The death of a woman suspected of being killed by her ex-partner when her home was destroyed by fire is being investigated as a “death in police operation”.
The death of a woman suspected of being killed by her ex-partner when her home was destroyed by fire is being investigated as a “death in police operation”.

Woman’s desperate call to police before fatal fire

The death of a woman suspected of being killed by her ex-partner when her home was destroyed by fire is being investigated as a "death in police operation", meaning it was during an active report to police.

Now the state coroner is looking into why Doreen Langham's call for help hours before she died was allegedly not taken more seriously.

Police went to Doreen Langham's unit hours before she was killed after she called them for help.

 

Investigators comb through the fire ruins by hand and with shovels on Monday. Picture: Brad Fleet
Investigators comb through the fire ruins by hand and with shovels on Monday. Picture: Brad Fleet

Chief Superintendent Brian Swan confirmed a call was made to police in the hours before the fire and the deaths would now be treated as deaths "in relation to a police operation".

"Quite tragically, late yesterday, the remains of two people were found within the debris at the unit.

"At this stage we are not able to identify those remains but we do believe they are the remains of Doreen Langham and Gary Hely.

"I'll have to await the results of an autopsy before we confirm identification.

"We are seeking information from any person … around the relationship of Gary and Doreen."

"I can also confirm as a result of our investigations … the matter will be overviewed by the state coroner.

"Inquiries indicate that on the night before the fire there was a phone call made to police. Police did attend the unit at least a couple of hours before the fire."

The events also raise questions of whether the newly introduced Queensland Police Service Delivery Redesign Project implemented on February 8 - designed to streamline the way calls are prioritised - was working.

Ms Langham, 49, of Browns Plains, is believed to have died in a fire just before 4am Monday in her Myola Street home.

 

 

Investigators believe Doreen Langham was killed in a murder-suicide fire involving her ex-partner. Picture: Supplied
Investigators believe Doreen Langham was killed in a murder-suicide fire involving her ex-partner. Picture: Supplied

 

A man's body, believed to be that of her 49-year-old ex-partner, Gary Hely, was also found in the house debris later that night.

Although Queensland Police Service investigators are treating the deaths as a murder-suicide, autopsies are yet to confirm the identities of the pair, with both Ms Langham and Mr Hely still listed as missing.

Ms Langham was living alone in a gated complex and had been granted a temporary protection order against Mr Hely in court on February 9, according to Chief Superintendent Brian Swan.

But The Courier-Mail understands Ms Langham initially called police about 9.30pm Sunday stating Mr Hely was outside her two-storey townhouse.

A police source, who asked not to be named, said officers did not arrive at the woman's home until about 1.30am.

 

 

Doreen Langham had a domestic violence protection order out against ex-partner, Gary Hely, Picture: Supplied
Doreen Langham had a domestic violence protection order out against ex-partner, Gary Hely, Picture: Supplied

At the time, Mr Hely was already wanted on a breach of domestic violence order offence.

"The coppers went around and knocked on the door, but when there was no answer they left," the source said.

"(Hely) came back and set fire to the unit three hours later.

"She already had a previous DVO order on him and he had breached it and was wanted for those breaches.

"I couldn't imagine anything being more urgent than an aggrieved calling up that night saying (the man), who is a respondent, is outside my house."

The source also questioned why it took four hours for police to respond to the woman's call for help under the SDRP.

The redesign project was developed under the framework 'Severity, Opportunity, Likelihood, Vulnerability and Expectation' (SOLVE) and is intended to assist police in prioritising requests based on the specific details of each call.

"Why did the police comms sideline that job for four hours and not send a car immediately around … especially when she has named him?" the source questioned.

"Why did they not confirm she was OK at 1.30am?"

Neighbours told The Courier-Mail on Monday that Ms Langham was living in fear of Mr Hely and had only changed her locks days earlier.

 

Chief Supt Swan today said police were hearing reports that a lady was thrown from a window.

"That's not consistent with information we've received to date," he said.

"We just ask anyone with any information at all in relation to the couple, their relationship, to contact police and provide us with that information."

He also said he believed Ms Langham had provided information to police over some period of time "which may contain CCTV" of DVO breaches.

Death in police operations are investigated by the Queensland coroner.

The Courier-Mail understands the assistant state coroner visited the scene this morning.

Several calls and emails from The Courier-Mail requesting an interview with state coroner Terry Ryan were not returned Tuesday morning.

Requests to speak to Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll were denied early Tuesday with a QPS spokesman instead saying a media conference would be held Tuesday afternoon.

At the press conference Chief Superintendent Brian Swan confirmed the state coroner would be investigating the murder-suicide as a death in police operation (DiPO) under the Queensland Coroner's Act.

"As a result of our investigation … the matter will be overviewed by the state coroner," he said.

"As you know, with a coronial investigation, we are limited in the details we can provide as the coronial process is an independent process.

"It will examine the entirety of the situation with the couple, their relationship and the police interactions from the early hours on Monday morning."

"I understand that investigation will be overviewed by the (Crime and Misconduct Commission)."

 

 

Originally published as Woman's desperate call to police before fatal fire to be investigated



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