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Day family want criminal investigation after ‘flawed’ review

By AAP Newswire

THE children of an Echuca woman who died in police custody want an independent criminal investigation into their mum's death after evidence of a flawed review.

Yorta Yorta grandmother Tanya Day, 55, fell and suffered a head injury while in a Castlemaine police cell after being arrested for drunkenness on a train on December 5, 2017.

She died two weeks later.

"It is clear to us that the investigation into our mum's death has been flawed and inadequate," daughter Belinda Day said outside the Coroners Court in Melbourne on Friday.

"We have had a coronial investigation, but what we now want is a criminal investigation. We want to know whether the police, who should have cared for mum, committed an offence in denying mum her dignity and, ultimately, her life.

"She said police should not investigate themselves and any officers found to have failed in their duty should be held accountable and charged."

Apryl Watson thanked Ambulance Victoria for its heartfelt apology for their mother's treatment, but says Victoria Police as an organisation has not apologised.

Superintendent Sussan Thomas offered a personal apology at the inquest on Friday.

"Personally I'm very sorry for the family and I know that Victoria Police know that any death in custody is a tragedy and we take that very seriously (and) definitely are sorry for the loss and sorry for the pain," Supt Thomas said.

"On behalf of Victoria Police I'm more than happy to say I am sorry and I know that Victoria Police are sorry for your loss and I know it's caused pain."

However, the family was disappointed with the senior officer's answers because she was not the correct person to answer specific questions.

"(Victoria Police) have provided someone who couldn't answer the question ... in not doing so there's a lack of respect for the court," Belinda Day told reporters.

Supt Thomas, who is in the priority communities division and in charge of the Aboriginal and youth portfolio, was asked why she believed she was chosen to speak at the inquest.

"I am here to talk about all the good work that is occurring across Victoria Police and the policies as well," she replied.

Her response caused Ms Day's son Warren to walk out of the courtroom and other family members and supporters to loudly groan.

Supt Thomas found out two days ago she would be giving evidence, the inquest was told.

Family members said watching footage of their mum's falls in the police cell was traumatic and "extremely distressing" but agreed it needed to be publicly aired.

Apryl, Belinda and Warren told the inquest their mum was a passionate Aboriginal activist, strong-minded but always up for a joke.

Their strength and passion was because of their mum, they said.

The inquest ended on Friday after three weeks of evidence from witnesses including police officers and paramedics at the scene.

Acting state coroner Caitlin English will hand down her findings at a later date.