Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Shaun Andrew WILLIS

Inquest into the Death of Shaun Andrew WILLIS

Delivered on : 17 January 2022

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Urquhart

Recommendations : Yes

Recommendation No. 1

When attending the known address of a person the subject of a welfare check, police officers who have not had their door knocks answered should leave a card at the front door explaining the purpose of their attendance and their contact details.

Recommendation No. 2

When attending the known address of a person the subject of a welfare check, police officers who have not had their door knocks answered should, if it is appropriate to do so, speak to neighbours to ascertain the whereabouts of the person.

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary :  Mr Willis died on 8 March 2019 as a result of ligature compression of the neck (hanging) at his home address in Kalgoorlie.  He was 54 years of age at the time of his death. 

Mr Willis’ death was not subject to a mandatory inquest hearing, however, after a section 24(1) request was lodged to the court by Mr Willis’ partner, the State Coroner determined an inquest was desirable under section 22(2) of the Coroners Act 1996 (WA). The reasons were in order for a coroner to examine the response of the WA Police Force with respect to a welfare check request by Mr Willis’ partner on Mr Willis, and the adequacy of the guidelines and policies provided to the WA Police officers relating to welfare checks.

On 7 March 2019, Mr Willis was issued a Family Violence Restraining Order (FVRO) after attending his ex-wife’s address in which an altercation ensued between the two with his ex-wife alleging he had struck her in the right eye. He was also advised by police on 7 March 2019 that he would be charged with aggravated common assault upon his ex-wife. 

At 1.30 am on 8 March 2019, Mr Willis attended his ex-wife’s address again, contravening the VFRO served against him seven hours earlier, in an effort to ‘work things out’.  Mr Willis’ ex-wife refused to let him in and after she contacted police, he left the property before police arrived.  After speaking to his ex-wife, police attended Mr Willis’ address at 3.00 am that same morning and observed his car in the driveway and all the house lights off. After knocking loudly several times on the front door without any response, the officers left the property.

At 9.00 pm on 8 March 2019, Mr Willis’ partner contacted Kalgoorlie Police to do a welfare check on Mr Willis. Subsequently, police officers attended Mr Willis’ address on three occasion to conduct a welfare check. Each time their door knocks were unanswered. During the third attendance on the afternoon of 9 March 2019, police discovered Mr Willis’ body in a rear bedroom. The coroner found that Mr Willis had already died before the first welfare check.

After examining all the evidence, the coroner made no adverse comments towards the actions of the officers involved in the first two welfare checks, although he concluded more could have been done, particularly with regards to the second welfare check.

The coroner found Mr Willis’ death occurred by way of suicide and made two recommendations for the  WA Police Force to have officers conducting a welfare check where there is no response to leave a contact card and details at the door and to speak with neighbours to ascertain the person’s whereabouts.

Catch Words : Welfare Check : Suicide: WA Police

Last updated: 22-Mar-2022

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