DIANE MILLER: Car park brawl before woman was killed

Warning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers: this story contains the name and pictures of someone who has died.

A relative of a pregnant woman, killed when a boy threw a piece of concrete into her head in a shopping centre carpark, has had to be carried from a Perth courtroom after breaking down in tears.

Sentencing proceedings started in Perth Children’s Court on Thursday afternoon against the boy who fatally struck Diane Miller.

The 30-year-old died in Royal Perth Hospital three days after she was hit with the projectile at Waterford Plaza on November 29.

The 17-year-old boy who dealt the fatal blow pleaded guilty to a downgraded charge of manslaughter.

New details of the attack and CCTV vision show two groups nearly coming to blows shortly before Ms Miller was wounded.

She had been at the shopping centre at Karawarra, just south of Perth’s CBD, just before 7.30pm on November 29 with her partner Phillip Edmonds and several family members — including a baby.

At the same time the boy being sentenced, who is a minor and can’t be identified, was also at Waterford Plaza with a group of teenage mates.

State prosecutor Clare Cullen told the court the trouble started when Mr Edmonds, driving the car with Ms Miller inside, believed one of the group of youths had thrown something at his vehicle, while the group of boys believed Mr Edmonds had yelled something derogatory at them.

Mr Edmonds parked his car and the situation deteriorated, both groups yelling abuse at each other, with Mr Edmonds and one of the boys taking their shirts off as he and the group of youths armed themselves — Mr Edmonds with a tire iron, and the youths with bottles and metal stools from a nearby eatery.

Among them was the 17-year-old, who grabbed a 1.9kg concrete block roughly the size of a tissue box.

A relative of Ms Miller’s became inconsolable and had to leave the courtroom as video of the moment the boy threw the block was played in court.

The standoff between the two groups had petered out, and Mr Edmonds was driving away from the scene with Ms Miller, 20 weeks pregnant at the time, sitting in the passenger seat of their blue sedan.

CCTV vision from a neighbouring childcare centre showed the moment the 17-year-old, who had been hiding in bushes behind a brick structure used to house garbage dumpsters, stepped out and hurled the chunk of concrete, striking Ms Miller in the temple.

In court, the boy kept his eyes down with his head leaning on one hand as the footage was shown.

The blow caused her several skull fractures and bleeding on the brain. The blow also rendered Ms Miller immediately unresponsive, and she went into cardiac arrest as bystanders tried to perform CPR.

She was rushed to Royal Perth Hospital. In the following days her pregnancy was rendered non-viable, and she was kept on life support to give family time to say their goodbyes, before Ms Miller died in the early hours of December 2.

The court was told the boy had fled to a nearby park with some of the other boys in his group. He was taken home, where his family urged him to turn himself in to police, however they arrived and arrested him later that evening.

The boy’s lawyer, Kate Turtley-Chappel, read from a psychiatric report which stated he “has deficits across all three domains of executive functions,” and that during the incident “he was emotionally aroused, concerned for others’s safety.”

Ms Turtley-Chappel argued, because of those deficits, the boy wasn’t aware the situation had de-escalated and that “he was unable to update the situation, the highly relevant information to alter his plan.”

She revealed the boy has been involved in fights during his incarceration at Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre, but has also been the target of threats.

“What we have before us today is someone who was removed from his mother at a young age, exposed to domestic violence at a young age, exposed to alcohol abuse, homelessness,” said Ms Turtley-Chappel, in her submission of mitigating factors.

“He is someone with a different brain … his differences are connected to his childhood, to his FASD, to his diagnosis of ADHD, to his diagnosis of PTSD.

“He also has a language disorder … all are actions which played factors on that day.”

However, Ms Turtley-Chappel argued all these deficits “did not diminish his capacity to know what he did was wrong.“

Family members of the boy being sentenced were also in court.

The public gallery was warned by Judge Hylton Quail against any disruptive outbursts during proceedings.

The sentencing hearing before Judge Quail continues on Friday.

Originally published as Court told woman was involved in car park brawl moments before fatal blow

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