Victoria’s top health bureaucrat Kym Peake resigns following coronavirus hotel quarantine inquiry


The head of Victoria’s health department has resigned “to pursue other opportunities”, less than two months after facing the state’s hotel quarantine inquiry.

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) secretary Kym Peake came under fire at the inquiry for refusing to accept blame for the ill-fated program, claiming it was not solely her department’s responsibility.

Ms Peake told the inquiry the program was run across multiple government departments despite evidence at the inquiry stating the public health administration body was in charge after the program was established.

During two days of at-times heated questioning, Ms Peake said it was a “matter of profound regret” that Victoria experienced a second wave.

“Kym Peake, who has served in the role for the last five years, has decided to step down from the position to pursue other opportunities,” the Government said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

Ms Peake announced her departure in an email to DHHS staff on Thursday, and referenced the “enormous collective effort” of recording consecutive days without coronavirus cases.

“You know that I believe in depth of leadership and the importance of new perspectives. This is how we will continue to maintain the hard-won gains against the virus and ensure we build back better,” she wrote.

“After deep reflection, I have decided to leave the Department. I do so knowing I leave it in incredibly capable hands.”

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DHHS secretary Kym Peake tells the inquiry she profoundly regrets not being able to prevent a second wave of coronavirus.

Ms Peake’s resignation comes a month after the head of the Department and Premier and Cabinet, Chris Eccles, quit his role.

She was one of several politicians and bureaucrats, including the state’s Chief Health Officer, asked to provide additional evidence to the inquiry last month.

The wait for the documents meant the final findings will be handed down before December 21, instead of the original deadline of November 6.

Instead, an interim report handed down last week made recommendations for the resumption of the state’s hotel quarantine scheme.

Ms Peake revealed to the inquiry that she did always pass on issues in hotel quarantine to then-minister Jenny Mikakos, an issue that the interim report of the Coate inquiry highlighted.

Deputy to take over secretary role

A man in a suit standing in front of a purple background.
Professor Euan Wallace will take over the role on November 17.(ABC News)

Ms Peake’s contract at the top of DHHS was due to expire soon.

“Ms Peake has led significant reform that has touched the lives of many Victorians including the relief and recovery from recent bushfires, the establishment of the mental health royal commission, and the delivery of many of the recommendations from the family violence royal commission,” the Government statement said.

“We thank Ms Peake for her dedicated service to Victoria and for her tireless commitment throughout the pandemic and her time with DHHS. We wish her well for the future.”

The deputy secretary of DHHS, Euan Wallace, has been appointed the new head of the department.

Professor Wallace will start in the role from Tuesday.

The Government said Professor Wallace had been jointly responsible for case management, contact tracing and outbreak management whilst serving as deputy secretary.

“Prof Wallace is a widely respected leader in the health sector and is well placed to lead the department through its next phase of pandemic response and recovery,” the statement said.

He had been serving as deputy on secondment from his role as CEO of SaferCare Victoria.



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Jury fails to reach verdict in trial of Stacey Wright for Kym Taylor’s murder in Bedfordale bushland


A Supreme Court jury has been unable to reach verdicts in the case of a Perth mother accused of bludgeoning to death an acquaintance she met that day and then leaving her children in the car while she and her father buried the body in secluded bushland at night.

Stacey Lea Wright, 29, had been on trial in the WA Supreme Court for the past three weeks over the death of 37-year-old Kym Taylor, whose body was found in bushland at Bedfordale on Perth’s southern outskirts in November 2018.

Ms Wright’s 48-year-old father William was on trial with her for helping try to cover up the crime.

It was alleged that about three weeks before Ms Taylor’s body was found, Stacey Wright had used a tow ball, or a similar heavy object, to “shatter” Ms Taylor’s skull into 38 pieces.

Prosecutor Paul Usher told the court Ms Wright had spent the day driving her father and Ms Taylor, who had met on social media, around the metropolitan area.

Tow ball allegedly murder weapon

They had ended up in bushland after Ms Wright said she was going to see her boyfriend who was fishing for marron in the Perth Hills, but when they got out of the car, the two women started fighting.

Stacey Wright then allegedly used the tow ball to strike Ms Taylor over the head at least twice.

Ms Taylor’s body was found in bushland at Bedfordale, in Perth’s south-east.(ABC News: Alisha O’Flaherty)

Mr Usher said it was further alleged Ms Wright and her father left the area and picked up her three young children, before returning to the bushland and leaving them in car while they tried to bury Ms Taylor’s body at night.

