Police actions in another fiery Queensland domestic violence tragedy are under the microscope at a coronial inquest.

A pre-inquest hearing is being held today into the deaths of 49-year-old Doreen Langham and her ex-partner Gary Hely, also 49, died in a fire at a Browns Plains townhouse in February.

Ms Langham called police for help hours before the blaze which claimed her life and that of Mr Hely.

 

Doreen Langham died in a fire at a Browns Plains townhouse in February.
Doreen Langham died in a fire at a Browns Plains townhouse in February.

 

Chief Superintendent Brian Swan later confirmed that the call was made, saying the incident was being treated as deaths 'in relation to a police operation'.

"Inquiries indicate that on the night before the fire there was a phone call made to police. Police did attend the unit at least a couple of hours before the fire," he said at the time.

Deputy Coroner Jane Bentley is probing the adequacy of the police response to Ms Langham's Triple 0 call the night before the fire.

 

Chief Superintendent Brian Swan. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
Chief Superintendent Brian Swan. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT

 

Gary Hely also died in the fire.
Gary Hely also died in the fire.

 

She is also examining the adequacy of the police response to Ms Langham's complaints about Mr Hely, and will recommend whether any changes to procedures or policies are needed to prevent a similar tragedy.

The inquest follows last month's horrific death of Gold Coast mum Kelly Wilkinson, who was allegedly set on fire by her estranged husband, Brian Johnston, in the backyard of her Arundel home.

The Courier-Mail revealed that Johnston walked from police custody on serious charges without even having to apply for bail just eight days before allegedly killing Ms Wilkinson.

Police Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd described the tragedy as 'a failure'.

"She had engaged with the system, with us, and we were unable to prevent this from occurring," he said.

 

 

Investigators comb through the fire ruins by shovel and hand where the two bodies where found in Browns Plains. PICTURE: Brad Fleet
Investigators comb through the fire ruins by shovel and hand where the two bodies where found in Browns Plains. PICTURE: Brad Fleet

 

Counsel assisting the coroner, Kathryn McMahon, told the pre-inquest hearing that a temporary domestic violence order naming Ms Langham as the aggrieved and Mr Hely as the respondent was issued on February 9, about two weeks before the fatal fire.

Ms McMahon said Ms Langham reported 'repeated' breaches of the order to police between February 14 and 17 and had the locks changed on the unit which Mr Hely had been banned from.

Ms Langham had phoned Triple 0 at 11.21pm on February 21 but police did not attend for more than an hour.

When they did, they left after no-one answered the door, Ms McMahon told the hearing.

At 3.55am on February 22, a neighbour phoned police to say that the unit was on fire.

Officers had arrived to find the residence 'fully engulfed' in flames and the bodies of Ms Langham and Mr Hely inside.

The Coroners Court heard that separate investigations into the tragedy by the Ethical Standards Command and Homicide Squad were expected to be completed by August.

The matter was adjourned until September 15 for another pre-inquest hearing.

 

Originally published as Cops' actions under microscope after fiery DV tragedy



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