Police named the mental health worker who died on Saturday night as Jacqueline Lynn Francis. (Facebook: Jacqueline Herbert)
A man has appeared in court charged with murder after a social worker visiting a patient in Perth’s southern suburbs was stabbed in the neck, fleeing to a nearby cafe before collapsing with serious neck injuries.
- A man from Rockingham is due in court accused of murdering Jacqueline Francis
- The victim was employed by a company contracted by the State Government
- WA’s Deputy Premier has defended funding for community mental health services
It is alleged the 50-year-old woman, named by police as Jacqueline Lynn Francis, was stabbed in the neck at a Rockingham unit on Saturday night.
She then sought help at a nearby Dome Cafe on Kent Street.
Cafe staff helped administer first-aid to Ms Francis before she was taken to Fiona Stanley Hospital, where she later died.
Homicide Squad detectives today charged 37-year-old Shannon Scott Westerman Smith from Rockingham with one count of murder.
He appeared in Rockingham Magistrates Court this afternoon, where he confirmed he understood the charge against him.
Mr Smith was remanded to Graylands psychiatric hospital under a court order and will next appear in the Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court.
The woman drove herself to the Rockingham cafe after she was allegedly stabbed in the neck. (Supplied: Night News)
It is understood Ms Francis was the mother of three adult children — two sons and a daughter.
Friends were left reeling by the news of her death, with one friend, Kym Hape, calling the news “absolutely heart-breaking” in a tribute posted on Facebook.
A ‘horrible’ event: minister
WA Mental Health Minister Roger Cook said Ms Francis was a mental health worker employed by Neami National, which was contracted by the State Government to deliver mental health services.
“This is a horrible set of circumstances and it is one that is almost impossible to fathom or even come to grips to understand, but we are continuing to support everyone in the situation,” he said.
“Our heartfelt thanks go to the workers and our heartfelt condolences to the workers at Fiona Stanley, at the Dome coffee shop and everyone involved in trying to help this poor woman, who obviously came in with the most horrific of injuries.”
Neami National released a statement confirming Ms Francis was an employee.
“It is with deep sadness that we can confirm that a member of our Rockingham rehabilitation and support team died tragically over the weekend,” the company’s CEO Arthur Papakotsias said.
“As police are investigating the circumstances that led to her death there is little more we can say at this point, other than to offer our sincere condolences to her family.
“We are offering counselling and support to our Rockingham team and will assist police and other authorities as they further their investigations.”
Woman was visiting patient alone
Mr Cook said the woman had been visiting a patient at the time, but it was not yet clear what the purpose of the visit was or why she was alone.
“We have very clear protocols in relation to home visits in these situations,” he said.
“It requires a couple of staff to be there at all times, it requires the logging of the address to make sure that we understand if there’s been any issues associated with that particular address.”
A spokesman from Mr Cook’s office said while these clear protocols existed for South Metropolitan Health Service staff, other jurisdictions and health service providers may have different protocols.
Mr Cook said he had spoken with the chief executive of Neami National and the company was still trying to establish the circumstances of the incident.
“Obviously they are shocked and in a very difficult place at the moment as they try to come to grips with what’s happened with one of their co-workers,” he said.
Health workers’ union raises safety fears
Health Services Union (HSU) secretary Dan Hill told ABC Radio Perth his members had been “shaken” by the incident and the union was worried about safety.
Flowers were laid outside the Rockingham cafe where the woman sought help. (ABC News: David Weber)
“Our members who work in these areas will be very saddened by the event but also have a heightened awareness of their own personal safety in these circumstances,” he said.
“Our union is concerned for the safety of workers and health professionals, particularly in the mental health sphere.”
Mr Hill said existing safety protocols meant staff almost never performed home visits alone.
“It is very rare for our members to attend a patient’s home or a mental health patient’s home alone,” he said.
“We don’t know the circumstances around this and the reasons why, and in fact what services this woman was providing … I’m sure it will be reviewed and looked at very closely by the coroner.”
Mr Cook said there had been no compromise of security for mental health workers in WA for budget purposes under his Government.
“Can I make it very clear, budget cuts have got nothing to do with this set of circumstances,” he said.
“We are funding mental health services, and particularly community mental health services, at a higher rate than any previous state government.
“We also have a range of policies in place around continuing to improve the security of our staff, including $2.2 million in this year’s budget alone for duress alarms and other security systems, so budget cuts have got nothing to do with this.”
Cafe workers tried to help woman
It is understood four cafe staff members who were working at the time did what they could to help Ms Francis and called an ambulance.
Dome Group managing director Nigel Oakey said the cafe remained closed on Sunday while police continued their investigations.
“Staff at the Dome Cafe in Rockingham rendered assistance to a female who entered the cafe with significant injuries,” Mr Oakey said.
“The injuries were not incurred at the cafe or in the immediate vicinity and the person arrived seeking urgent medical attention.”
Mr Oakey said counselling had been arranged for staff members involved in the “traumatic incident”.
“Our thoughts are with all those affected by this incident,” he said.