Vic Police failures in search for trans woman Bridget Flack


Melbourne transgender woman Bridget Flack
Image: Supplied

Trans woman Bridget Flack’s sister says police told her there was “no more that could be done” just a few days after she went missing in Melbourne in late 2020.

The comment was made only three days after the Melbourne woman’s “uncharacteristic” disappearance after Bridget (above) failed to return from a walk on November 30.

Bridget’s body was found 11 days later in bushland on December 11. She had died by suicide.

But it wasn’t police officers who found her. It was two LGBTIQ+ community members who were among hundreds who rallied and conducted their own searches across Melbourne.

Sister Angela Pucci-Love has told a coronial inquest Bridget was “smart, artistic and creative” and a “beautiful and loyal friend”.

In the weeks before her death, Bridget had struggled to access mental health services, the inquest heard.

Angela said she was frustrated and “astounded” when police initially failed to take seriously Bridget’s suicide risk and vulnerability as a trans woman.

“The feeling I had was it wasn’t anyone’s problem… I don’t believe [police] understood the level of risk,” Angela said on Monday.

“I remember saying, by nature, she’s more vulnerable in public. She’s more vulnerable to violence. I was just astounded that, initially, it wasn’t taken seriously.”

Angela recalled police suggesting Bridget was “off the grid, sleeping rough” but she “fought really hard for someone to listen to me.”

“I kept saying, ‘This is not characteristic. This is not normal,'” she said.

The inquest heard police did not formally assist with ground searches and denied requests to trace Bridget’s phone until after the battery died.

Angela recalled one police officer telling her they wouldn’t search Bridget’s flat.

Instead, the officer told her to call the fire brigade and “just say there’s been smoke seen, and they will come and look.”

Police admit failures in Bridget Flack case

Detective Senior Constable Dan Garside took over Bridget Flack’s case on December 4. At that point, the police response improved, Angela told the inquest.

Senior Constable Garside told the inquest Angela’s testimony was “hard to listen to” and made him “want to sink into my chair”.

“No, it’s not good. It’s a sister trying to find a sister. We should be doing better than that,” he said.

“There was plenty more that could be done. You don’t ever reach a point where nothing can be done.”

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Neil Paterson also conceded the search for Bridget “could have been managed a lot better”.

“That should not have led to members of her community finding her deceased,” he told the inquest.

Coronial inquest into trans suicides in Victoria

The Coroner’s Court of Victoria is examining the deaths of five trans women in a bid to prevent further tragedies.

All are aged 18-33 and all died by suspected suicide. The others are Heather Pierard, Matt Byrne, and Natalie Wilson, as well as a trans woman known as AS.

Counsel assisting Gemma Cafarella stressed the coroner was not drawing a link between being transgender and experiencing psychological distress or mental illness.

“The aim is instead to investigate the commonalities between these deaths and to hear from the experts to see if any prevention opportunities can be harnessed to avoid future similar deaths,” she said.

The inquest has also heard evidence of trans Victorians’ experiences of discrimination, stigma and exclusion.

The coronial inquest will run until Thursday (November 30).

If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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