Warning failed to save family from violent father — (The Sydney Morning Herald)

SSRI Ed note: Man on Celexa acts strangely, suicidal, eventually kills estranged wife, two young children, and himself. Inadequate mental health care blamed.

To view original article click here

The Sydney Morning Herald

Leonie Lamont and AAP

November 1, 2006

Grace Richardson, who was 20 months old, and her brother Luke, who was 3. Top: Roxanne Richardson feared her estranged husband, Michael Richardson (below) might kill himself and her.   Anita Jones

ON THE cold winter’s morning Detective Sergeant Peter Fox assured the grandfather at the end of the phone that ambulances and police were on their way to the home in East Gresford, in the Upper Hunter.

“There’s no need for that – it’s too late,” Ron Richardson said.

“He’s done all of them in. He’s made a proper job of it. They are all gone and there’s nothing you or anyone can do.”

That morning, July 12, 2004, was revisited in the State Coroner’s Court in Glebe yesterday during an inquest into the deaths of Michael Richardson, 32, his wife, Roxanne, 30, and their children, Luke, 3, and Grace, 20 months.

Detective Sergeant Fox said when the news reached the police station, Michael Richardson’s name rang a bell. One of the officers had confiscated guns from him after a suicide attempt with bird poison the previous year. His gun licence had been suspended. However, the guns were returned to him after an appeal from his counsellor and GP in January 2004.
Firearms, domestic violence, and the provision of mental health services are being canvassed at the inquest.

Detective Sergeant Fox said the four bodies lay side by side on a bed. The medical evidence was that Mrs Richardson had been stabbed in the chest and then suffocated. The children had been suffocated. Mr Richardson had died from a gunshot wound.
He said the couple had not been living together but had been in daily contact. He said a picture emerged of Mr Richardson as a hard-working man who had had success on the rodeo circuit but who was a loner.
“He worked long days out on rural properties and enjoyed that isolation,” he said.

Mr Richardson had appeared jealous of the attention that his wife gave their children, and had tried to isolate her from family and friends.

Detective Sergeant Fox said only close friends and counsellors had known of the violence in the marriage. Even though the couple had separated, Mrs Richardson had remained committed to Mr Richardson having access to the house and children.

About a month before the family was killed she had confided to family that, during a recent car trip, she feared he was going to steer the car off the road and kill them both.

Detective Sergeant Fox said both Mrs Richardson and Mr Richardson’s sister, Julie Reibel, believed Mr Richardson had received inadequate mental health care and follow-up treatment after his suicide attempt in February 2003.

“They felt he needed more in-depth treatment and were concerned if released he would try it again … they said [their] approaches were dismissed and not taken seriously,” he said.

An autopsy revealed that at the time of his death Mr Richardson had a dose of the antidepressant citalopram in his system higher than that prescribed and that this may have caused him to become agitated and irritable.

The day of the tragedy Mr Richardson wrote in his diary: “I’m hurting so much, nothing matters to me any more except my family and they are getting taken away from me.”

The hearing was adjourned until next year.