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No prints, not good enough: Coroner to cop

AAP logoAAP 26/10/2016 Rick Goodman

A key piece of evidence in the agonising and "highly unusual" death of a former Socceroo should have been fingerprinted, the South Australian coroner says.

Steve Herczeg died in hospital last month because his urinary catheter had somehow become attached to an oxygen supply, bursting his bladder and collapsing his lungs.

During the inquest into the death on Thursday, Coroner Mark Johns clashed with the police officer sent to investigate the death.

The policeman in his report said it was "probable" the patient had caused the fatal mix-up himself but Constable Grant Cruickshank never tested the catheter bag for prints.

"Do you agree that when investigating whether Mr Herczeg removed his own catheter bag there might have been some value in fingerprinting it?" the coroner asked the officer.

"At the time I didn't," Const Cruickshank replied.

"Now I see that there may have been."

The bag had been removed from its usual place on Mr Herczeg's bed and found in the ensuite bathroom, the inquest heard.

The coroner said nursing staff and doctors wear gloves and so if the bag were fingerprinted it could have proved Mr Herczeg had touched it

"How do you think investigators should approach a death scene?" he asked the officer.

"Very carefully," Const Cruickshank replied.

"With an open mind? That it could've been a possible homicide?" Mr Johns continued.

"Absolutely," the officer said.

The patrol officer said his report was based on what medical staff had told him and he also asked for help from crime scene investigators.

The coroner pointed out to Const Cruickshank the repercussions of his report.

"Your use of the word 'probable' has been picked up by a politician," Mr Johns said.

"You can see this could be very distressing for the family."

That politician is SA Premier Jay Weatherill who on Wednesday revealed the gist of the police report.

Mr Herczeg, the first South Australian to play in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match for Australia, arrived at hospital with a catheter already fitted.

He was admitted because of a fall and had also been suffering hallucinations as a result of a urinary tract infection. He also had lung cancer.

Meanwhile on Thursday a nurse recalled entering Mr Herczeg's room during the code blue emergency and seeing something "very wrong".

Registered nurse Sioned Robertson said she rushed into his room as medical staff were performing CPR.

"I remember seeing the green oxygen tubing connected to the top of his catheter," she said.

"I thought that was something very wrong. It was very strange.

"I noticed that there was blood in the green extension tube."

She said the only way she could imagine the oxygen tubing becoming connected to the catheter was if Mr Herczeg had done it himself.

"I don't understand how a nurse would confuse those at all," she said.

"And I have faith in the nurses that they would not have confused those tubings."

Ms Robertson also told the coroner of a "white connector" that joined the oxygen tube to the catheter and said she had never seen one like it before.

The inquest continues.

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