Australia taser outrage: Homocide cops investigating as woman, 95, tasered by police clings to life

Clare Nowland (.)
Clare Nowland (.)

Homocide detectives were on Friday probing the tasering by Australian police of 95-year-old woman with dementia in a nursing home that left her clinging to life.

The extraordinary police takedown of Clare Nowland in the New South Wales state town of Cooma has prompted outrage and a high-level police internal investigation.

Two police officers went to Yallambee Lodge after staff reported that the great-grandmother had taken a serrated steak knife from the kitchen.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter declined to say whether he thought a police officer with 12 years experience had used excessive force by firing a stun gun at an elderly woman who is 5ft 2in tall and weighs just 43kgs.

“At the time she was Tasered, she was approaching police. But it is fair to say at a slow pace. She had a walking frame. But she had a knife. I can’t take it any further as to what was going through anyone’s mind,” Mr Cotter told reporters.

Mr Cotter described video from the two police officers’ body cameras of Mrs Nowland being shot as “confronting footage.” But he said the video was part of an internal police investigation and it would “not be in the public interest to be releasing that.”

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter speaking to reporters on Friday (ABC)
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter speaking to reporters on Friday (ABC)

The officer who fired the taser was off duty pending a “level 1 critical incident investigation”, a category police reserve for exceptional cases where injuries lead to death or imminent death. The homicide squad is involved, Mr Cotter added.

Police said Mrs Nowland received her critical injuries from striking her head on the floor, rather than directly from the Taser’s debilitating electric shock.

“If a threshold is met where it changes from being a departmental issue to being a criminal issue, we are certainly mature and transparent enough as an organisation to do what has to be done,” Mr Cotter said.

After first aid at the scene, she was taken to Cooma District Hospital, where she was said to be in a critical condition, fading in and out of consciousness.

Family have been at her bedside since she was rushed to hospital on Wednesday.

Community advocate Andrew Thaler told Daily Mail Australia that Mrs Nowland was now receiving end of life care in hospital.

Her family was gathered around her in the expectation that she does not have long to live, he said.

The incident has sparked outrage in Australia and prompted a debate about police use of Tasers.

Nicole Lee, president of advocacy group People with Disability Australia, said she was shocked by the violence.

“She’s either one hell of an agile, fit, fast and intimidating 95-year-old woman, or there’s a very poor lack of judgement on those police officers and there really needs to be some accountability on their side,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.