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Inquest Transcript
Emergency Services
 
 
An audiotape of phone-calls between Mardi McLean and Emergency Services re the late Mitch Collins. The first voice was recorded at 12.38.04pm on 16.12.00, up to two hours after Mitch died.

Compiled by Patrick and Desley Collins (Mitch’s parents).

The following is provided in the hope that it will trigger memories in persons who perhaps have evidence, hearsay or otherwise, about Mitch’s death, but have never passed this on to police or to us. If this applies to you, please take appropriate action: eg let us know, even if you will not talk to police. We also hope that what we have written will be of value to Mitch’s relations and friends who have never heard the Emergency Services tape.


Background: In Mardi McLean’s police statement of 1.03.01, she swore that at around 10.00am on 16.12.00, she saw Mitch inject himself before he moaned and lay back on his bed. In her words, “From my previous experience Mitch appeared to be affected by heroin.” Mitch’s business partner, who produced his supporting phone records during the inquest, told the Coroner that he had talked with McLean at 10.15am, when she said Mitch was asleep. During another call at 11.15am she told him that she could not wake Mitch. However, she did not mention heroin. From Paramedic Sankey’s evidence below, it is possible that Mitch had died close to the time of the above calls. However, McLean said that Mitch was alive and snoring when she supposedly went to lunch with her mother at around 11.15am. There is no other confirmed evidence about what went on at Mitch’s home until McLean phoned Emergency Services at around 12.38pm. However, she hung up without providing any information. The details are below.
 

History of the Tape:

1. The tape was Exhibit No 43 when first played as evidence on 12.09.01 during Mitch’s inquest, which had commenced on 20.08.01. It subsequently became evidence in DOA Case 84063, after Prosecutor Michael Byrne charged Mardi McLean with Mitch’s murder. The original tape, which is now held by the Office of the State Coroner, is part of the public record and can be accessed with appropriate approvals. Mitch’s relations and friends are welcome to listen to a copy held by us. We will also consider requests by email from some others.

2. It was the former Brisbane Coroner Michael Halliday, via Detective Senior Sergeant Marty Turpin from the Coroner’s Office, who instigated the recovery of the tape of several pertinent phone calls. An investigating detective did the legwork, but not until the Coroner sought the tape. Emergency Services had previously advised us in writing and by phone, that only one phone call had been made to them re Mitch. However, governmental officials advised us that some of the calls on this tape had possibly been diverted to and recorded by police.

3. Regardless of the circumstances, we are at a loss to understand why investigating detectives and/or their senior officers with whom we discussed Mitch’s death, did not recover this tape during the eight months prior to his inquest. By contrast, they investigated every available avenue in their failed attempts to prove that Mitch had been a heroin user. More pertinently, they investigated numerous other phone records. This included downloading a Sim card from a large old mobile phone recovered by us from Mitch’s home. Although they verified this belonged to an unknown female heroin addict, a detective attempted to induce Patrick to sign a statement that it was from Mitch’s mobile phone. When Patrick refused because he did not know whose phone it was, the detective would not take a statement from him.


4. The following transcript from the Emergency Services tape was made by us, from a tape copy we acquired with the approval of the former Brisbane Coroner Michael Halliday. Our tape copy was enhanced by Jumpstart Productions on 16.11.05, and a copy of our transcript was provided to the Office of the DPP. Senior journalist, Hedley Thomas from The Australian, listened to the whole tape while reading our transcript, but he found no discrepancies.

5. The key call times in the transcript were provided by the investigating Detective Senior Constable in evidence before Coroner Halliday (pp.455-56 of the Inquest Transcript). The DSC stated that these times were entered in handwriting on a log of calls. Other times were calculated from elapsed time periods.


6. Mardi McLean did not know of the existence of the Emergency Services tape when she made her police statement on 1.03.01. She similarly had no idea that Coroner Halliday would later acquire and play the tape after she had been examined about her police statement and other evidence. In both instances, she gave evidence that totally contradicted what she told Emergency Services, the paramedics, the police and the Coroner. Her major contradictions are included as notes below, and also following the transcript.


