20 minutes after Ms Wensley had spoken to her mother.

The initial attending police officers had concerns that another person may have been involved in Ms Wensley’s death, so they requested the attendance of detectives. The attending detectives spoke to the uniformed police and viewed Ms Wensley in situ in the bedroom. After a short period, the detectives formed the view that the evidence supported the conclusion that Ms Wensley had committed suicide. They informed the uniformed police, who disagreed with this conclusion but followed instructions to release the protected forensic area that had been declared and allow Ms Wensley’s body to be taken to the mortuary. The next morning, Mr Simmon’s father, who was the owner of the house, arranged for the bedroom to be forensically cleaned, using a cleaner who had been suggested by the police the night before.

That afternoon, after Ms Wensley’s mother raised concerns about her daughter’s death and some further evidence was considered, the initial decision of the detectives that there was no evidence of criminality was reviewed and a new investigation was commenced into the death by different detectives. The second investigation was hampered by the fact that the scene had been contaminated, but ultimately the investigators reached the same conclusion that there was no evidence of the involvement of another person in Ms Wensley’s death. The matter was then given to coronial investigators before being provided to the Coroner.

As noted above, following further coronial investigation, a third investigation was conducted by police into the possibility that another person was involved in Ms Wensley’s death. That investigation left open the possibility that her death occurred by suicide or homicide or accident.

After hearing from all potential witnesses, the Deputy State Coroner concluded that there was not enough evidence to make a formal finding as to how Ms Wensley died. Accordingly, her Honour made an Open Finding as to the manner of death. Some adverse comments were made about the standard of the initial police investigation, and the limitations this placed on the Coroner’s ability to consider all relevant evidence.

Catch Words : Forensic Examination : Blood Pattern Analysis : Biomechanical Evidence : Cold Case Homicide Review : Police Procedures Investigating Suspicious Death : Open Finding

Last updated: 6-Oct-2021

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