Rebecca Maher, an Aboriginal woman, has died in a police holding cell in the northern N.S.W. town of Maitland. The 36-year-old is the first indigenous person to die in custody for sixteen years in the state.
Ms Maher, a mother-of-four, was taken to Maitland police station on July 19 just after midnight. When officers checked on her at 6a.m. she was dead, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Her family says they were only notified about her death hours later at 12.30p.m. on that day.
Questions remain about Ms Maher’s detention. A statement from N.S.W. Police says they "located and detained a 36-year-old woman who was walking along Wollumbi Road, Cessnock, and appeared intoxicated. Police had concerns for her welfare and conveyed her to Maitland Police Station."
A statement from Ms Maher’s family, read out at a rally earlier this month in Cessnock, said: "Without being charged with any crime, Rebecca was taken into police custody as she walked down a street in the NSW rural town of Cessnock. Police allege that she was intoxicated, but have given her family no other reason as to why Rebecca was detained. Very little information has been given to Rebecca's family about the circumstances of her death.”
Police are currently appealing for witnesses and a Critical Incident Team is investigating the incident.