7. We provided versions of the following to both Prosecutor Michael Byrne and Magistrate Michael Halliday.

Introduction:

When reading the following extracts from the transcript, please note: McLean never mentioned Mitch’s name, although she was living in his home and she later tried to convince the Coroner that she had known Mitch for most of her life. She first referred to him as: “um it’s just a friend of mine”, and later as “this man”. Elsewhere she used masculine pronouns to identify him. The transcript does not reveal that throughout the first call in which her voice was heard, she sounded nonchalant and light-hearted. This was before she revealed where she was or that Mitch was in dire need. However, from Senior Paramedic Craig Sankey’s inquest evidence [p.259], based on lividity (colour from settled blood) on Mitch’s back at 1.12pm, he had been dead for more than thirty minutes, but it could have been for two hours or more.
 

Under further examination by the Coroner, he said it was at least two hours (p.263). In other words, Mitch had possibly been dead for up to two hours when McLean nonchalantly told Emergency Services that he was OK at 12.38.50pm (see below).

______________

Annotated Text of the Emergency Audio-tape 16.12.00. 
 

Note 1:            From McLean’s police statement [para 28], she swore that she came home from lunch and found Mitch lying with his shoulders on the floor. She continued that she lifted “him back onto his bed … and I ran straight to the phone in his room and rang 000”: i.e. she did not claim that she had seen needles on his floor or that she had picked them up prior to the first 000 call. However, the only available floor space was beside or under Mitch’s body, which was three metres from his phone: i.e. if his shoulders had been on the floor.
 

12.37.34pm:    McLean phoned Emergency Services but hung up without providing data re Mitch’s condition or his
(approx).          name, address or telephone number. Nothing from this call is on our copy of the audiotape.

12.38.04pm.    The first call (on our tape copy) was of the following conversation between two Emergency
(offical time)   Services operators who had noted Mitch’s phone number, presumably from their “Caller ID” devices:

Operator 1:      Ambulance. Where is your emergency?

Operator 2:      Yes.  The caller asked for an ambulance, but she’s hung up.

Operator 1:      O.K. and that’s at the 384  sorry 8446156. [i.e. 38446156]

Operator 2:      That’s it.

Operator 1:      O.K.

Operator 2:      Thank you, Bye.

Operator 1:      Bye.  [From elapsed time this was at 12.38.15pm].

The sound of a sustained dial tone can be heard, followed by the sound of a phone being hung up. We do not know if McLean had lifted the phone and then put it down.

Phone ringing.

12.38.26pm (official time): There was a “tracer call” made by an Emergency Services operator and answered by McLean on a land-line in Mitch’s bedroom, where he lay dead on his nearby bed.

McLean:          Hello.

Operator          Hello This is Rebecca calling from the ambulance.

McLean:           Yeah, I’m uh I’m sorry, it’s alright.

Operator:         Are you sure?

McLean:           Yeah.

Operator:         What was the problem?

McLean:           Oh no, it’s just um a friend of mine, but he’s O.K.

Operator:         Are you sure?

McLean:           Yeah.

Operator:         O.K.

Mclean:            Thanks. [From elapsed time, McLean hung up at 12.38.50pm].

Note 2:            McLean stated the above in a light-hearted voice. This contrasts markedly with the voice she adopted with the paramedics at the end of the tape.

 Note 3: According to McLean in her “Statement to Police” [para 28], she rubbed Mitch’s legs throughout the above, which she presented as one phone call: i.e. she did not mention that she had hung up without giving Mitch’s address and other details. It was during this supposed single call, and supposedly prior to her telling the operator that her “friend” was O.K. that McLean swore that she saw needles on Mitch’s floor: i.e. she could not have picked up the alleged needles prior to the end of the second, i.e. the tracer call at 12.38.50pm.

