How police, courts failed slain mum

A MELBOURNE mum stabbed to death outside her lawyer's office by her violent estranged partner barely an hour after she finalised a family violence intervention order against him was failed by police, courts and social services prior to her death, a coroner has found.

A coronial review into the 2014 murder of Fiona Warzywoda, 33, at the hands of her ex-husband Craig McDermott found "several lost opportunities" for intervention to protect the mother of four.

Four recommendations to improve the justice system's handling of family violence were handed down on Thursday, including for Victoria Police to record phone calls relating to a family violence incident.

Fiona Warzywoda.
Fiona Warzywoda.

Ms Warzywoda was stabbed six times to the head, neck and upper chest by McDermott outside her solicitor's office in Sunshine on April 16.

The public killing came after years of family violence and just an hour and 20 minutes after a court denied McDermott access to their four children.

McDermott is serving a 25-year jail sentence for the murder.

McDermott followed the mother from Sunshine Magistrates' Court after she had filed for an IVO protecting her and their children from him.

He bought a knife at a local store and waited in a cafe until she emerged from the building before repeatedly stabbing her before onlookers on the street.

Ms Warzywoda alerted several authorities who held key information on the significant threat McDermott posed in the months prior to her murder.

Coroner Audrey Jamieson found these services failed to make proper inquiries, adequately assess risk of family violence and share information concerning serious risk before closing investigations or discontinuing support for Ms Warzywoda.

Fiona Warzywoda’s grieving brother, Paul Judge.
Fiona Warzywoda’s grieving brother, Paul Judge.

Victoria Police was identified as failing Ms Warzywoda on four occasions, including on the day she was killed.

A police officer failed to take further action after Ms Warzywoda reported she had been threatened by McDermott at Sunshine Magistrates' Court on April 16.

The court also found Child Protection Services' failed to assist Ms Warzywoda following the death threat, including by failing to undertake safety planning and risk assessments.

The coroner said an inquest into the circumstances leading to Ms Warzywoda was not necessary due to changes made following the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

Ms Warzywoda suffered substantial abuse throughout her 18-year relationship with McDermott.

In 2010, McDermott reportedly strangled and assaulted the mum in front of their children before pouring petrol throughout the house and threatening to burn it down.

READ MORE:

HOW FIONA WAS TERRORISED FOR YEARS

EX FOUND GUILTY OF MUM'S MURDER

Craig McDermott abused his partner throughout their 18-year relationship. Picture: David Crosling
Craig McDermott abused his partner throughout their 18-year relationship. Picture: David Crosling

 

CORONIAL RECOMMENDATIONS:

• Victoria Police record phone calls relating to family violence incidents in a system which enables officers to check involved parties

• Victoria Police and No To Violence/Men's Referral Services consider a monitoring system which enables police to contact family violence perpetrators subject to a L17 referral

• Victoria Police officers undergo training around how withholding children creates a greater risk to adult and child family violence victims

• Federal Court of Australia develop guidelines for security guards to ensure threats of family violence are recorded and reported to Victoria Police and Family Advocacy and Support Services.

If you or someone you know is impacted by family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.

Craig McDermott.
Craig McDermott.
Fiona Warzywoda was failed by police on four occasions.
Fiona Warzywoda was failed by police on four occasions.


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