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Family Of Woman Who Died In Jail Is Taunted By Cruel Comments Online

"If you don't break the law, you don't die in custody. Simple".

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This week's coronial inquest into the death of 22-year-old Indigenous woman Miss Dhu in Perth last year has seen the Yamatji woman targeted with a flood of online comments suggesting she deserved to die, her family says.

Miss Dhu's uncle Shaun Harris (Supplied)

"The racism thown at my dead niece and her case, along with all the assumptions about her character since her passing last year has been downright disgraceful and pathetic," Dhu's uncle Shaun Harris told BuzzFeed News.

Dhu was locked up in August 2014 for $3,622 in unpaid fines. Forty-eight hours after being taken into custody she was dead.

Today marks the end of the first week of a two-week coronial inquest into Dhu's death, which will determine if the system failed her.

Harris, who has been actively lobbying for the inquest for the past year says the trauma his family is experiencing in court has been amplified by comments on Facebook.

"The family can’t deal with it and I’ve had to try and deal with it. Take for instance comments on a Channel 7 Facebook post about her as we speak. One that really hurt called her a "leech". I’ve had to put a personal statement up online and my family are getting upset," Harris said.

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A selection of Facebook comments seen by Miss Dhu's family regarding her inquest reveal a number of disturbing sentiments.

Facebook.

While the majority of people were horrified at the details surrounding Dhu's death and sent sympathies to her family, many others suggested that Dhu was responsible for her own death in custody because she had failed to pay her fines.

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Dhu was arrested on Aug. 4, 2014, and held at the South Hedland police station in Western Australia's Pilbara region for unpaid fines. Dhu complained of being unwell several times during her time in custody.

Angie Raphael / AAPIMAGE

The 22-year-old was taken to the Hedland Health Campus three times, the first two times she was sent back to the police station and on the third visit she arrived and died shortly after.

An autopsy found Dhu died from pneumonia and septicaemia, compounded by a broken rib she acquired through domestic violence.

“By the morning of 4 August, 2014, Ms Dhu’s clinical state rapidly worsened, and although it was not appreciated by the police officers involved, some of whom believed that Ms Dhu was feigning her illness, she was in an advanced state of septic shock and only hours from death,” Ilona O’Brien, the counsel assisting coroner Ros Fogliani, told the inquest on Monday.

CCTV vision on the morning of Dhu's death shows that she was vomiting and had fallen back and hit her head on the concrete floor.

Shift supervisor Sergeant Rick Bond, writing in the custody system at the time, ​said, “[Ms Dhu] appears to be suffering withdrawals from drug use and is not coping well with being in custody”.

Dhu was eventually taken to the hospital, her limp body handcuffed and carried to a police paddy wagon. As she is being placed inside the vehicle Dhu moaned in agony and one of the officers told her to "shut up".

At the hospital, Dhu suffered a heart attack, but one of the officers told the nurse on duty that she most likely pretending, the inquest heard.

“Nurse Jones recalled that the police officers reported to her that Ms Dhu was ‘faking it’. However on assessing Ms Dhu, nurse Jones realised that Ms Dhu was in cardio-pulmonary arrest,” O’Brien told the court.

"The health system is just as accountable as the police. Australia has a world-class health system but they can’t diagnose severe pneumonia? They just saw a black person and didn't bother," Harris said.

Facebook.

Dhu's family want a criminal conviction to come from the inquest.

"I’ve always thought a conviction would be appropriate justice, but we’ve never ever had a conviction in Australian history for any [Aboriginal] deaths in custody," Harris said.

"It's still shocking to see the CCTV footage again. Words can’t describe what we [Dhu's family] feel when we watch her last days. It’s eerie, it’s chilling and no one should ever be treated in that way regardless of their colour".

"The fact that it’s a young 22-year-old young lady who was really sick and was left to die like a dog just makes it even more spine tingling".

The inquest is set to continue for another week.

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Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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