Note 4: From paragraph 30 of her police statement and her inquest evidence, McLean swore that she picked up needles in Mitch’s room after the above two calls (which she had presented as a single call made by her): i.e. after 12.38.50pm. During the inquest [pp.77-78, on 20.08.01] she said that it took about 7 minutes to pick up 23 or more needles and to hide them in her room before returning to check on Mitch and then hurrying to Jayson Spencer for assistance. Jayson, whose unit was about 50 metres from Mitch’s, was coincidentally on the phone. His Telstra records confirmed that he terminated his call at 12.39.55pm. As he estimated this was 12secs after she arrived at his gate, she was there at about 12.39.42pm. This was 52 seconds after she told an operator that Mitch was OK and terminated that call at 12.38.50pm. She therefore could not have spent 7 minutes cleaning up needles etc.

With Jayson’s permission, we provided copies of his phone records for 16.12.00 to Prosecutor Byrne and to Magistrate Halliday.   

Note 5:  Jayson and McLean then went to Mitch’s town house where, according to Jayson, under instructions from him she phoned for an ambulance.

Transcript of tape resumed:

Phone dial tone (or ringing). It stopped after a few seconds: This was 30secs prior to a call answered by Emergency Services at 12.41.42pm (below).

Phone ringing There were only two rings: This was 9secs prior to the call answered by Emergency Services at 12.41.42pm (below).

Note 6: There appears to be a gap in the recording immediately after the above rings. Although it is unlikely, it is possible that these few seconds were accidentally erased. It is also possible that this was at the junction of data acquired from two call centre systems and copied onto a single tape. An Emergency Services officer told Desley that one “system” had recorded a (second tracer) call below at 12.43pm [actually 12.42.26pm], and another “system” had recorded all of the previous calls.

12.41.42pm (official time):  The third call with recorded voices: This was by McLean to Emergency Services, when Jayson was with her. It commenced 2mins and 52secs after McLean had hung up the above tracer call at 12.38.50pm, when she told the operator that Mitch was “O.K.” It was also 1min 43secs after Jayson had terminated his above call at 12.39.55.

The text of the third taped conversation follows:

Operator:         Ambulance. Where is your emergency?

McLean:           Hello, um I need, I need an ambulance to um 7 slash 16 [i.e. 7/16]

Operator:         O.K. I spoke to you just a second ago?

McLean:          Yep. Sorry, Barnsley St.  Yep well mate he’s gone blue.

Operator:         What’s wrong?  What has he done?

McLean:          He’s not breathing.  This man’s just gone blue.

Operator:          What has he done to cause that? Has he taken in some heroin or something?          

McLean:        I’ve no idea…silence…. It’s really desperate.

Note 7: From elapsed time this was at 12.42.01pm. It also verifies that McLean withheld knowledge of the heroin in Mitch.

Note 8: There was some emotion in McLean’s voice when she said, “It’s really desperate”, but there was none when she said, “I’ve no idea.”

Transcript resumed:

Operator: Yes. They’re going to come …(.indistinct) …  fast.

Indistinct voice: (Jayson) in the background.

McLean:  He’s dead.

Jayson:    (in the background)   Fuckin hurry ….. [spoken emotionally].

Operator:   Are you there?

McLean:  (to Jayson) Is he dead?

Operator:  O.K.  Are you still there?

Phone again hung up by McLean [From elapsed time this was at 12.42.18pm].

Note 9: McLean did not reveal that she had hung up at this time. Instead, in paragraph 32 of her police statement, she claimed: “The 000 lady kept me on the phone and Jason and I tried to do CPR and mouth to mouth. Not long after the ambulance arrived.” However, it was Jayson who applied the physical CPR.

Transcript continued:

Phone dial tone behind the operator’s voice (starting at 12.42.20pm):

Operator:  She’s hung up on me.  Hang on.

Phone dial tone (separate from the above).

Operator:      She’s just hung up on me.  I’m trying to get it in but she hung up.

Phone ringing

12.42.26pm (official time): The fourth call with recorded conversation:

Note 10: This was a second tracer call from Emergency Services to McLean, when Jayson Spencer was administering CPR to Mitch. The eight-second delay suggests the operator had difficulty getting Mitch’s phone to ring. If so why?

Note 11:  The above call time of 12.42.26pm was given as “12.43pm” earlier in the inquest: i.e. prior to the tape being played on 12.09.01.

Transcript continued:

McLean:     Hello.

Operator:    Hello this is Rebecca. Don’t hang up on me.  How old is he?

