A man experiencing an apparent psychotic episode suffered cardiorespiratory arrest when he died in Heathcote’s main street in February 2016, the Coroners Court has heard.
The death of 39-year-old Matt Crampton on the evening of February 14, 2016 was the subject of a recent inquest.
From a summary prepared by investigating officer Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Hatt, the court heard Mr Crampton had a history of violent offending and drug use, and in 2011, became aggressive towards hospital staff after using ice because he believed they were trying to cut his limbs off.
Between 9pm and 9.30pm on February 14, 2016, Mr Crampton was seen standing in the middle of the Northern Highway.
He approached one vehicle and said, "They're after me, they're after me" while shining a torch into the bushland.
Mr Crampton then got into a second vehicle with his dog and asked he be driven to the Heathcote police station, telling the occupants there were people outside trying to kill him.
Once at the station, Mr Crampton got out of the car and was seen running erratically up and down the street. Triple zero was called.
One witness told police Mr Crampton banged on the gate of a business and yelled, “I'll get you, you bastards. I know you're in there”, before running to a cafe, yelling to be let in and banging on the front door. At the cafe were a man and his two sons, preparing to leave for the night.
Mr Crampton smashed his way inside, then started moving chairs to prevent people coming inside.
The man tried to calm Mr Crampton and then restrain him, but Mr Crampton hit the man’s 11-year-old son in the chest with a torch and dragged him into a storeroom. During the encounter with the man, he stared at his other son and said, “He’s right there, he’s right there. Can you see him?”
The children escaped the store and flag down a passing off-duty police officer.
At one point Mr Crampton ran onto the road and stopped a car, got in and ordered the female driver to drive, before becoming aggressive and taking the wheel himself. The woman yelled at him to get out and called her boyfriend.
The woman told police she saw the man from the cafe wrestle Mr Crampton to the ground, and the police officer holding Mr Crampton’s hands behind his back as he knelt on the ground.
The man from the cafe put pressure on Mr Crampton’s back so he could not get up again, but they both fell over. The man put Mr Crampton in a headlock for about thirty seconds, until the police officer told him to let go in case he was having trouble breathing.
The police officer directed the man to hold Mr Crampton’s right arm behind his back while he held his left, with Mr Crampton lying face down on the concrete.
The police officer told police Mr Crampton’s skin was very hot and his shirt damp, and he checked for breath but could not feel anything.
He could not find a pulse at his neck, but checking his wrists he found his pulse was too fast to count, and he could feel his muscles twitching. He checked his eye, but there was no reflex.
At that point, the boyfriend of the female driver arrived and punched Mr Crampton two or three times in the head, and had to be pulled off him.
The police officer checked Mr Crampton’s eye again to find no reflex, then began resuscitation attempts with another man until paramedics arrived at 10.25pm.
Paramedics continued to attempt to revive Mr Crampton to no avail, and ceased treatment at 10.47pm.
The police summary said the pathologist who conducted the autopsy the following day recorded Mr Crampton’s cause of death as “cardiorespiratory arrest during prone restraint, including pressure on the neck of an obese male using methylamphetamine”.
Dr Heinrich Bauer determined there was evidence of neck compression, but he could not distinguish whether the injuries were sustained when he fell to the ground with an arm around his neck, or from other force.
Dr Bauer said the exact cause of Mr Crampton’s cardiorespiratory arrest could not be determined, but probable contributing factors included the combined effects of methamphetamine and noradrenaline.
Other factors likely to have contributed were physical restraint, his agitated state, force to the neck and torso, and natural disease.
Being an obese man, lying face-down had an impact on his breathing, Dr Bauer concluded, and pressure on his neck caused a degree of upper airway obstruction.
The absence of certain injuries to his head suggested the punches were unlikely to have caused or contributed to his death.
Homicide Squad Detective Senior Constable Vincent Shalken told the court criminal proceedings against the three men who came into physical contact with Mr Crampton were considered, but not pursued.
Acting Inspector John Greene, at the time of the incident a member of Victoria Police’s professional standards command, found the off-duty officer did not commit any “criminal disciplinary breaches”.
In his statement, he said Mr Crampton was suffering a “psychotic episode” at the time of his death.
Mr Crampton’s father, Robert, told the court at the conclusion of the evidence he did not want the death of his son, a much-loved family member, to “slip away”.
The senior Mr Crampton said his son was drug-free for a long time while living in Tasmania for a time.
“He was responsibly holding down a good job and was making progress, but all the time he was finding loneliness a problem and that he had no one in the drug-free world who he could relate to and hence develop meaningful relationships outside the drug environment,” Mr Crampton said. “He was incredibly lonely.”
Mr Crampton said his son was struggling with “harassments” regarding child support and it became impossible for him to see a future, and once he returned to Victoria, he became involved again with friends involved in drugs.
Coroner Darren Bracken has not yet released his findings.
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