‘She did everything right’: Woman murdered by spouse begged police for protection

A Brisbane woman murdered by her abusive former partner had done everything she could to protect herself against him after breaking up, a social worker says.

Mar 09, 2022, updated Mar 09, 2022
Doreen Langham changed the locks and had a full safety audit conducted at her home. Image: 7News

Doreen Langham changed the locks and had a full safety audit conducted at her home. Image: 7News

Doreen Langham died at the hands of former partner Gary Hely, also 49, in a fire in her Browns Plains townhouse, south of Brisbane, on February 22, 2021.

The loving grandmother had been living in fear after breaking up with Hely and had taken out a protection order just days before the tragedy.

She also sought help from specialist domestic service The Centre for Women & Co, social worker Ines Ilijasevic told an inquest into their deaths on Wednesday.

Ilijasevic said Langham had done everything she could to guard against Hely.

“I have thought about this quite a lot,” the social worker said.

“I did everything I possibly could with Doreen. It’s hard … very simply she has done everything right.”

Not only did Langford engage with specialist DV services, she repeatedly reached out to police for protection.

She changed the locks and had a full safety audit conducted at her home.

“She did all of the safety planning,” she said.

“She had additional safety measures added to her home and somehow that still wasn’t enough.”

Ilijasevic said they could have made additional changes to the house if they had additional security upgrade funding.

“But if you go with the logic, we should all go home tonight and make sure that our houses are Fort Knox and hope that we don’t get robbed.

“It seems to always put that responsibility on her … I think we should hold perpetrators accountable for what they do and what they have done.”

Ilijasevic said The Centre for Women received hundreds of referrals a month with limited government funding.

Women fleeing abusive homes and relationships faced a wait of six to 24 months for urgent Escaping Violence Payments to be approved – if they qualify for funding.

Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley is probing the adequacy of the police response to Langham’s final triple-zero call and her pleas for help in a bid to prevent another similar tragedy.

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She is also examining the response to the complaints against Hely.

The inquest earlier examined police camera footage of Hely claiming to be shocked to be served with a domestic violence order.

He appeared to accept the order calmly, but argued Langham had “nothing to fear”, and he still loved her.

Days later, they were both dead.

Hely forced his way inside, dousing the home they once shared with petrol before setting it alight.

Earlier that night, Langham saw a shadow lurking outside her home and called the police for help.

Police logged the emergency call but, despite documented death threats by Hely, classified the job as non-urgent.

Four hours after the triple-zero call police finally arrived to conduct a welfare check – leaving just minutes later when no one came to the door, without speaking to Langham or ensuring her home was secure.

The inquest continues.

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