Whispering Wall murder-suicide: domestic violence matters ‘agreed’ hours before deaths

Some domestic violence issues surrounding a man who killed himself and his young daughter at a dam wall in South Australia had been settled by agreement just hours before the murder-suicide, it has been revealed.

The state’s attorney general, Vickie Chapman, said the family had come to an agreed position as to what would and wouldn’t proceed in relation to the allegations and protective orders.

She said in such circumstances “it seemed on the face of it” that the legal system had not failed the family.

But Chapman said the case should not be pre-judged before police had finalised their inquiries and before other investigations had been completed, including a possible inquest.

“I am not going to pre-judge the circumstances until we get to the bottom of what happened in this case,” Chapman said. “And we must do that.”

Henry Shepherdson, 38, was seen by witnesses to jump from the Whispering Wall at Williamstown on Wednesday afternoon while holding nine-month-old Kobi in a child carrier.

Shepherdson was found dead at the base of the wall and the girl also died at the scene.

Police are treating it as a murder-suicide and revealed soon after the deaths that there was a history of domestic violence in the family.

Chapman said it was “a matter of fact” that there were charges against Shepherdson before a court in the previous 24 hours.

“It seems that there has been an agreement between the parties as to what is to progress and what is to remain in respect to protective orders,” she said.

“There had been an agreed settlement between the parties about how this matter progressed.

“There seems to have been a decision made by this family about what was to go forward.”

However, Chapman said she would not make any comment about anyone’s responsibility until receiving the police report.

She also pledged to work with the mother and her extended family to try to “get some answers” about her circumstances.

“But before we start imposing what we think has happened, we must have that report. We owe that to the family,” she said.

The assistant police commissioner, Ian Parrott, has said he expects the police investigation into the deaths to be complex.

Court documents released on Friday showed Shepherdson had last year been accused of threatening to kill his daughter but the charges were dropped in March. They also revealed a history of offending in Western Australia.

In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 and the domestic abuse helpline is 0808 2000 247. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org

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