Inquest into the Death of Michael John BIRD

Inquest into the Death of Michael BIRD

Delivered on : 8 May 2024

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order :  Yes

Suppression and restriction of publication of Western Australia Police Force Negotiator Unit methodologies and Tactical Response Group deployment guidelines.

Summary : On 17 March 2022, Michael Bird (Michael) died from multiple injuries he sustained after he jumped from the 21st floor of an apartment building in West Perth.

Michael had previously worked for a hotel in located in the apartment building, but he had left that job in late 2021. Michael then had a period of unemployment before he was hired as the building manager for the same apartment building. He died on his first day of work in his new role.

WA Police had been called to attend the scene after witnesses had seen Michael standing on the wrong side of balcony balustrading. Uniformed police attended first, and spoke briefly to Michael, before trained negotiators from the WA Police Negotiator Unit arrived and took over all communications with Michael. Senior Constable Gus O’Loughlin, an experienced police negotiator, spoke to Michael for almost two hours. Their interactions were recorded on S/C O’Loughlin’s body worn camera. The footage shows that he repeatedly encouraged Michael to return to the safety of the apartment balcony and/or allow the police to put a safety harness on him, but Michael refused. Michael appeared to be committed to the course of action he had chosen before police had arrived, and eventually he followed through with that action by jumping from the balcony without warning. Given the height he was at, his death from the fall was inevitable. Michael did not provide any real explanation for why he was experiencing suicidal ideation. The few things he did say revealed he felt he had let down some friends. Michael expressed his love for his family and friends and apologised to them for his actions before he took the final fatal step.

Michael’s family and friends were spoken to by police and none of them were really able to shed any light on why Michael chose to end his life. There was some evidence that concerns had been raised by staff from the hotel about Michael taking up his new position in the building, but it wasn’t clear that Michael was aware of these concerns, and there was no evidence to indicate that he was going to lose his job as a result.

The police investigating Michael’s death did find evidence that Michael had a past history of drug-induced psychosis some years before, during which he experienced hallucinations that police were investigating him and conducting surveillance on him. In December 2021, Michael had seen a lawyer and raised similar concerns, and he saw a psychologist two days before his death and disclosed he was experiencing distressing auditory hallucinations in the same vein. Michael had also been obtaining multiple prescriptions for the sleeping medication zolpidem (Stilnox) from different GP’s in an attempt to self-medicate, although he did not tell the various doctors what he was doing.

The evidence suggests that Michael was experiencing some psychotic symptoms at the time he died, and these symptoms may have influenced his decision-making, although there is no evidence he did not have the capacity to form an intention to end his life. The Coroner was satisfied Michael died by way of suicide.

The inquest was mandatory due to fact Michael died in the presence of police, in order to determine whether their involvement could be said to have caused or contributed to his death. The Deputy State Coroner found that there was no evidence to suggest the police officers involved could be said to have caused or contributed to Michael’s death. No adverse comments were made against any parties and no recommendations were made.

Catch Words : Suicide : Psychosis : Police Negotiator.

Last updated: 7-Jun-2024

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