McLean:     Um f.. f..  forty.

Operator:    O.K. Now he’s definitely unconscious?

McLean:     Yep, totally.

Operator:     And he’s definitely not breathing.

McLean:      Nope, no breathing.

Operator:    O.K. I’m going to give you instructions.  We’re going to try and start  CPR.  O.K.

McLean:     Right.

Operator:     We have to try and get him breathing O.K. now I want you to, is he close  to the phone where you are?

Note 12:         We have not included approximately 2 minutes of CPR instructions up until Jayson took over from  McLean on the phone. He told the  Coroner’s Court that he did this because McLean was behaving erratically. [From elapsed time this was at 12.44.25pm].
 

Note 13:        Jayson continued CPR until the paramedics arrived. However, the Operator asked the following pertinent question;

Transcript continued at approx 12.48.07pm:

Operator:         The first time I called you back, was he like this?

McLean:           Sorry?

Operator:        When I called you back before?

McLean:           Yep.

Operator:         Was he like it then?

McLean:           No. 

Operator:         O.K.

McLean:           Not this bad, No. Nup.

Note 14:  As previously stated, Mitch was dead well before McLean first called Emergency Services. It is therefore difficult for us to accept condition had deteriorated during post-mortem CPR, when oxygen was                being pumped into him..

Transcript continued [12.50.30pm approx]:

Operator: ….    The crew won’t be very far away.  I’ll just, I’m gonna find out how far off  they are, just hold the line for me.

Jayson             counting pumps

Male:               An indistinct male voice from outside is heard. Presumably a paramedic.

McLean:           Yes (yelling). Upstairs.

Operator:         O.K. They’re there are they?

McLean:           I don’t know.  Somebody is.

Operator:         Did you hear the sirens coming?

McLean:           No.

Footsteps:        The sounds of the paramedics’ footsteps can be heard on Mitch’s wooden internal staircase.

McLean:         Yep.  They’re here.

Operator:         O.K.  You did a really good job.  Bye Bye.

Male voice?      Is there a pulse? [This was a paramedic, possibly Craig Sankey].

                        Has he taken anything?

McLean:           I don’t know.  

Note 15:        The above confirms that McLean did not tell the paramedics that Mitch’s had collapsed from a heroin overdose: i.e. before they commenced CPR and other attempts to revive him.

Transcript continued:

Male voice:     [unintelligible]

Operator:         O.K. They’re there.

McLean:           I don’t know (anxious voice)

Operator:        O.K. I’ll let you go.

Unidentified:   “Stop” [This was probably a marker to indicate the end of the recording].

End of tape     12.50.48pm (official time):

 _______________________________________________________________________

McLean again withheld information about heroin to Paramedics, when CPR was terminated:

As was recorded above, McLean replied, “I don’t know”, when a paramedic asked her, “Has he taken anything?” However, Paramedic Sankey’s “Ambulance Report” (16.12.00) and also his Police Statement (para 15, 3.04.01), record that McLean (Mitch’s “Flat mate”) advised him, after CPR was terminated, that Mitch had taken alcohol and ecstasy, but there was no reference to heroin. During the Inquest, Sankey confirmed that McLean had not mentioned heroin, just alcohol and ecstasy (p.267).

* * *

McLean’s Police Statement and Her Inquest Evidence both Conflict with the Emergency Services Tape re Heroin.

McLean denied knowledge of heroin in Mitch, when asked by an Emergency Services operator on 16.12.00, if he had taken it. However, she swore to police on 1.03.01, that she had witnessed Mitch use heroin twice on 16.12.00 [McLean’s Police Statement para’s 8, 15, 18, 22 & 23]. She repeated these claims when examined during the inquest. However, all of these claims were made after Mitch’s autopsy on 18.12.00, and prior to 12.09.01 when the tape was first played during the inquest.

Similarly, during  an inquest examination on 22.08.01 (p.80), McLean was adamant that she would have told the paramedics that Mitch had taken heroin. However, the Emergency Services tape verifies this was not true.

* * *

McLean Told Several Witnesses that Mitch had died from a heart attack, but she did not mention heroin to those persons.

