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Woman Spoke To 16 Police Officers To Plead For Help Days Before Her Husband Killed Her In A House Fire

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Doreen Langham

Last year, an Australian woman tragically died in a house fire that was set off by her abusive husband.

Upon examining the police response to this, we are perhaps even more devastated at seeing how preventable this could have been if someone took that woman, Doreen Langham, more seriously.

Doreen Langham begged the police for help days before her husband murdered her in a fire.

While Langham sought out help from the police at every turn from her “controlling and abusive” husband, little had been done to help her until she was ultimately killed by her former partner, Gary Hely.

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Her home in Browns Plains, Australia was burned to the ground on Feb. 23, 2021 when Hely entered with 10 liters of gasoline which he used to set Langham’s home on fire.

Now, according to The Guardian, an inquest has concluded after going through the Queensland coroner’s court. The investigation determined that the police’s response was insufficient in the case.

Langham had plenty of reason to believe her life was in danger.

When Langham had tried to free herself from her abuser by ending their relationship on Feb. 7, 2021, it was immediately clear that her life was in danger.

She called the police the same day of the breakup, telling officers that Hely had threatened her upon the split, saying that she had “three weeks to live.”

The police’s response to this cry for help, according to the counsel assisting the state coroner, Ben Jackson, was plagued with “so many inadequacies.”

Jackson explained the situation and Langham’s correspondence with the police, saying, “It was a call to Policelink that alerted police initially to her concerns. They advised her not to return home … she went to a friend’s place in Marsden. It was there that Ms. Langham’s many personal interactions with police would begin.”

The police, in the end, did little to help Langham.

Jackson said that Langham’s situation was “quite simply… not properly investigated.”

That much was evident because it was only 15 days after Hely threatened Langham’s life that he killed her and himself by burning down her property.

Jackson claimed that the two officers that arrived at her friend’s house regarding her initial cry for help “would be representative of so many inadequacies.”

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However, Jackson also stressed that “not all police showed that level of inadequacy. Some understood Ms. Langham’s concerns and the risks she faced, and they did what they could to help.”

Still, he acknowledged that “those positive actions were not enough.”

Even on the night of her death, Langham sought out police help.

Earlier on the night of Feb. 22, 2021, only shortly before Hely lit her property alight, Langham had called the emergency line, “seeking protection.”

Jackson explained that it took the police an hour to arrive at the scene, where they knocked on her unit before leaving.

Tragically, the lack of follow-through on this particular call had disastrous consequences.

Although Jackson emphasized that he did not believe the police officers had any malice intended for Langham, and court records show that the police officers involved seem very sorrowful and regretful, the damage would still be done.

In court, Jackson recounted the details of the early morning of Feb. 22, saying that events were “clear.”

“Hely entered her home. It’s almost impossible to think that Ms. Langham let him in. He forced his entry. Hely brought with him an amount of petrol. He’d bought an amount of 10 liters the previous day while in the area,” Jackson explained.

“Hely … had a plan and that plan actually came about. Ms. Langham would perish in her own home and that was due to a fire that Hely had started.

“Whatever they were, and whatever your honor finds, one thing is clear: Ms. Langham’s last moments must have been filled with utter terror.”

The court hopes to find exactly where and why these major issues occurred, so they can keep tragedies like this from happening ever again if the police have a chance to step in.

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse or violence, there are resources to get help.

There are ways to go about asking for help as safely as possible. For more information, resources, legal advice, and relevant links visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline. For anyone struggling with domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474 or log onto thehotline.org.

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Amanda Hartmann is a writer and editorial intern at YourTango who writes on news and entertainment.

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