TRACY BEALE’S DEATH: What we know so far

AN ENTOURAGE of family, friends and expert witnesses have gathered in Gladstone this week for the coronial inquest into the 2013 death of Tracy Ann Beale.

Mrs Beale, 45, died the morning of January 21, 2013, after she was put in a chokehold by husband James Andrew Beale, the father of three of her children.

The Coroners Court in Gladstone was told by Mr Beale on Tuesday that he and his three young sons had gone motorbike riding and swimming for the day, as was the family's usual Sunday practice.

"It gave Tracy a break," he said from the witness box.

The night of Tracy's death

Mr Beale said he knew "something was wrong" that night because Tracy was being "very quiet".

He said in an attempt to diffuse the tension, he went to bed, with his two youngest sons lying on either side of him.

The court was told Mrs Beale came into the bedroom a number of times and brought up the $15,000 Mr Beale loaned his father without her knowledge.

He claimed he had not told her about the loan, which she learned of when checking the mail, because she didn't like her husband's father.

Mr Beale said his wife had called him an "asshole" and asked him to come out and "sort this out" before leaving the room.

Ignoring her request, Mr Beale fell asleep. He said the next thing he remembered was waking up to his wife striking him with her hands.

He said his wife struck him about six times.

Barrister for Mrs Beale's family Michael Anderson told the court the autopsy did not reveal any injuries to Mrs Beale's hand.

But Barrister for Mr Beale Andrew Boe said expert doctors said the lack of injury did not mean his client's wife hadn't hit him.

Mr Beale told the court he climbed over his two sons, who stirred but did not wake, and pushed his wife out of the room.

He was unable to remember which part of her body he pushed.

She was throwing small punches at me ... I got her in a headlock to calm her down," he said.

"I held her there for a few seconds and then she went limp."

Mr Beale said the pair "somehow ended up on the floor" but couldn't remember how.

Call to 000

Just after midnight, Mr Beale called Triple Zero. A call centre operator sent ambulances and police to the house at 109 Phillip St.

The Coroners Court heard Mr Beale could not remember checking his motionless wife's neck pulse and did not give her CPR.

Immediately after his call to police, Mr Beale called his brother Robert Norman Beale.

From the witness box, Robert said he could hear his brother crying on the phone "I just wanted her to stop".

Robert said he asked Mr Beale if he could do CPR on his wife (while QAS was en route) but could not remember the answer.

Mrs Beale was found first by police lying face down on the ground with one side of her clothing wet from a spilled cup of clear liquid near her body.

Mr Beale told the court on Tuesday he thought the cup may have contained alcohol, but barrister Mr Anderson argued Mrs Beale's alcoholic drink of choice was Diet Coke and scotch.

Witness Sergeant Owen Raymond Lawton confirmed with the court the liquid in the cup was clear and noticed "nothing out of the ordinary" at the home.

I would've expected some sort of reaction, excitement, trauma, something," Sgt Lawton said.

Instead, he said Mr Beale seemed calm while police questioned him.

But barrister Mr Boe argued there were a range of reactions people could have in these types of situations.

"Their personalities cause a varied response," he said.

Tracy's alcohol consumption and her pre-existing heart condition

Mrs Beale had an underlying heart condition - dilated cardiomyopathy.

This condition, which she nor her husband were aware of before her death, is one of a number of factors being examined in the Coroner David O'Connell's inquest.

The inquiry was established to determine whether Mrs Beale died due to asphyxia, a vasovagal attack (reflex cardiac arrest), a combination of the two or neither.

It was hoped the inquiry will also uncover whether Mrs Beale's pre-existing medical condition (dilated cardiomyopathy) or the consumption of alcohol played a part in her death, and by how much.

Mrs Beale had consumed a significant amount of alcohol the night of her death. A test revealed a blood alcohol content reading of .171 per cent.

Arguments over money

Mr Beale told the court his wife had access to $200 a week in an effort to limit her spending on alcohol.

But Mr Beale's brother Robert told the court he could only recall one occasion when Mrs Beale was visibly drunk.

Mrs Beale's sister, Lisa Marie Brookes, told the court on Wednesday that most of the married couple's arguments were about money.

She was always struggling for money and couldn't understand why he was buying Harley's ... She couldn't provide for the kids," she said.

Ms Brookes, who lives in the Mackay District, said she never saw a physical interaction between the pair and only saw yelling from both sides.

Witnesses statements

Friend Gillian Joy Cathcart (lives in Western Australia) also appeared (by phone) as a witness in court yesterday.

She said while her statement in 2013 did not state it, she did recall an instance when Mr Beale "threw (Mrs Beale) up against a wall".

Mr Boe argued the admission was not in her statement and asked her why.

Ms Cathcart said her friend had not gone into detail when telling her about the interaction and said she never saw any evidence of injuries on Mrs Beale's body.

Mrs Beale's son (but not related to Mr Beale) Kyle Vlaar on Tuesday told the court he first heard his mother had died at 3am on January 21, 2013 when police came knocking on his door.

CORONIAL INQUIRY: Mrs Beale's father Bryan Loakes, her sister Lisa Marie Brookes and her brother Gavin Loakes comfort each other outside the Gladstone Courthouse.
CORONIAL INQUIRY: Mrs Beale's father Bryan Loakes, her sister Lisa Marie Brookes and her brother Gavin Loakes comfort each other outside the Gladstone Courthouse. Sarah Steger

In a statement he gave to police the following day, he said he saw Mr Beale "shove" his mother once and did not see or hear about any injuries.

He told the court the couple regularly argued about money, and they would swear at each other during verbal disagreements.

He called her a money-hungry cow one time," he said.

Today is the final day of the coronial inquest into Mrs Beale's death.

Mrs Beale's brother Gavin Loakes said he and his family were after justice and hoped the inquiry would provide them with the answers they've been looking for.

He said he wanted a charge to be laid and "then it will be up to a jury".

 


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