Both Stacey Wright and her father denied having anything to do with Ms Taylor’s death.

Her lawyer Tom Percy QC said his client maintained the last time she saw Ms Taylor was when she dropped her off in Perth’s southern suburbs, and she was “alive and well”.

Mr Percy said any suggestion Ms Wright bore any ill-will or a grudge towards Ms Taylor was “absolute rubbish”, and she simply did not know anything about how she died.

Child’s evidence ‘vague’

He also claimed the evidence of Ms Wright’s young son, who claimed to have seen his mum and pop with a shovel and flashlights after being taken to a forest at night, was “uncertain and vague”.

In a video recorded interview with police played to the court, William Wright maintained it was “a mate”, whose identity is suppressed, who had killed the 37-year-old while trying to sexually assault her.

Ms Wright’s young son told police he saw his mother and grandfather with torches and shovel at a forest at night.(ABC News: Alisha O’Flaherty)

He said his daughter had been asleep in the car at the time and did not know anything about what happened.

The jury deliberated for four days, but it was discharged after telling Justice Gail Archer it could not reach verdicts.

Stacey and William Wright now face the prospect of a retrial.

They were remanded in custody until they appear in court next month when a date for a new trial may be set.



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Kym Taylor Bedfordale murder trial hears police interview with accused’s son


The young son of an accused murderer has told Western Australia’s Supreme Court he and his two siblings were taken on a trip to “a forest” at night by their mother and grandfather, who he saw with a shovel and flashlights.

The boy’s pre-recorded evidence was played to the court at the trial of his mother, Stacey Wright, who is alleged to have bludgeoned 37-year-old Kym Taylor to death in October 2018.

Her body was found in bushland in Bedfordale about a month later.

Ms Wright’s father, William, is also on trial accused of helping his daughter to try to cover up the crime.

Kym Taylor’s body was found in bushland in Bedfordale, south-east of Perth.(ABC News: Alisha O’Flaherty)

It is alleged after spending the day driving around the metropolitan area with her father and Ms Taylor, Ms Wright used a tow ball to strike Ms Taylor over the head, “shattering” her skull.

Prosecutors allege Ms Wright and her father then left the scene, before returning hours later with her three young children, who they left in the car while they buried Ms Taylor’s body.

Son says headlights turned off because ‘police might drive past’

In an interview with police in December 2018, which was played to the court, Ms Wright’s then nine-year-old son said he was picked up by his mother — along with his older brother and younger sister — from where the children were being looked after.

He was asked to tell the officers about the time he went to the forest, saying he remembered seeing his mother with torches and a shovel.

He said at one point she turned the lights off “because of cars going around” and because “police might drive past”.

Kym Taylor’s body was found in bushland about a month after she was allegedly bludgeoned to death.(ABC News: Alisha O’Flaherty)

He told the officers he fell asleep but was later woken up by his brother, who he said was about to cry because he thought they were lost.

The boy said his brother asked where their mother and grandfather were, but he said they then saw them coming back to the car.

When asked what he thought his mother and grandfather did in the forest, he replied, “I don’t know, because they were far away from us.”

“They said they went marroning, but I don’t think they actually did.”

Boy provides further evidence a year later

About a year later, in November 2019, the boy gave recorded evidence before a Supreme Court judge which was also played to the court today.

He was then aged 10, and while being questioned by defence lawyers, he was asked why he thought he was in a forest.

Kym Taylor sitting in a chair.
Prosecutors allege Stacey Wright drove around Perth with Kym Taylor (pictured) before bludgeoning her.(Supplied)

“All I saw was trees around me and a road. I don’t know if it was a forest because it was dark,” he said.

The boy said it was a cold night and his mother had said to bring some pillows and rugs to keep warm.

He said he saw two torches and his grandfather also had a shovel.

When the pair returned to the car, the boy recalled, “All they said was that they went marroning.”

He also testified that his mother said she had turned off the headlights because of the police.

Both Ms Wright and her father deny any involvement in Ms Taylor’s death.

Evidence ‘vague in the extreme’: lawyer

In an opening address to the jury earlier this week, Ms Wright’s lawyer, Tom Percy QC, said his client maintained the last time she saw Ms Taylor was when she was dropped in the vicinity of Stock Road, south of Perth, and, “She was alive and well.”

