Autopsy reveals victim a seasoned drinker who bled to death
A WOMAN whose body was found on Ten Mile Beach in January 2011 died from blood loss but the question of how her injuries came about remains to be answered.
The woman died some time on January 26 or 27 after spending the night on the beach north of Iluka following Australia Day activities.
Forensic pathologist Dr Allan Cala carried out the autopsy and told the coronial inquest into the death, held in Grafton Courthouse yesterday, that he concluded the woman had died from blood loss caused by 'blunt force general tract trauma'.
He also told the inquiry the woman was a "seasoned drinker" who had a blood alcohol level of 0.303.
"Her alcohol level was almost into the fatal range for many people," he said.
The cause of the woman's injuries and the subsequent blood loss dominated a day in which three doctors presented evidence.
The inquest heard the injuries - a 120mm laceration inside her vagina and a 45mm laceration outside her vagina - occurred as a result of sexual activity, with different scenarios of exactly what actions caused the injuries presented to the court.
Giving evidence by video link, Dr Catherine Lincoln, deputy director of the Clinical Forensic Medicine Unit on the Gold Coast, said the woman would have suffered significant bleeding from the lacerations.
"Both injuries would have bled profusely because of the highly vascular nature of the area," she said.
Dr Lincoln said the external injury would have been associated with significant pain and that the amount of alcohol consumed may have affected the woman's reaction to the pain as well as her blood's ability to clot at the injury sites.
"She should have had to be intoxicated to the point of a comatose state to not have experienced pain when she suffered the external injury."
The larger internal injury would not have caused as much pain and the woman may not have been aware of it, but the large amount of blood vessels in the vagina meant the bleeding would probably have been more profuse.
"They were life-threatening injuries," Dr Lincoln said.
The nature of the bleeding meant the woman would have known it was different to usual menstrual bleeding, she said.
Dr Lincoln said a wound at the back of the woman's right knee may have been cause by her body being moved and dragged across a metal surface.
Under questioning from Michelle Herrmann, counsel for one of two men named as persons of significant interest in the case, Dr Lincoln said clotting at the site of the wounds could have been dislodged if the woman was a passenger in a car going over rough terrain, but was more likely to do with a "penetrative event".
She said she was not able to tell when bruising to the woman's upper thighs had occurred, and could have happened days earlier.
The wound on the back of the knee could also have been caused by a stick or branch.
Dr Peter Bland, clinical senior lecturer in obstetrics, gynaecology and neonatology at the Northern Clinical School in Sydney, said he was surprised by claims the woman had walked to the ocean.
"Shortly after she may have been able to walk to the water," he said, "but if someone is about to die from hypovolemia (a state of decreased blood volume) I would be very surprised if they could walk along the beach."
Dr Bland said in the dark it would have been hard for the woman to know how much blood she had lost.
NSW Coroner Michael Barnes yesterday issued a non-publication order on the name of the deceased or anything identifying her.
The inquest continues at Grafton Courthouse today.