Dead but Still Live


tags: NSW Police, coronial, death,

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By Paul Devaney

From the September 2020 issue of the APJ.

Bayview is a leafy suburb north of Sydney, close to transport and the golden beaches of the peninsula making it an attractive location for retirees and the elderly. There are a number of large retirement villages in Bayview. It is unusual to be called to these villages for elderly deceased as most do not progress to police involvement.

On arrival I was met by the attending police, Constable Lieschke and Probationary Constable Lyttle. At that time of night, as you would expect, most persons would have been asleep and the peaceful night air was only interrupted by the sound of loud jazz music coming from unit 50. Whilst I thought this was unusual for that time of night, I was informed that management had indicated the occupant was hard of hearing.

After donning latex gloves so as not to contaminate any potential crime scene, Constable Lieschke and I entered the unit where I immediately smelt a strong odour of disinfectant. A quick check of the unit revealed a very clean, neat and tidy unit, with nothing out of place. In the bathroom I saw the body of Ms Blanch, clearly deceased, slumped in a semi-seated position in the shower. 

I could see the deceased was holding a white handled flexible shower hose in her right hand and that the shower was still running. Wishing to preserve the crime scene we exited the building and awaited the arrival of our crime scene officer, Detective Sergeant Phil Elliott. I had worked with Phil on many jobs and knew how professional and meticulous he was with his investigations. Phil didn’t realise it at the time but this would be one of his most unusual investigations. 

Shortly after Detective Elliott’s arrival, Constable Lyttle and I, again wearing latex gloves, entered the unit. After a general examination of the unit Detective Elliott and Constable Lyttle began an examination of the deceased and due to the small size of the bathroom, I watched from the hallway. As they opened the shower door the body of the deceased, still holding the white handled flexible shower head, began to slowly move. As this occurred, I smelt the familiar smell of decomposition gases, which I normally would have associated with persons that had been deceased for longer periods of time. I saw Phil turn the shower tap off and I walked towards the front door for a breath of fresh air. As I did this I thought I heard Phil yell, “Paul, she’s alive.” I replied, “No mate, nice try, she’s definitely dead.” Phil then answered rather urgently, “No, she’s live.” 

I walked back into the bathroom and I could see a small trail of smoke coming from the right hand of the deceased. 

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