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Kirra McLoughlin

105 bruises but no clue to young mum’s death

BASHED and catastrophically brain-damaged, her fragile 159cm frame covered in more than 100 bruises, young mother-of-four Kirra McLoughlin died in what her family says were the most horrific and suspicious circumstances.

However, four years and eight months later, they are still waiting for answers, with police no longer pursuing the case and a request for an inquest gathering dust at the Office of the State Coroner.

Kirra's mother Alison Kirkness has been told an examination by the coroner had been delayed by "competing work priorities" and preparation of a report by an expert.

The coroner's office recently advised that the file was still under review, but it was unable to provide a time­frame of when this may be completed.

Facebook image of Kirra McLoughlin.
Facebook image of Kirra McLoughlin.

Mystery surrounds the events that led to 27-year-old Kirra's shocking death on July 18, 2014.

According to information given to police, two days earlier there was a gathering at her rural Wolvi home, outside Gympie.

Police were told four or five other people attended.

Kirra's children were staying with her estranged husband and mother Alison, who was helping with the kids.

Her partner told police a physical altercation broke out between a female visitor and Kirra. He claimed the woman struck Kirra, causing her to hit her head on a cupboard.

In his statement, her partner said this caused the visitors to leave, and he and Kirra went to bed.

At 1.30pm the next day, he said Kirra was unable to be woken so he called an ambulance.

She was taken to Gympie Hospital, where her medical records show a history was given that she had been punched in the face the previous night, causing her to fall backwards.

She was allegedly still able to walk and talk and was not vomiting.

It was alleged by her partner that she had also taken a large amount of antidepressants (nortriptyline) and alcohol.

Due to a lack of CT scanning facilities in Gympie, Kirra was flown to Gold Coast University Hospital - bypassing two major Brisbane hospitals - but couldn't be saved.

Kirra McLoughlin (in orange) surrounded by family on her wedding day.
Kirra McLoughlin (in orange) surrounded by family on her wedding day.

Police secured Kirra's house as a crime scene for three days and told the media they were treating the death as suspicious and were investigating whether a weapon was used.

On October 23 the following year, after being asked for an outcome by the family, police said they had concluded their investigation and no one had been charged.

According to medical records, the cause of death was "hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy" (brain damage due to a lack of oxygen and blood flow) as a consequence of a head injury.

In the 22-page autopsy report, obtained by The Sunday Mail, it was noted that there were 105 "signs of recent injury".

 

Locations of the 105 bruises on Kirra McLoughlin’s body
Locations of the 105 bruises on Kirra McLoughlin’s body

 

As well as the blunt- force trauma to her head, the report detailed extensive bruising to her face, neck, shoulders, trunk, back, arms and legs.

She had significant recent bruising around her eyes, lips, chin, right cheek and central forehead. It is not known how those injuries were caused.

An examination of blood samples taken when Kirra was at Gympie Hospital showed she had only therapeutic levels of antidepressants in her system and no traces of alcohol.

While the eventual cause of death was clear, the doctor noted "its genesis is by no means clear cut".

Kirra pictured at Sea World in 2004.
Kirra pictured at Sea World in 2004.

Kirra's mother, who has spent 20 years in nursing and a further decade working in pathology, said she felt the police investigation had been grossly inadequate and she hoped the coroner would soon approve an inquest into her daughter's death.

"We want answers ... I can't believe it is taking so long," Ms Kirkness said.

"When you read the autopsy report, there are so many questions. Kirra deserves better than this, and we as her family deserve better."

Ms Kirkness described her daughter as vivacious.

"She was a very special character ... quite unique ... once met, never forgotten."

Ms Kirkness has enlisted the help of prominent Sunshine Coast lawyer Peter Boyce, who believes an inquest will provide a "much more thorough investigation of the matter".

A Queensland police spokesman said the investigation into Kirra's death was conducted by the Gympie Criminal Investigation Branch with the assistance of the Homicide Investigation Unit.

"Two people were formally interviewed by detectives from the Gympie CIB and Homicide Investigation Unit about the events that unfolded before Ms McLoughlin's death," the spokesman said.

"As a result of police investigations, a full report has been prepared and submitted to the coroner.

"The matter is still before the coroner so there is no further information which is able to be provided by the QPS."

Kirra McLoughlin’s mother, Alison Kirkness, is calling for an inquest. Picture: Lachie Millard
Kirra McLoughlin’s mother, Alison Kirkness, is calling for an inquest. Picture: Lachie Millard

LONG ROAD FOR ANSWERS IN KIRRA McLOUGHLIN CASE

JULY 16, 2014: An alleged physical altercation broke out at a gathering at a home on Beenham Valley Rd, near Gympie. According to the police report, a woman allegedly struck Kirra McLoughlin, 27, a mother of four, with police told this caused her to hit her head on a wardrobe or cupboard. It is believed four or five people left the property, leaving only Kirra and her partner, who both went to bed. Her children were not at the property, but staying with her estranged husband and her mother Alison Kirkness, who was helping out with the kids

JULY 17, 2014: About 10 or 11 hours later, at 1.30pm, her partner said he noticed she was unable to be roused and called an ambulance. She was taken to Gympie Hospital and a history was given that she had been punched in the face the previous night, causing her to fall backwards. She was allegedly still able to walk around and talk to her partner and was not vomiting. It was alleged she also had taken a large amount of antidepressants (nortriptyline) and alcohol. Tests revealed she had no alcohol in her system and only "therapeutic levels" of antidepressants. Due to a lack of CT scanning facilities at Gympie, Kirra was airlifted to Brisbane, but not accepted at two major hospitals with the crew advised to transport her to the Gold Coast University Hospital

JULY 18, 2014: Kirra was declared brain dead and the decision made for organ donation. The official cause of death was "hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy" (brain damage due to lack of oxygen and blood flow) as a consequence of a head injury

JULY 21, 2014: An autopsy was performed and the deceased's significant injuries assessed. The examining doctor noted 105 "signs of recent injury". These included the blunt trauma head injury, as well as soft tissue bruising on her face, neck, shoulders, back, trunk, buttocks, arms and legs. She had bruising near her eyes, lips, chin, right cheek and central forehead. While the eventual cause of death was clear, the doctor noted "its genesis is by no means clear cut"

JULY 24, 2014: Police told media they were treating the death as "suspicious" and were investigating whether a weapon was used. "Detectives from the Wide Bay Burnett District CIB are continuing their investigations," they said. Police maintained a crime scene at Kirra's home for three days and formally interviewed two people.

OCTOBER 23, 2015: The officer in charge of the investigation informed the family that investigations had concluded and no person had been charged with any offence relating to the death

NOVEMBER 6, 2015: Almost 16 months after her daughter's horrific death and still with no answers, Kirra's mother Alison engaged prominent Sunshine Coast lawyer Peter Boyce and wrote to the Office of the State Coroner asking for an inquest and informing him "the circumstances surrounding her death were suspicious to say the least"

AUGUST 3, 2017: Some 21 months later, the coroner's office informed Kirra's mother they had been unable to consider the material received in the case "due to competing work priorities", but would endeavour to do so as soon as possible

AUGUST 23, 2018: A year rolled on before the coroner's office informed the family it was in the process of obtaining an expert report into the case

DECEMBER 10, 2018: Kirra's mum, through Peter Boyce, is advised the coroner had received the expert report and it would be reviewed "in the near future"

FEBRUARY 25, 2019: The coroner's office advised the file was still under review and it was "unable to provide a timeframe of when this may be completed"

INFORMATION: Police report, autopsy report and medical records