Counselling and support services should be established for people involved in coronial proceedings, a Queensland coroner has recommended after a Brisbane nurse took her own life before she was expected to give evidence at an inquest.
Marcia Maynard, a nurse at the Woodford Correctional Centre, was expected to give evidence to an inquest into the 2012 death of a prisoner, Garnet Mickelo.
Handing down his findings on Wednesday in Brisbane, Coroner John Lock found Mrs Maynard became distressed and anxious about the upcoming hearings and the need for her to provide evidence.
After attending a conference with Queensland Nurses Union lawyers in September 2015, she wrote a letter to the counsel assisting the inquest saying she could not take the stress any longer.
“I now have been told they are gunning for me,” Mrs Maynard wrote.
Her lawyer said his client had not used the phrase to imply anyone was blaming her for the death of Mr Mickelo.
Mrs Maynard wrote further letters to her husband, daughter and lawyers indicating her increasing stress at the proceedings and the stress of her workplace.
She also updated her will and changed her power of attorney before booking into a hotel room on September 29 and overdosing on insulin.
The nurse was found unconscious by hotel staff the next day, and was rushed to Redcliffe Hospital, where she died on October 3.
The coroner found Mrs Maynard had committed suicide due to the stress of her involvement in the coronial inquest into Mr Mickelo’s death, along with anxiety and stress over her intense workplace and a conviction that someone was “gunning for her”.
“There is little doubt that Mrs Maynard was experiencing considerable anxiety about the evidence she was to give at the inquest into Mr Mickelo’s death,” the coroner found.
“She also expressed concern she was the only member of nursing staff who was being called to give evidence, even though there were other staff who had some contact with Mr Mickelo after her last contact.”
No drugs or drug paraphernalia were found at the hotel by paramedics attending, or by the police officers who secured the hotel room, but the coroner was told a garbage chute was 15 metres from the room door.
The room was also cleaned and the bed stripped before the police officer in charge arrived.
Plain Clothes Senior Constable Rogers was named as initial investigator, but did not request CCTV footage from the hotel until July 2016, by which time it had been wiped.
The coroner found that Mrs Maynard had likely obtained the insulin through her work at the correctional centre, and that her mental state was influenced by health issues and stresses at work.
“In a letter to her husband dated 29 September 2015, Mrs Maynard also referred to Woodford not being a healthy work site,” the coroner found.
“She referred to the number of inmates increasing but with no extra support; Code Blues being called by prison officers 3-4 times a night; and until recently only one nurse being on night shift.
“The inquest did not explore those issues in any detail but it is evident these are perennial issues facing the medical staff at Woodford.”
The coroner recommended the state government establish a counselling and support service for witnesses, families and anyone likely to be impacted by a coronial investigation.
The coroner offered his condolences to the family and friends of Mrs Maynard.