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Ms Dhu's Death Could Have Been Prevented, Coroner Finds

Police acted unprofessionally and inhumanely towards the 22-year-old.

16/12/2016 1:59 PM AEDT | Updated 16/12/2016 6:16 PM AEDT

The harrowing final moments of an aboriginal woman's life while in custody in Western Australia have come to light in footage released after her family won their fight to "show the world the truth" of how she was treated by police officers and medical staff prior to her death in 2014.

The death of Ms Dhu, 22, could have been prevented if she had been given antibiotics, while police acted unprofessionally and inhumanely, a coroner has found.

Ms Dhu died two days after being locked up at South Hedland Police Station in August 2014 for having $3622 in unpaid fines.

She died in hospital from staphylococcal septicaemia and pneumonia after an infection in her fractured ribs spread to her lungs, and spent days complaining about the pain.

Ms Dhu, who was dying, was unable to be comforted by the presence of her loved ones. She very sadly spent her final hours at the Lock-Up with persons who misunderstood the acceleration of the infective process, thought she was feigning her symptoms, and in the process, disregarded her welfare and her right to humane and dignified treatment.

Ms Dhu's family have said they will look to push for all those involved in her "inhumane and unprofessional" treatment to be prosecuted now that the coroner's findings have been revealed.

Some police testified during the inquest they thought Ms Dhu, whose first name is not being used for cultural reasons, was faking her illness and was coming down off drugs.

Some medical staff also thought she was exaggerating.

Coroner Ros Fogliani said Ms Dhu's death could have been prevented if her illness had been diagnosed days earlier.

"Regrettably the actions of some of the clinicians at HHC were affected by premature diagnostic closure, and errors were made," the Coroner's report said in part.

"Ms Dhu's suffering as she lay close to death at the Lock-Up was compounded by the unprofessional and inhumane actions of some of the police officers there.

"All of the persons involved were affected, to differing degrees, by underlying preconceptions about Ms Dhu that were ultimately reflected, not in what they said about her, but in how they treated her."

Dhu's grandmother Carol Roe told The Guardian she felt as though she had lost her granddaughter again.

"Her birthday is in 10 days' time," she said.

"We are supposed to celebrate Christmas but we can't because there's one missing in my family. I have to go to the cemetery, that's my Christmas."

Footage of Ms Dhu's final moments will be publicly released after her family won their fight to "show the world the truth" about how she was treated.


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