           (i): Paramedic Sankey’s “Ambulance Report” (16.12.00) mentions that Patrick Collins advised him that there was a family history of sleep apnoea. Patrick raised this issue as McLean had told him she thought Mitch had had a heart attack. Because of McLean’s heart attack scenario, Patrick also phoned Dr Sinton and asked him, when he had completed Mitch’s autopsy on 18.12.00, if Mitch had died from a heart attack. Dr Sinton confirmed that this was not so. Patrick repeated his early acceptance of the heart attack scenario during the inquest (p.8).

            (ii): Paramedic told the Coroner that Mitch was in a state of cardiac arrest and was asystolic (p.261), hence no heart beat defibrillation was conducted. However, he at no time mentioned a heart attack and he did not refer to one in his Ambulance Report or in his Police Statement.

            (iii): McLean, during the inquest (pp.80-81) confirmed that on the day Mitch died, she had told others that he had had a heart attack, but she suggested to the Court that she had been told this by the paramedics. However, this was immediately after she had insisted to the Court that she would have told the paramedics about heroin. 

            (iv):  McLean’s late mother, Michele Cole, told the Coroner that McLean had phoned her on 16.12.00 and said that Mitch had died from a massive heart attack (p’s 185 & 195). Cole also told the Court that she thought McLean had learned this from the paramedics. However, Cole gave her evidence on 21.08.01: i.e. more than two weeks before the Emergency Services tape was played in Court on 12.09.01.

            (v):  Mitch’s step-daughter, Bobbi Spence, told the Coroner that on 16.12.00 McLean had told her that Mitch had had a massive heart attack (p’s 280 & 332).

            (vi): Tyson Cooney, Bobbi Spence’s then partner, told the Coroner that McLean told him that Mitch had had a massive heart attack (p’s 378 & 383).

* * *

Key Issues Verified from the Above Transcript and Related Evidence:

  1. All calls involving Emergency Services were made well after Mitch had died.
  2. McLean made only one call on her own volition, but she terminated this without providing any data about Mitch. The second call she made was under the direction of Jayson Spencer.
  3. McLean hung up, inappropriately, during both of the calls she made.
  4. Emergency Services made two tracer calls to Mitch’s town house, both after McLean had hung up.
  5. McLean said during the first tracer call: “… it’s just um a friend of mine, but he’s O.K.” How could Mitch have been OK two hours post-mortem?
  6. McLean told the Coroner on 20.08.01 (before she heard the tape) that she had spent about 7mins collecting needles, tidying up Mitch’s room etc, checking on him and then seeking assistance from Jayson Spencer. However, the maximum available time was probably less than thirty seconds: i.e. immediately before she went to Spencer’s unit.
  7. She lied to an Emergency Services operator when she replied, “I’ve no idea,” when the operator asked her, “Has he taken heroin or something.”
  8. She lied to paramedics when she replied, “I don’t know,” after they asked her when they arrived, “Has he taken something?”
  9. She withheld information about heroin when she told Paramedic Sankey, after he terminated CPR, that Mitch had taken alcohol and ecstasy, but did not mention heroin.
  10. There is extensive evidence that McLean told others that Mitch had died from a heart attack. She also claimed that the paramedics had said this. However,  Senior Paramedic Sankey did not mention a heart attack in his Ambulance Report, his Police Statement, or under examination during the inquest.
  11. The question must be asked: why did McLean withhold her knowledge of heroin in Mitch’s body, from every person who was at Mitch’s home on the day he died, but instead suggested to several that he had died from a heart attack?
  12. In a pertinent answer she told the Court (p.80) that to protect Mitch’s reputation, she would not have told police about the heroin. However, it was in this context that she had just said she would not have withheld this from the paramedics. The above transcript of course shows otherwise.
  13. The bottom line is: if McLean had genuinely believed that Mitch was still alive but with heroin in his bloodstream, when she first called Emergency Services, why did she withhold this vital awareness from paramedics and all others who could perhaps have saved him?

    Thank you for reading this.
    Patrick and Desley Collins, 7.09.06.

    * * * * *

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