A pre-inquest conference into the 2013 death of Tracy Ann Beale was held in Mackay Coroners Court today.
A pre-inquest conference into the 2013 death of Tracy Ann Beale was held in Mackay Coroners Court today. Contributed

Did a chokehold or heart problems lead to woman's death?

A CORONIAL inquest into the death of Tracy Ann Beale, who died after being put in a chokehold during an argument with her husband, James Andrew Beale, in 2013, could result in the DPP re-examining the matter.

However, if the inquest calls on Mr Beale to give evidence about what occurred on Phillip St, Gladstone, in the early hours of January 21 that year, he will receive immunity from prosecution relating to any admissions he might make.

A pre-inquest conference into Mrs Beale's death, overseen by Coroner David O'Connell was held in the Coroners Court at Mackay this morning.

The court heard the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had decided not to proceed with a previous charge relating to the incident.

The conference was attended in person by J.M. Aberdeen, counsel assisting the Coroner, while legal representatives for Mrs Beale's family, Mr Beale and the Women's Legal Service Queensland appeared by phonelink.

Issues up for consideration at the inquest include how Mrs Beale, 45, died when a chokehold was applied by Mr Beale, whether it was due to asphyxiation or vasogvagal attack (reflex cardiac arrest) and whether other causes, such as alcohol consumption and pre-existing disease of the heart muscle, contributed to some degree.

The inquest will also consider whether there is a need for public education about dangers of some forms of neck compression or restraint and whether a recommendation should be made to the Attorney-General to treat neck compression or restraint in a similar way to one punch strike deaths.

The issue of whether neck compression in a domestic setting should receive legislative attention was also raised.

Mr O'Connell made it clear at the conference that his powers were limited to the coronial aspect of the incident and he was there simply to examine the how and why of Mrs Beale's death.

"The most I can do in relation to anything involving Mr Beale is recommend that the DPP relook at the matter, but I can't charge him or I can't recommend they charge him," he said.

"It's entirely their discretion as to whether they charge him. I don't have any power there and I'm not going there."

The Coroners Court heard Mrs Beale, who had lived with Mr Beale and their three children, had been pronounced dead at 1.06am on January 21.

Her death had followed Mr Beale placing her in the chokehold after he had been repeatedly struck by Mrs Beale, who had been drinking considerably, during an argument about finances.

"Mr Beale told police it didn't seem very long he had his wife in this hold when she stopped struggling and went limp," Mr Aberdeen said.

The pre-inquest conference was adjourned until October 24 and 25.

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