September 21, 2020

An assistant watchhouse officer in Brisbane has been suspended from duty following the death in custody of Sherry Fisher Tilberoo.

Ms Tilberoo, 49, was found deceased in a cell at the Brisbane City Watchhouse just after 6:00am on September 10.

She had last been seen alive about midnight the night before.

Ms Tilberoo, who has family connections in the South Burnett, had been remanded in custody after appearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on September 7. She was being held at the watchhouse awaiting transfer to a Queensland Corrections facility.

At a media conference on Monday afternoon, Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd said the Ethical Standards Command had begun an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death under the overview of the Crime and Corruption Commission.

“However, on the basis of interim advice provided by investigators, the QPS has taken decisive action including suspending an assistant watchhouse officer from duty pending the outcome of that investigation,” Assistant Commissioner Codd said.

“This suspension relates to allegations of failure of duty in relation to the performance of regular physical checks on prisoners in the watchhouse and related record-keeping.”

The female assistant watchhouse officer is not a sworn police officer and has been on leave since the incident. She has been suspended with pay.

Assistant Commissioner Codd said the advice from the Coroner remained that Ms Tilberoo died of natural causes.

“But irrespective of this, the Commissioner has directed that other immediate measures be undertaken,” he said.

“The Queensland Police Service has appointed a Senior Superintendent of Police to the role of State Custody Officer.

“That officer will be tasked to immediately conduct a full review of watchhouse processes with a particular focus on issues such as the length of time people stay in police custody, particularly before they might transfer to a Correctional facility, and around better visibility around health records and health backgrounds to individuals (held in custody).”

Assistant Commissioner Codd said the QPS would usually wait for Coronial findings before implementing changes but had taken immediate steps on this occasion “due to the seriousness of this issue and obviously the sensitivities surrounding it”.

Ms Tilberoo’s death sparked a protest outside Police Headquarters in Brisbane on Friday night.

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