Mr Percy also described Ms Wright’s son’s evidence as “uncertain” and “vague in the extreme”, saying he may have been referring to another occasion when his father took him marroning.

Mr Wright’s lawyer, Jim Sutherland, said his client also denied doing anything to help his daughter try to cover up the alleged murder because she was not involved in it.



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Kym Taylor Bedfordale bushland murder trial told young children taken to site of killing


A Perth mother left her three young children in a car in secluded bushland at night while she buried the body of a woman whose skull she had “shattered” hours earlier, the WA Supreme Court has been told.

Stacey Lea Wright, 29 is on trial accused of murdering 37-year-old Kym Taylor by bludgeoning her over the head with a heavy object in secluded bushland in Bedfordale in October 2018.

Her body was found by a bushwalker about a month later.

Ms Wright’s 48-year-old father, William, is also on trial accused of being an accessory to the crime by helping his daughter try to cover up Ms Taylor’s death.

The court was told Mr Wright and Ms Taylor were friends on social media, and had communicated with each other the day before the alleged murder.

State Prosecutor Paul Usher said that on the day of her death, Ms Taylor was picked up from a suburban train station by Mr Wright and his daughter Stacey, who was driving.

The court heard Ms Taylor had been bludgeoned over the head with a heavy object.(ABC News: Alisha O’Flaherty)

Mr Usher said they drove to various locations and at one point Mr Wright and Ms Taylor, who appeared to be getting on “really well” and “hugging and playing around”, took heroin.

He told the jury as they were heading to Fremantle, “something changed” and Ms Wright started driving towards Bedfordale saying she was going to see her boyfriend who was in the hills fishing for marron.

Grandfather and mother ‘collected children before returning to scene’

The court heard she parked the car by the side of a gravel track and after all three had got out Ms Wright, who appeared “pissed off”, started fighting with Ms Taylor, and were calling each other names and throwing punches.

It is alleged Ms Wright then used a tow ball, or a similar heavy object, to hit Ms Taylor over the head at least twice, “shattering” her skull into 38 pieces.

The court was told Ms Wright and her father left the scene, but later that night they collected her children, aged 3, 9 and 12, and went back to the bushland.

Ms Taylor’s body was found in secluded bushland in Bedfordale.(ABC News: Alisha O’Flaherty)

Mr Usher said that in an interview with detectives, one of Ms Wright’s children described being told to bring blankets and pillows because it was going to get cold.

He said the child told police, when they were in the bush, his Mum and his “Poppy” got out of the car with a shovel and flashlights and his Mum said they were going “marroning”.

Mr Usher said after Ms Taylor’s body was found, Mr Wright was recorded in a phone call saying to his daughter “you have to chuck out that tow ball because it doesn’t work”.

Evidence against accused ‘utterly unreliable’: Lawyer

Ms Wright’s lawyer, Tom Percy QC, said his client denied having anything to do with Kym Taylor’s death.

“This is not a case of provocation or self-defence or insanity,” he said.

“She says she had no involvement in Kym Taylor’s death whatsoever.”

Mr Percy said Ms Wright had not met Ms Taylor before the day in question, and any suggestion she bore her any ill will or had a grudge against her was “absolute rubbish”, and Ms Wright had no reason to kill Ms Taylor whatsoever.

He said Ms Wright knew Ms Taylor’s father had issues with drugs and did suspect when she was told to drive him and Ms Taylor to various locations, that it was drug-related.

However, he said his client maintained the last time she saw Ms Taylor was when she was dropped in the vicinity of Stock Road south of Perth, and “she was alive and well”.

Kym Taylor sitting in a chair.
Kym Taylor was picked up at a train station by Stacey and William Wright.(Supplied)

Mr Percy also described Ms Wright’s son’s evidence as “uncertain” and “vague in the extreme”, saying he may have been referring to another occasion when his father took him marron fishing.

He told the jury not only did Ms Wright have nothing to do with Mr Taylor’s murder, but she also knew nothing about it.

“Other than utterly unreliable evidence … we say there is nothing — and there will be nothing — on which you can hang your hat to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Stacey Wright had anything to do with the death of Kym Taylor,” he said.

Mr Wright’s lawyer Jim Sutherland said his client denied doing anything to help his daughter try to cover up the alleged murder because she was not involved in it.

“There’s just a lack of material that would establish criminal responsibility on Stacey Wright and as a result of that, criminal responsibility on William Wright.”

The trial is set down for three weeks.



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