Police didn't initially treat the disappearance of an
11-year-old autistic boy from his respite care facility as a
serious matter, the boy's inquest has been told today.
Julian Stacey escaped from Garden Court, run by Spectrum
Care, in Mangere on February 7, 2010.
That afternoon Julian, who functioned like a 2-year-old, was
found drowned in a pond about 200 metres away, having escaped
the facility through a gate.
Emergency services were alerted by Julian's mother Natasha
Stacey about 3pm that day. She told the 111 call-taker that
her son couldn't communicate.
At an inquest in Auckland, Coroner Peter Ryan said his
impression was the call-taker was "properly appraised" by Ms
Stacey. He asked the officer in charge of the inquest,
Sergeant Sascha Huff, if police initially treated it as a
"No we didn't," Ms Huff said.
Shortly after Ms Stacey's call a Spectrum employee, Vijay
Naidu, made another call to emergency services reporting the
She told the 111 operator Julian had normal functioning. Ms
Stacey's lawyer Moira Macnab asked Ms Huff how the police
response would have been different if officers knew
information such as Julian was severely autistic, liked water
and had no sense of road safety.
Ms Huff said such information would have been "helpful".
"I think there would have been a sense of urgency, certainly.
We do get reports of missing children often, however, Julian
was not a child that simply had not come home from school or
had escaped from his home. He was in a care facility and had
Ms Macnab said Julian's family would be asking the coroner to
make recommendations about the type of information respite
care workers should give to emergency services in such
Ms Huff said the two police officers who were sent to search
for Julian would be able to give evidence about what they
were told by the 111 call-taker.
Mr Ryan also asked Ms Huff why the police officer who found
Julian in the pond didn't remove him straight away, and
instead fetched a camera to photograph him.
Ms Huff said that was a departure from police best practice
of trying to preserve life above all else, unless it was
obvious a person was dead.
The two police officers have interim name suppression.
Several members of Julian's family, including Ms Stacey, are
at the inquest, which is expected to finish tomorrow or
- By Jimmy Ellingham of APNZ