Review into death of autistic woman warns of more murders if nothing's done to address needs of adults with disabilities

A sobering report ordered after a Blenheim woman murdered her severely disabled daughter is calling for urgent reform, saying disability services across the country don't have the resources to cope with giving families support.

It's been two years since 20-year-old Ruby Knox was killed when her mother Donella Knox drugged and suffocated her at home on May 16.

Now a report warns there'll be more murders just like it if nothing is done to address the needs of adults with disabilities across all DHBs.

An independent review was commissioned by the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board to identify care and service delivery problems that may have contributed to Ruby's death and to make recommendations to prevent similar problems in the future.

The report's author, developmental paediatrician Dr Rosemary Marks, didn't find any shortcomings in the care provided by NMDHB staff and considered that the event could have happened "in any DHB".

However, she identified many gaps at both local and national levels, particularly at the time a person with disability transitions from child to adult care.

Dr Marks said there were signs the situation was deteriorating in the months leading up to Ruby's death; including the family's frequent visits to Wairau Hospital's emergency department, consulting a different GP to the one they were enrolled with and a reduction of respite care.

The report found no single person or agency was aware of all those factors.


Health professionals had heard Donella threatening to do harm to Ruby on two occasions, including one instance where a threat was made to drive off a cliff and during another, Donella had stated "I don’t know what I would do to her".

Dr Marks said staff concerned in both instances did "take reasonable steps" to follow up on the threats. But that if Ruby had been under the age of 17, "I am confident that health professionals would have notified Child Youth and Family Services of their concerns," she said.

In addressing the issues above, Dr Marks recommended the establishment of an "early warning score system", which would be triggered by concerns from a professional.

A social work assessment would have to be carried out whenever two or more risk factors were identified including observing a rise in ED visits, a change of primary care provider, a drop in school attendance, or escalating behaviour in a person or their care giver.

The author also called for the Government to introduce a mandatory system to protect vulnerable adults, as there is for children under Oranga Tamariki.

Dr Marks said there is a lack of training in New Zealand for those who provide respite care to children and adults with disability. But she hoped that disability support projects currently underway will result in better outcomes for people like Ruby and their families.


Disability advocates are welcoming the review but say there needs to be a change in attitude toward disability.

Disabled Persons Assembly’s Dr Esther Woodbury says she wants to see meaningful investment in disabled people in New Zealand.

“There are a lot of costs to being disabled which are not supported currently under our support system, under our welfare system and I think that can put so much pressure on individuals and families and I think that is something I'd like to see talked about more,” Dr Woodbury told 1 NEWS.

She agreed with the report’s findings over problems with the transition from child to adult services, describing it as a “crucial point where things often fall over”.

“Where people go from mostly interacting with their peers in the school system to suddenly being quite alone while their non-disabled peers are moving out into the community, moving out of home, moving into education and jobs and that kind of stuff and its often very difficult for young disabled people to be able to have those same opportunities”.

Donella Knox is currently serving a four year sentence for the murder of her daughter in 2016.

Ruby Knox, severely autistic and disabled, was killed by her mother after years battling the health system. Source: 1 NEWS

Supporters call for fair trial for Sri Lankan university student held on terror charges in Australia

Family members, human rights activists and civic groups have gathered in Colombo to demand a speedy and fair investigation of a Sri Lankan student detained in Australia on suspicion of terrorism.

The New South Wales police website says Kamer Nizamdeen was arrested in Sydney on August 30 for allegedly planning to attack targets in the city and assassinate prominent people. Police say they found the alleged plans described in a notebook.

A support group, United for Kamer, planned a silent protest today to support their call for a fair trial for the 25-year-old student.

The group says Nizamdeen was working for the University of New South Wales and has been kept in solitary confinement since his arrest.

It says Nizamdeen denies what police say he wrote in the notebook.

A statement from the family read out at the protest said Kamer was allowed to contact one family member immediately after the arrest but thereafter denied access to legal counsel or family members.

The protesters silently held placards and banners with slogans about Kamer's innocence as well as the investigation.

