The family of a nurse killed while working says security was not a high enough priority and SafeWork SA should get the chance to prosecute her employer.
The family of a nurse killed while working says security was not a high enough priority and SafeWork SA should get the chance to prosecute her employer.

Family slams ‘inconceivable’ failure before nurse's murder

The family of a nurse who was abducted and murdered while working in a remote Indigenous community has asked for the Deputy Coroner to refer the death to SafeWork SA for possible prosecution.

Gayle Woodford was lured from the property she shared with her husband Keith in Fregon on March 24, 2016, by Dudley Davey.

Her body was found two days later in a shallow grave on the outskirts of Fregon.

Ms Woodford had been working as a nurse for the Nganampa Health Council and was on-call the night she was murdered.

Davey was sentenced to life in prison for the murder which prompted safety reform for nurses and other personnel working in remote communities.

Murderer Dudley Davey after he was arrested for killing Gayle Woodford. Picture: 7 News Adelaide
Murderer Dudley Davey after he was arrested for killing Gayle Woodford. Picture: 7 News Adelaide

During closing submissions in a lengthy inquest into the circumstances surrounding her death Simon Blewett, for the Woodford family, asked Deputy Coroner Anthony Schapel to refer his findings to SafeWork SA.

Despite conducting an initial investigation into the death, Mrs Woodford's family maintained that only "lip service" had been paid to the case.

While Mr Schapel cannot make a direct recommendation that SafeWork, which enforces workplace safety, prosecute the Health Council, by making the recommendation the matter can once again be investigated.

In his closing submissions Mr Blewett took aim at claims from senior Health Council personnel that they were not aware of the safety issues affecting Fregon.

"It is inconceivable that the Board would not have known what was going on a Fregon," he said.

"The priority of the health and treatment of the community was put ahead of the significant safety risk to the nurses.

"(The Nganampa Health Council) was blinded to the significance of that safety risk."

The Woodford family asked Mr Schapel to recommend a permanent police presence in Fregon, for the Health Council to ensure nurses worked in pairs, even during the day, and for the rules around high risk offenders being released into the APY lands to be reviewed.

David Busuttil arrives at the Adelaide Coroners Court in Adelaide. Picture: AAP
David Busuttil arrives at the Adelaide Coroners Court in Adelaide. Picture: AAP

Kevin Gilchrist, acting for Health Council manager Dr David Bussuttil said there was not a "dismissive culture" of safety concerns within the business.

He said the safety practices in place were adequate when dealing with the issues nurses were likely to face in Fregon: domestic violence and what he termed "belligerent conduct".

In reviewing the foreseeability of Mrs Woodford's fate, Mr Gilchrist warned against the "insidious menace" of hindsight bias.

"The (safety) system should not be judged by the fear that there was a rogue Dudley Davey lurking behind every tree," he said.

Counsel assisting the Coroner Ahura Kalali asked Mr Schapel to make three recommendations, all to remedy the circumstances which led to Davey's release into the community.

He recommended that Corrections offer literacy classes to all prisoners from the time they are taken into custody as well as implementing sexual offender rehabilitation training for low literacy prisoners.

Originally published as Family slams 'inconceivable' failure before Fregon murder


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