37 years Old Died In Custody- What Happened?

Veronica Nelson Death

Veronica Nelson, an Aboriginal woman who passed while inside a prison in Victoria, asked for assistance 49 times in the 36 hours before her passing. What Happened?

Veronica Nelson was liked and respected by people who knew her. Yet, she died alone in her cell at the Dame Phyllis Frost Center in January 2020 after pleading for help for several of her final hours, said the coroner.

She was discovered the next day on a cell floor in a jail constructed on the territory of the Wurundjeri and Bunurong people.

Her family is pleading with the state government to take swift action and make changes since deaths in detention are “all too familiar” in the Indigenous community.

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Veronica Nelson Death Case: 37 years Old Died In Custody- What Happened?

Veronica’s death occurred in January 2020 and has been reverberating through the legal world for the past few years, with the Victorian Coroner’s Court holding the ultimate judgment.

There is widespread consensus that Victoria’s bail laws must be changed, especially after heartbreaking hearings and conclusions. 

Veronica resided in Collingwood’s public housing and came into contact with law enforcement for stealing commodities like vitamins from pharmacies.

Veronica Nelson Death
Veronica resided in Collingwood’s public housing and came into contact with law enforcement for stealing commodities (Source: Theage)

While in prison, she repeatedly pleaded for assistance over the intercom throughout the two nights she spent in the cells before her death, saying things like, “I feel nauseous. I’m spewing up.”

Nelson received several messages, including to stop inquiring when she would see a doctor and saying that no one could assist her with her increased cramps and vomiting.

Veronica made nine additional calls for help over the prison’s intercom system during her dying hours, including two that investigators characterized as haunting as she cried in pain, according to video and audio evidence shown before the inquest.

She was ordered to cease by jail personnel because other inmates were awakened by her cries.

The shower was running, and the cell was flooded when Veronica’s body was discovered on the floor three hours later, cold and naked.

Additionally, she was curled up in a fetal position, her hands like sharp claws. The responding paramedics thought she had been dead for a while.

Why Did Veronica Nelson Arrest?

Veronica Nelson had been arrested after being charged on suspicion of theft. And she was withdrawing from heroin while in custody, according to 9news

On December 30, 2019, after exiting a tram with her brother Duane, Aunty Donna believes her daughter was on her way home to Yorta Yorta country when she was detained at Southern Cross Station.

Veronica Nelson DeathVeronica Nelson Death
Veronica Nelson had been arrested after being charged on suspicion of theft (Source: HeraldSun)

Duane’s duffle bag did seem strange to the Police, but Veronica was ultimately detained and appeared in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court the following day.

Her bail was rejected because she came to court without representation. She was brought to the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, a women’s prison with the highest level of security.

Veronica weighed 33 kg and was on heroin withdrawal when jail staff noticed her lean body.

After a 13-minute examination by a doctor, the 37-year-old patient, whose medical records were full of mistakes, was taken to the medical wing and placed in a holding cell.

Veronica asked for assistance roughly 30 times on an intercom buzzer during the following hours as she puked and developed cramps in her hands and feet.

She was transferred to a general population cell as her condition worsened. But sadly, she passed away in prison. 

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