Kamer Nizamdeen was arrested in Sydney last month for allegedly planning to attack targets in the city and assassinate prominent people. Source: Associated Press

Homeless man charged with US murder of top amateur Spanish golfer, whose body was found in course pond

A homeless man attacked and killed a top amateur golfer from Spain who was playing a round alone near her university campus in central Iowa, leaving her body in a pond on the course, police said today.

Collin Daniel Richards, 22, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Celia Barquin Arozamena, a student at Iowa State University. He was ordered jailed today on a $7 million, cash-only bond.

Barquin was found yesterday morning at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, about 50 kilometres north of Des Moines.

Police were called to the course around 10.20am to investigate a possible missing female after golfers found a golf bag with no one around it.

Officers found Barquin's body some distance from the bag, with several stab wounds to her upper torso, head and neck, according to the criminal complaint filed Tuesday.

Barquin, the 2018 Big 12 champion and Iowa State Female Athlete of the year, had no known prior relationship with Richards, Ames police Commander Geoff Huff said.

Richards, who faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted, reported in a financial affidavit that he has no job.

"We have had encounters with him in the past, " Huff told reporters at a news conference today.

"I don't have any specifics on him no about criminal record or how many incidents we've had with him."

The university said Barquin, a native of Puente San Miguel, Spain, was finishing her civil engineering degree this semester after exhausting her eligibility at Iowa State in 2017-2018.

Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen said in a statement on Twitter that she was "deeply saddened" by Barquin's death.

She was one of the most accomplished players in Cyclone golf history. In April, she became the second women's golfer at Iowa State to earn medalist honors at a conference tournament when claiming the 2018 Big 12 Championship. She did it with a three-shot victory.

It is the second fatal stabbing of a female student in Iowa in recent months.

An immigrant from Mexico is charged in the July 18 kidnapping and stabbing of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, who vanished while out for a run in the small town of Brooklyn.

Celia Barquin Arozamena was playing a round in central Iowa when she was allegedly attacked by Collin Daniel Richards. Source: Associated Press


South Auckland charity The Aunties takes home top Women of Influence Award

The founder of a South Auckland charity group dubbed The Aunties has won the top honour at the Women of Influence Awards.

Jackie Clark set up the not-for-profit organisation six years ago to help vulnerable women and children who've experienced domestic violence.

The group's primary aim is to provide material needs to those they support.

"The Aunties believe everyone has the right to be safe, to have shelter, to be fed, to be loved, to dream, to read, to write, to have their say, and to be heard," the group proclaims on its Givealittle page. "Where any of those things are missing, the Aunties mission is to help provide them - the practical things, and also in terms of advocacy and pastoral care."

The group says it believes in manaakitanga - protecting the mana of the people they help so that they can find their way towards living independently, and with dignity and joy.

"Jackie and her fellow Aunties give without seeking anything in return and without judgement," said Westpac NZ chief executive David McLean, whose company co-sponsors the Women of Influence Awards. "She, and her core of other Aunties, ask vulnerable women what they need and then set about making it happen, in a completely selfless way.

"They have made an enormous contribution to our local communities at grassroots level."

The award ceremony was held last night at SkyCity in Auckland.

Here's the full list of winners:
Supreme Winner: Jackie Clark
Lifetime Achievement: Theresa Gattung
Arts and Culture: Miranda Harcourt
Board and Management: Dr Farah Palmer
Business and Enterprise: Angie Judge
Rural: Rebecca Keoghan
Public Policy: Charlotte Korte
Community/Not for Profit: Jackie Clark
Innovation and Science: Professor Wendy Larner
Diversity: Sarah Lang
Global: Sarah Vrede
Young Leader: Maddison McQueen-Davies

Jackie Clark set up the non-for-profit six years ago, which aims to help vulnerable women and children who have experienced domestic violence. Source: Breakfast


Eleven Glenorchy homes still without power 48 hours after early spring snowfall

Some resident in Central Otago's Glenorchy are still without power 48 hours after a spring snowfall caused major disruptions in the deep south.

Eleven properties remains with power this morning.

Aurora Energy is hoping to have power restored to the area by this evening.

Around 360 households in the central Otago town are affected, with Aurora Energy hoping to have electricity back on by this evening. Source: Breakfast

In many places power was cut, schools were closed and flights cancelled. Source: 1 NEWS