The neighbour of a woman who died after being tasered by police following a nine-hour standoff that ended in a terrifying axe attack on the NSW Hunter Coast has revealed what led to the dramatic confrontation.
Police were called to a unit complex on Mitchell St at Stockton shortly after 12.30pm on Thursday following reports a woman was threatening people with an axe.
On arrival, the 47-year-old woman allegedly threatened responding officers with the axe before barricading herself inside a unit.
Police were able to gain entry to the property about 9.45pm, after a nine-hour operation involving specialist tactical officers and negotiators.
The woman was tasered during the operation and was escorted from the scene in an ambulance.
However, her condition deteriorated a short time later, and she was taken to John Hunter Hospital, where she later died.
A crime scene was established and a critical incident team from the Homicide Squad will now investigate all surrounding circumstances.
Neighbour Michael Cuneo witnessed much of the confrontation from his home next-door, and shed new light on what led to the incident.
Mr Cuneo described the woman, who rented two neighbouring units on Mitchel St for the past two to three months, as a “very lovely lady”.
But, he said the woman, who he believed was schizophrenic, would “occasionally snap and scream out” at apparent misunderstandings.
The confrontation, Mr Cuneo believed, exploded over a dispute between the woman and her landlord over a barbershop in her building.
“(The woman) had been telling the barber that he can’t go into ‘her’ back yard, even though it’s all a part of the one property,” Mr Cuneo told NCA NewsWire.
“She yelled at him a week ago and was sent a warning from the real estate who assured her that the barber is fine to be in the yard.”
On Thursday, Mr Cuneo said the barber shop owner was trying to put his bins out when a confrontation broke out.
“She did the whole ‘you cannot enter my yard’ stuff … so he rang the real estate again to complain that she was being uncooperative,” he said.
“They tried to tell her to be cooperative, but she responded with abuse, so they decided that it would be a good idea to give her a 14 day notice.
“The real estate agents turned up about midday and waited for police to arrive to serve the notice because of her behaviour.
“They were met with her wielding an axe, and being extremely abusive and violent.”
Mr Cuneo said police tried to calm the woman down and reason with her, but she kept “smashing the fence with her axe and abusing police”.
“Eventually they (the police) got into the yard, but she was so angry she managed to injure one police officer,” Mr Cuneo said.
“She outran the other two and entered her apartment and barricaded herself inside.
“They (tactical police) hung out in my back yard and organised things, passed things over the fence.
“They ended up breaching the side window and threw in what appeared to be flash bangs.”
Mr Cuneo broadcasted much of the horrifying lockdown, which at one point saw police in his own yard, online on Facebook.
He said the woman crafted weapons and attacked the realtors and police with “exceptional violence”.
“I’ve never seen a lady go so hard,” he wrote about 2pm on Thursday.
“This is the first time I’ve had tactical operations police in my yard with machine guns … last time, too, I hope.”
Mr Cuneo said the woman's daughter arrived about 1.30pm to explain to the police that her mother was schizophrenic.
He claimed the daughter said it wasn’t the first time that she had been in this situation, and had himself experience her behaviour.
“I was on the phone in my yard one day and she thought I was talking to her,” he said.
“But, I obviously was not, so she yelled at me and I ignored her and went inside.”
NSW Police Northern Command Assistant Commissioner Peter McKenna said officers weren’t aware of any mental health issues.
It would form part of their internal investigation into the incident, which would also include officers’ use of “less than lethal” weapons.
Mr McKenna said police had deployed a range of implements, including projectile bean bags which likely caused the woman’s shoulder injury.
“She was able to walk to a nearby ambulance. Shortly thereafter however, her condition deteriorated,” he said.
“The post mortem on the woman will take place in the next few days, and we will be able to ascertain a cause of death.
“Her family has been informed and given as much information as possible and that will continue to occur.”
Mr McKenna also confirmed specialist investigators were brought in after local police had negotiated with the woman for a number of hours.
The investigation will be subject to an independent review, with a report to be prepared for the information of the coroner.