A woman accused of negligence after she failed to get 20-year-old Luke Doyle medical help when he was overdosing in 2012 is now facing trial for manslaughter in Wagga District Court.
Tracy Lee Dowling, 41, was arrested and charged four years and seven months after the Cootamundra man’s death when a coronial inquest identified her as a “person of interest”.
Mr Doyle was found dead outside Ms Dowling’s home in Young on the morning of March 13, 2012 surrounded by what was later revealed to be his own vomit.
On Wednesday, prosecutor Paul Kerr said the Crown would argue Ms Dowling is “criminally responsible” for his death because she failed to take him to the hospital.
“Instead of driving Luke Doyle to the hospital, or to some other place where he could have received urgent medical attention that might have saved his life, she took him to her own home,” Mr Kerr said.
“She assumed a duty of care over Luke Doyle – to properly discharge that duty of care, it was necessary for Tracy Dowling to either take him somewhere he could get immediate medical treatment or, alternatively, get someone to him.”
The court heard Ms Dowling and Mr Doyle were taking drugs together and with some other friends the evening before his death when he started showing signs of overdosing.
Mr Kerr said a third friend then put Mr Doyle into Ms Dowling’s car about 1am and called another friend saying he was “unconscious and in danger of choking on his own vomit”.
“There appears to have been a consensus that Luke Doyle was OK and that Tracy Dowling had taken him home – that appears to be the explanation as to why no one else rang triple-0,” Mr Kerr said.
“Meanwhile, Tracy Dowling had in fact driven Luke Doyle to her house.”
Mr Kerr said Ms Dowling had given various, inconsistent versions of what happened once they pulled up at her house.
“Tracy Dowling told police that she had gone inside, put her phone on charge, and had come out to check on Luke Doyle,” he said.
“She said she checked his pulse and that he was breathing and talking to her, albeit in a mumbling incoherent fashion, and she went back inside to sleep.”
However, Mr Kerr said Ms Dowling told police a “completely different version of events” when she was arrested four years later after she was charged.
During that second interview, Mr Kerr said Ms Dowling told police she and Mr Doyle had in fact slept at another friend’s house before going to her place about 6:15am.
“Tracy Dowling says she looked at the clock in her car and that, because she got home after 6:15am, she thought it wouldn’t be long before her mother got home – her mother is a nurse,” Mr Kerr said.
“It is the Crown’s contention that the bulk of the answers given during that second interview are lies intended to exculpate Tracy Dowling.”
The first witness called to give evidence in the trial was Detective Senior Constable Peter Butcher, who was one of the first officers on the scene at Ms Dowling’s house after her mother found Mr Doyle dead.
Senior Constable Butcher said he arrived to see Mr Doyle lying beneath the passenger side door of a red utility vehicle.
“His legs were facing towards the vehicle … and there was a sheet covering his body,” he said.
“I became aware during the investigation that [Ms Dowling’s mother] placed the sheet over Mr Doyle.”
Senior Constable Butcher said DNA profiles taken from vomit on the passenger door, glove box, seat, and roof lining of the car matched Luke Doyle’s.
Many other witnesses are expected to testify during the four-week trial, including Mr Doyle’s parents and several now deceased people who gave police interviews after the incident.
The trial continues.
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