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Questions over indigenous death in custody

AAP logoAAP 5/09/2016

The family of an Aboriginal woman who died in police custody in the NSW Hunter region say a report shows she had no illegal drugs or alcohol in her system, which contradicts police claims.

Rebecca Maher, 36, was found dead in a Maitland police cell less than six hours after being picked up in Cessnock the early hours of July 19 by police who believed she was drunk.

Ms Maher's mother Debbie has told ABC TV she saw a report that she claims shows her daughter did not have illegal drugs or alcohol in her system.

She also wants to know what kind of medical attention Ms Maher was given before she was found dead in the cell at 6am.

"I asked them straight away, was there medical staff brought in to her? Was she assessed? And they said 'no'," Debbie Maher told 7.30 on Monday.

The Aboriginal Legal Service NSW has called for an independent investigation into the death saying police failed to alert them to Ms Maher's incarceration, as required by changes introduced following the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody.

ALS say it was eventually notified a month after Ms Maher's death, and it believes she could have been saved if police had followed protocol and notified them.

Ms Maher's death was the first indigenous death in NSW custody in 16 years.

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