People living in regional, rural and remote communities

  • Non-inquest findings into the death of Rinabel Tiglao Blackmore, Coroners Court of Queensland (Cairns), 4 April 2019.

    The following is a summary of the key facts relating to the domestic violence related death of Ms Blackmore and the key findings of Northern Coroner, Nerida Wilson. There are other matters raised in the Coroner’s findings relating to police responses that are not covered in this summary.

    Key facts:

    Ms Blackmore migrated to Australia from the Philippines in 1991; English was not her first language. After separating from her husband (with whom she had three sons) in 2014, she moved from Brisbane to Middlemount in central Queensland to continue a relationship with Mr Dickson that had commenced prior to the separation from her husband. Ms Blackmore was concerned that her family would not approve of her living with a man she was not married to, so she was secretive about her relationship with Mr Dickson, her living arrangements and whereabouts. Ms Blackmore’s reluctance to tell her family about the new relationship was a source of consternation for Mr Dickson and was allegedly the trigger for two separate (although causally connected) episodes of domestic violence in the 48 hours prior to her death.

    Ms Blackmore spent the 2014 Christmas period in Brisbane whilst Mr Dickson visited friends in Bundaberg. During their time apart, Mr Dickson exhibited controlling and jealous behaviours. He demanded that Ms Blackmore take photos of the people she was with so that he could satisfy himself that she wasn’t cheating on him. Mr Dickson sent messages to Ms Blackmore’s male friends from her mobile phone, impersonating her, and asking when they were free to have sex again, in an attempt to ‘catch her out’ for alleged infidelity.

    On 28 December 2014, Ms Blackmore travelled from Brisbane to Bundaberg to meet and stay overnight with Mr Dickson at a local motel. An argument ensued in the motel room, with Mr Dickson asking Ms Blackmore why he was her “dirty little secret”, and then pushing and grabbing her on the shoulders. They then both went to the motel’s front office where the manager witnessed Mr Dickson and Ms Blackmore in a tug of war over a handbag, Ms Blackmore saying she wanted to break up, and Mr Dickson becoming more agitated as he tried to convince Ms Blackmore to get into the car with him. Ms Blackmore whispered to the manager to call the police. When Mr Dickson went outside to sit in his car, Ms Blackmore told the manager that he (Mr Dickson) had earlier put his hands around her neck, that she was frightened for her life, and that if the manager didn’t get the police he (Mr Dickson) would kill her.

    The police attended the motel, took statements from the parties, and told Mr Dickson that they would be applying for a protection order on Ms Blackmore’s behalf. The police supervised the return of personal effects to Ms Blackmore and the exchange of their respective mobile phones. Ms Blackmore told the police she intended to catch a train to Rockhampton. Mr Dickson then left the motel, as did the police. Not long after however, Mr Dickson returned to the motel and Ms Blackmore told the manager that Mr Dickson had taken $400 from her bag. The manager became concerned for Ms Blackmore’s safety and assisted her to be collected by a friend.

    The Application for a Protection Order prepared by the police included grounds that it was necessary and desirable to protect the aggrieved due to the respondent’s violent nature and history and the aggrieved’s level of fear towards the respondent.

    Ms Blackmore asked a friend to drive her to Middlemount so she could collect her property and passport from Mr Dickson’s unit. They arrived in the early hours of 30 December 2014. Before the friend left Ms Blackmore, they agreed on a code in case Ms Blackmore was in trouble and the police should be called.

    Mr Dickson told police that when he arrived at his unit around lunchtime on 30 December 2014, Ms Blackmore was waiting for him so she could retrieve her possessions. He said he and Ms Blackmore had sex on two occasions, they fell asleep, and then argued. He admitted to grabbing Ms Blackmore around the collar bone or shoulder, shaking and squeezing her, resulting in red marks on her shoulders and around her neck. He also admitted to making contact with her lip causing it to bleed. Mr Blackmore claimed that Ms Blackmore was screaming at him to stop, while also crying and saying that she loved him and didn’t want to leave him.

    Mr Dickson told police that late in the evening of 30 December 2014 he and Ms Blackmore decided to drive to Brisbane in his vehicle. He said initially Ms Blackmore sat in the rear while Mr Dickson drove as she appeared to be searching for something in one of her bags. A later examination of the vehicle revealed that Mr Dickson had taken possession of Ms Blackmore’s mobile phone and had put it in the driver’s door well. Mr Dickson said Ms Blackmore subsequently climbed over to the front passenger seat, complaining of motion sickness; then another argument ensued involving Mr Dickson screaming verbal abuse at Ms Blackmore. Mr Dickson denied using any physical violence against Ms Blackmore while they were in the vehicle. Mr Dickson told police he was driving the vehicle at around 100km per hour when Ms Blackmore suddenly opened the door and exited the vehicle. Mr Dickson told police he then took steps to locate Ms Blackmore, keep her alive, contact emergency services and assist in her transfer to hospital.

    Ms Blackmore’s head injuries resulted in her death on 2 January 2015. There were no alcohol or drugs detected in her system.

    Mr Dickson pleaded guilty to (the alternative charge of) manslaughter of Ms Blackmore, and served time. See para 135 on pages 15-16 for the Judge’s sentencing remarks.

    Key findings by the Coroner:

    • Ms Blackmore’s death occurred at separation and during a period of prolonged violence perpetrated by her intimate partner. She died within 40 hours of her first and only report of domestic violence to police. In the 40 hours preceding her exit from the vehicle, Ms Blackmore had been subjected to several causally connected episodes of verbal abuse and significant physical violence by Mr Dickson.
    • Ms Blackmore’s actions were a desperate act of self-preservation. The Coroner found that it is more probable than not that Ms Blackmore exited the vehicle to escape the terror of the events unfolding inside whilst in fear for her life.
    • Ms Blackmore was all the more vulnerable by virtue of the fact she was a Filipino woman, English was not her first language, and she resided in Middlemount (a remote and isolated location). Her physical isolation was compounded by her isolation from family, including her children. Her support network and resources were extremely limited.