The family of a woman killed by her mentally unwell ex-partner, a man who absconded from hospital, say they were failed by Victoria’s mental health system and now cannot get answers out of the hospital or police.
Kim Lynch was killed by her former partner and her body left in a cupboard in his unit, about a week after he was granted three hours of leave by Dandenong Hospital, where he was an involuntary patient being treated for a schizophrenic illness.
The man, who cannot be named, was admitted on January 30, 2016 in a psychotic state and six days later was granted permission to leave for three hours, on the condition he stayed with his grandmother the whole time.
He had his grandmother take him to see Ms Lynch, but then refused to return to hospital. The grandmother called the hospital, which, the Supreme Court heard, contacted police.
But for more than a week from February 5, 2016, the man was on the loose until he called triple zero on February 14, and asked to be readmitted to hospital. After he absconded he used the drug ice.
On February 20 that year, the man called his stepfather and asked him to transfer what was in the cupboard to the shed.
When asked what was in the cupboard, the man told his stepfather: ‘‘b-o and two more letters.’’ He also told the stepfather he heard voices in his head and believed they would kill him unless he killed Ms Lynch.
Police that day found Ms Lynch’s body in the cupboard. Her neck had been compressed and police believe she was killed days earlier.
The ex-partner was later found not guilty of murder by way of mental impairment.
He has a psychotic schizophrenic illness and acquired brain injury and a history of drug use.
On Monday, after Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth ordered the killer be transferred from prison to the Thomas Embling psychiatric hospital because a bed was finally available, Ms Lynch’s family said they still didn’t know what checks were made on the pair when authorities were alerted he wouldn’t return to hospital.
‘‘We don’t know. All this time no one will tell us anything. He was gone for a whole week,’’ Ms Lynch’s mother, Karen Begg, said.
The family say they have at least 20 questions that remain unanswered, primarily what steps Dandenong Hospital doctors took in granting the man leave, and what police did to find him or Ms Lynch once they were alerted he hadn’t returned to hospital.
Ms Lynch’s family said the 41-year-old wanted to get away from her former partner because of his violence in the three or four months they were together.
Her death is the subject of a coronial investigation, and her family hopes their questions are answered at an open inquest.
Ms Begg said it was ‘‘just pathetic’’ authorities had not answered their questions in the two-and-a-half years since her daughter’s death, and believed police and medical staff failed in their duty of care to Ms Lynch and her killer.
They should have known he was a danger, she said.
Ms Begg said she always feared her daughter would come across someone like her former partner.
‘‘And I couldn’t stop it. No one would listen to me. No one would help me,’’ she said.
‘‘The mental health system failed both those people. They failed me, they failed her sisters, they failed everyone. They’ve ended up now with another family that has got a lot of mental health issues.
‘‘And there is a million of us out there like it because they don’t step in when they need to. They really don’t try hard enough. They spend all this money in the bloody courts picking up the pieces.
‘‘Maybe if they put the same amount of money into helping people from the start it wouldn’t get this far.’’
Dandenong Hospital has declined to comment. Victoria Police has been contacted for comment.
Justice Hollingworth said there was no evidence ‘‘as to what, if any, steps the police took to locate’’ the man and return him to hospital over the week.
She committed the man to be treated at Thomas Embling, for a nominal period of 25 years. He has been in prison since his arrest — more than 900 days — while he waited for a bed to become available at the psychiatric hospital.
Justice Hollingworth said the court was often frustrated by the shortage of beds at the hospital and acknowledged that the delay would have added to the anguish and grief felt by Ms Lynch’s family.