19 Jul 2012

Police actions contributed to Iraena Asher's death - Coroner

7:11 pm on 19 July 2012

A coroner has found the death of Auckland woman Iraena Asher may have been prevented if the police had responded properly to her 111 call for help.

After a two-day inquest, Peter Ryan ruled Ms Asher, who was last seen almost eight years ago, drowned at Piha Beach.

Mr Ryan said the failure of the police to properly assess Ms Asher's condition the night she disappeared, and their decision to send a taxi instead of a patrol car, was a contributing factor in her death.

Police accept those findings, and have again apologised for their failings that night.

Mr Ryan acknowledged the family who looked after Ms Asher before she went missing, saying their actions epitomised those of a good Samaritan.

But he said their decision not to call police was also a contributing factor in her death.

Julia Woodhouse and her partner Bobbie Carroll said on Wednesday they had offered to call the police but Ms Asher told them not to bother because they weren't interested.

Mr Ryan recommended people err on the side of caution, and call emergency services rather than deal with problems themselves.

Ms Asher was 25 when she disappeared at Piha Beach in October 2004.

After hearing 15 witnesses, the Coroner said there was no evidence to suggest that Ms Asher was still alive.

He said it was possible she was abducted or tramped off into the bush, but nothing was presented at the inquest to suggest this happened.

Mr Ryan ruled the death was accidental.

Afterwards. Ms Carroll said they looked after Ms Asher as best they could, and would not have done anything differently.

But she said the inquest was a weight off her shoulders and had given her closure.

Police accept criticisms

Police accept their failure to respond to Ms Asher's call for help was a contributing factor in her death.

Assistant Commissioner Allan Boreham says police accept the Coroner's findings and apologise for their failings that night.

"We absolutely accept the Coroner's findings that the police actions were one of the factors that contributed to Iraena's disappearance, and so it's important for me to take this opportunity again eight years later to say again to the Asher family how sorry we are for the events that occurred that night."

Mr Boreham says their systems were reviewed and improved in the wake of the tragedy, and it's important that people call emergency services if they need help.