News National Coronial inquest into Gayle Woodford murder urges better protection for outback nurses

Coronial inquest into Gayle Woodford murder urges better protection for outback nurses

Gayle Woodford was murdered and her body found in a shallow grave two days after her disappearance. Photo; Facebook
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

A South Australian coroner has made 12 recommendations in the wake of the murder of outback nurse Gayle Woodford, including banning high-risk offenders from living or going to the APY Lands.

Ms Woodford was raped and murdered by Dudley Davey in March 2016, in the remote community of Fregon in South Australia’s APY Lands where she lived and worked.

The 56-year-old nurse, who was employed by the Ngampa Health Council (NHC), was on call alone on the night she was abducted, raped and killed after responding to Davey who was seeking medical assistance.

He was on parole for a previous offence of indecently assaulting a 17-year-old girl at the time.

In 2017, Davey was sentenced to life in prison with a non-parole period of 32 years for Ms Woodford’s rape and murder.

A 2020 coronial inquest was intended to probe the overall safety of on-call remote area nurses, the police presence in remote communities and Davey’s release from prison prior to the attack.

Ms Woodford’s death prompted Gayle’s Law in her honour, as well as an inquest. Photo: Keith Woodford

Ms Woodford’s death previously prompted the establishment of Gayle’s Law, which requires a second responder to be present during out of hours or unscheduled medical call-outs in remote communities.

Deputy coroner Anthony Schapel has gone further, recommending that health practitioners should always be accompanied by a responsible person en route to any call-out “regardless of the time of day or night”, and that health practitioners should not provide medical assistance at their private residence.

Throughout the inquest, Mr Schapel heard authorities had advised against Davey’s release on parole — deeming him to be a high-risk of violent re-offending.

The inquest heard that APY Lands police had warned NHC management not to allow nurses to work alone and that the health organisation had never carried out a risk assessment of nurses working alone until after Ms Woodford’s death.

“The obvious solution for the NHC would have been to make provision for nurses to be accompanied by another person when working on-call at night and to have called for the necessary funding, a measure that took Mrs Woodford’s murder to come to realisation,” the coroner stated.

“Mrs Woodford’s death could thereby have been prevented.”

Doctors and nurses who worked at the Fregon Health Clinic with Ms Woodford also told the inquest that Fregon had a high level of violence and that the community needed both a permanent police presence and a safe house for women and children to escape domestic violence.