Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Scott Andrew BLANCHARD

Inquest into the Death of Scott Andrew BLANCHARD

Delivered on :20 September 2018

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Vicker

Recommendations :Yes

I recommend WA Police Health and Welfare Division use the Police intranet to emphasise to serving members that their families should be made aware of the availability of its services. The development of a family internet would be beneficial provided there was a way to ensure families were made aware of available services.

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : On 24 July 2015 the deceased was an on duty police officer as part of a Gang Crime Squad operation supervising the activity of an outlaw motorcycle gang. The operation required some members of the Gang Crime Squad to travel to Kalgoorlie. Shortly before arriving in Kalgoorlie the convoy of officers stopped for a break and the deceased walked a short distance into the bush before using his operational firearm to shoot himself in the chest. The deceased was 45 years of age.

The deceased appeared to cope well with his job as a police officer and appeared to manage well with the stressors which are part of all police officers’ lives. In May 2015 the deceased attended a conference in Thailand and returned home where he noticed a rash on his back and became concerned he had developed a medical condition when, in early June, he developed cold like symptoms. He attended his GP and was tested for a number ailments including some related to possible infections as a result of the trip to Thailand, such as dengue fever. The deceased remained concerned about the possibility he had developed a medical condition which was undiagnosed.

On the morning of 24 July 2015 the deceased travel with a small group deployed to travel to Kalgoorlie. Although the group did not know the deceased well, they described him as being approachable, easy to work with and a good supervisor. One officer who had known the deceased for a long time but was not aware of any issues with the deceased, had observed the deceased seemed quieter and withdrawn in the weeks preceding the 24 July 2015.

The deceased’s wife communicated by text message to him during the journey about normal every day things, including providing him with the latest test results from his GP which were all normal. Other police officers who came into contact with the deceased during the course of the journey detected nothing different about his demeanour, he appeared relaxed and alert with respect to the job on hand, and there were no concerns as to his welfare or involvement.

The deceased, as the driver of his vehicle, pulled over and indicated he wished to urinate. All three vehicles pulled onto the north side of the highway. The deceased walked approximately 30-40 metres into the bush and stood behind a large tree. He could be seen partially through the bush when officers standing beside the road heard what was variously described as a pop, and all police officers recognised it as a gunshot. Initially there was little concern, as it was believed the deceased may have disturbed something in the bush, but on looking in the direction it became apparent the deceased was no longer standing upright, but his form could be seen on the ground alongside the tree.

Officers ran to the deceased and found a gunshot wound to his chest, pressure was applied to the deceased’s wound and CPR continued until St John Ambulance Service despatched from Kalgoorlie attended. Ambulance officers provided life support in an attempt to preserve the deceased’s airways and he was taken to Kalgoorlie Emergency Department. Despite continued attempts to treat the deceased at the Kalgoorlie Hospital he was unable to be saved.

The Deputy State Coroner was satisfied the deceased was aware of the services of the Health and Welfare Division which the WA Police Service provided, however he chose to access his personal GP for a more practical approach to his concerns. The evidence supported the deceased had a good relationship with his GP and was comfortable talking to him about his concerns. He became obsessed that those concerns were un-diagnosable and consequently took matters into his owns hands as a way of coping with his perception of his threat to those around him and those he loved.

The Deputy State Coroner was satisfied from the information provided that WA Police Health and Safety Division are actively attempting to engage police officers and their families with assistance in managing stress or issues which may arise in the course of their employment regardless of the differences in an individual’s resilience or response to various stressors. In this context the Deputy State Coroner made the recommendation to highlight and improve members families awareness of the availability of the service.

Catch Words : WA Health and Safety Division : Communication and Promotion of Services : Suicide.

Last updated: 30-Apr-2019

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