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WA coroner probes drug user bashing death

AAP logoAAP 16/08/2016

Shannon Elizabeth Murphy was high on meth when she was caught trying to break into a suburban home by a neighbour who bashed her with a crutch, threw her onto a concrete driveway and dragged her out of a smashed window.

She died later that night in hospital.

As police arrived to arrest Ms Murphy in the Perth suburb of Armadale, she swore at them, said she had a knife and threatened to spit blood on them.

The officers called an ambulance, managed to put handcuffs on her cut wrists and temporarily placed the 33-year-old face-down to prevent her from spitting, but soon realised she had stopped breathing.

A post-mortem examination found the mother-of-one had extensive injuries, including fractures to her skull, and the cause of death was ruled as most likely due to methylamphetamine and exertion induced cardiac arrhythmia.

The West Australian Coroner's Court is now investigating whether police actions that night in April 2012 caused or contributed to Ms Murphy's death.

The neighbour who bashed Ms Murphy, Dylan Van Maris, was jailed in July 2013.

In her opening address on Tuesday, counsel assisting the coroner Aneta Sukoski said Ms Murphy had mental health issues and was an amphetamines user who had gone to hospital with psychotic symptoms in the months leading up to her death.

She said Van Maris first saw Ms Murphy trying to access a neighbour's home and struck her on the back with a thick stick before returning to his property where he lived with his de facto partner and their five children.

Ms Murphy again tried to access the home but was confronted by the occupants and Van Maris.

They forced her out, locked themselves inside and called police.

She then became angry towards Van Maris' partner, so he grabbed Ms Murphy by the waist and threw her onto the driveway where she hit her head on the concrete.

Van Maris then hit her across the back with the crutch up to four times until it broke and threw her again.

But Ms Murphy broke free and tried to enter the other house again, breaking a glass panel on the door and putting her head and upper body through the gap.

The occupants tried to push her out while Van Maris pulled her.

"She was bleeding profusely and had lost her jeans and shoes," Ms Sukoski said.

Feeling dazed, Ms Murphy bumped into a steel power pole and sat on Van Maris' driveway where they spoke before she tried to run towards another neighbour with part of the crutch in her hand.

Van Maris then pushed Ms Murphy, causing her to somersault over a low fence and land on her head before police arrived.

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