24 May 2024

Gloriavale inquest: Brother's outbursts due to way he was controlled - witness

4:26 pm on 24 May 2024
Sincere Standtrue, pictured grinning while picking blackberries. The image is one of three his family have placed in the courtroom on the first day of the inquest into his death.

A photo of Sincere Standtrue on display at the inquest. Photo: Joanne Naish/The Press

Warning: This story discusses suicide.

A former Gloriavale member has told an inquest into her brother's death that sometimes "it can feel easier to die" than to try and leave the West Coast Christian community.

Sincere Standtrue, who was 20, was found unresponsive in Gloriavale's paint shop where he worked, in October 2018, and later died in hospital.

Coroner Alexandra Cunninghame is presiding over the inquest into his death in Greymouth, which includes whether his death was accidental or self-inflicted, and his mindset at the time he died.

Sincere's sister, Rose Standtrue, told the court on Friday that her brother "had never been treated like an adult".

"I don't think he had any ability to show maturity... because he was always treated like a child," she said.

Rose had previously told the court that Sincere was beaten, bullied, stopped from getting a driver's licence and left out of community activities for being "different" and deaf.

He often complained to Rose about the behaviour and could get angry quickly if something went wrong or he felt frustrated or scared, she said.

"The reason for most of his outbursts was the way he was treated."

On one occasion, he bit a child in class, on another he threw his mother's sewing machine out a second-storey window when she sewed up the pockets on his pants, Rose said.

In Gloriavale, people could only move out of their family's room once married, unless they were sent to live elsewhere as a form of punishment, she said.

A few months prior to Sincere's death, he was sent to live in the men's room by the Gloriavale leaders because of his bad temper, she told the court.

Marcus Zintl, the lawyer for Sincere and Rose's parents, Hannah and Caleb Standtrue, put it to Rose that she had it wrong and it was her parents' decision.

"It was not my parents' decision to put Sincere in that room," she said.

"My parents loved Sincere. I remember they were crying when they told him that he had to go there. I remember a senior Gloriavale leader being in the room when they told him."

Zintl pointed out Sincere went to anger management classes, had hearing aids and went to a cranial therapist.

All those appointments had to be arranged and approved by the leaders first, Rose said.

If he had grown up outside the community, he would have had more help in school, proper opportunities and more resources to help him cope with his anger, she said.

"His entire life would have been different to what it was in Gloriavale.

"In Gloriavale, your whole life is dictated and managed for you. Someone who wants to have their own way, who is stubborn, or 'rebellious' as the leaders call it... If they're constantly being put down, then of course they're going to have outbursts of anger."

Rose had spoken to "quite a few people within Gloriavale" who had discussed suicide, she told the court.

"They feel like they're trapped there. There are currently people there who feel that way."

There were psychological and physical barriers to leaving, so many did not feel like it was a valid option, Rose said.

"It's a very hard process and sometimes it feels like it would be easier to die than to try and leave."

She confirmed she did not know if her brother had been depressed, but there was no discussion of mental health in the community, so many would not know what depression was.

Earlier witnesses had told the court Sincere was seen in a good mood, singing and playing with children on the day he was found unresponsive.

He had been described as a happy, kind and gentle person.

The inquest continues on Friday.

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