by Luke Costin – The NEWDAILY
Mention of a Taser, a knife and a 95-year-old’s movements were removed from the first public statement NSW Police drafted about the fatal stunning of the great-grandmother, new documents reveal.
Clare Nowland was tasered during a confrontation with police while walking with a frame and holding a steak knife at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma on May 17.
The mother-of-eight, who had dementia, died a week later in hospital.
A 71-word press release, approved by Police Commissioner Karen Webb was issued 12 hours after Mrs Nowland was injured but provided little detail about her “interaction with police”.
“No further details are available at this time,” it said.
But documents released under freedom of information laws reveal the statement was published after police slashed a much-longer draft that included several key details, including the use of the Taser.
The 171-word draft prepared by the NSW Police Media Unit outlined how police responded at 4.15am to reports that an aged care home resident had a knife and found a woman “still armed … in a small room”.
“Police and paramedics attempted to speak to the woman; however, all instructions were ignored,” it said.
“When she stood up and moved towards officers, a Taser was deployed by a constable.”
The draft noted the woman was treated by paramedics at the scene and left space for her latest hospital condition to be included.
The published statement omitted both details, stating her condition was “being monitored” in hospital.
The officer’s job being placed under review was also removed.
Mrs Nowland was unnamed in both versions, as per standard police procedure.
Police did not publicly comment on the incident again until after multiple media reports emerged more than 36 hours after the tasering.
In an extraordinary press conference on May 19, Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter detailed how Mrs Nowland had a serrated steak knife in a small treatment room when she moved slowly towards officers and was tasered.
“She had a walking frame but she had a knife,” he said.
Ms Webb later defended the decision to omit mention of the Taser in the first press release, of which she had oversight.
“It was important the family was informed of the situation in a factual matter before we went public on it,” she told Sydney radio 2GB on May 22.
“That’s very necessary and I’m sure that family appreciates that now.”
She denied police were hiding anything, saying the Nowland family deserved to learn about the incident via police, not media reports.
The incident sparked calls for more independent police oversight and the release of the police body camera footage.
Opposition Attorney General spokesperson Alister Henskens on Wednesday accused police of a “cover-up”.
“It’s come to light that there has been a cover-up and the question is, what action is the police minister going to take to investigate?” he said in NSW State Parliament.
The officer who fired the stun weapon has since been suspended with pay and charged with three offences, including recklessly causing grievous bodily harm.
Senior Constable Kristian White, 33, will appear in a Cooma court on July 5.