James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Facility asked why killer had not been formally admitted

Diane Elizabeth White was 53 years old when she was killed.
Diane Elizabeth White was 53 years old when she was killed.

Questions have been raised as to how a woman who threatened to harm her neighbour before later killing her with a hammer was not formally admitted to a mental health facility earlier.

An inquest into the death of Diane Elizabeth White, 53, began yesterday in Hamilton more than four years after she was bludgeoned to death by Christine Judith Morris on January 19, 2010.

Morris, who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia, pleaded guilty to her murder in 2012 and was sentenced to life in prison, with a 10-year minimum non-parole period.

The inquest heard how Morris, who was an informal patient at Waikato DHB mental health facility, the Henry Bennett Centre, and Ms White had an acrimonious relationship and would argue frequently.

Morris had openly threatened to harm Ms White whom she also blamed for Child, Youth and Family taking her 5-month-old son from her care not long before the killing.

Yesterday, Morris' counsel, Anthony Rogers, questioned an HBC staff member overseeing aspects of her care, asking what more was needed to make her a formal patient under the Mental Health Act.

The staff member, whose name is suppressed, said Morris' judgement was not impaired and she was "not mentally unwell" but "just stressed" during a January 15 assessment.

Clinical notes showed Morris was worried Ms White was "going to try to put her in jail" so she requested a few more days as an informal patient.

On January 19, the man said given her agitation and threats that she wanted to kill Ms White and her boyfriend she couldn't be released.

"At this point Ms Morris ... made direct threats to the lives of her two neighbours and due to these threats I told her I was unable to discharge her," he said.

Morris' anger had reached a "critical level" but she asked to take a cigarette break before she was sedated. She instead scaled a wall and escaped the facility and headed to her Blackburn St flat.

Earlier, the inquest heard how HBC staff called police at least three times between 10.30am-12pm and sent a fax after Morris had fled.

Senior Sergeant Murray Stapp said Morris went to a neighbour's house, where she had a cup of tea before the attack. The neighbour contacted the HBC and police sent a patrol car to Blackburn St at 11.10am but they couldn't find her.

The neighbour called police when she saw Morris in blood-stained clothes not long after.

- NZ Herald

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