Cairns woman dies at Windin Falls waterfall in Far North Queensland

A 58-year-old Cairns woman has died after plunging more than 40 metres from the top of a remote Far North Queensland waterfall.

Queensland police said the woman slipped and fell from the pools, at the top of the Windin Falls trail about 60 kilometres south of Cairns, just before 1:00pm on Sunday.

A land and air search was launched with the assistance of the Cairns-based Rescue 510 helicopter.

The woman’s body was found by helicopter crews about 4:00pm.

State Emergency Service area controller Peter Rinaudo said it was a tragic death.

“We activated members from our Atherton and Malanda crews and actually took an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) in through the walking track that leads to Windin Falls,” Mr Rinaudo said.

“Unfortunately by the time we got there, it was determined that there was nothing that we could do to assist.”

Windin Falls has become a popular site for thrill-seekers and photographers because of a natural “infinity pool” at the top of the falls that overlooks a lush rainforest valley.

“There’s a couple of small pools that come from a nearby creek that then plummet straight over the side of a cliff face,” Mr Rinaudo said.

“So if you are in the water in the creek it’s just like an infinity pool and you can look down the gorges down towards Palmerston National Park.

“It’s a very, very pretty place but one that can at times be quite dangerous as well.”

Queensland Police will prepare a report for the coroner.

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Anne-Marie Lescot looks back on solo motorbike crossing of Tanami Desert

The years haven’t dulled Anne-Marie Lescot’s sense of adventure since she crossed the Tanami desert solo on a motorbike in the 1970s.

Originally from the south of France, but now based in Cairns, she crossed the Tanami Desert by herself in 1976 on a Suzuki 370 SP.

Then she decided to continue on to the Kimberley.

Ms Lescott, 70, said she may have been the first woman to traverse the Tanami on a motorbike — but “it was all for the sake of adventure, not to be the first one to go somewhere”.

“There may have been other women crossing the Tanami from the 1930s onwards, but I knew of none as there was no media coverage,” she said.

Tomorrow Ms Lescott will be giving a talk called Looking for Adventure at the Women with Wheels event in Cardwell.

“I will be showing slides from the old trips and also showing how hard it was to set up a bike back then compared to now,” she said.

“I will also talk about what we had to do bike wise, compared to the safety and technology of bikes today.

Ms Lescott was originally invited by traditional owners in Yuendumu to stay for a sporting event and an art festival and then she just kept riding.

“I crossed the Tanami and thought, ‘The Kimberleys look like a nice place to go,'” she said.

“The preparation was actually longer than the trip, as I had to get a bigger fuel tank and special racks made and I had to learn how to ride on sand by training at the beach.

“After Yuendumu I rode to Rabbit Flat and then one night I crashed because it was so dark and then the next day I made it to Wolfe Creek station.

“Then I rode to Broome and then onto the Kimberleys, which was the hardest part of trip as it was really rough terrain, and the heat, and nearly being caught in a bushfire.”

Ms Lescott said she felt completely safe the whole time while riding through the desert.

“There is nobody around, so you are very safe — and if you did meet someone they were usually a traveller who had the same spirit of adventure as you,” she said.

Ms Lescott said adventures were much easier to embark on today.

“Now you have things like GPS and satellite phones,” she said.

“Back then you had to stay on the track, because if something happened they would never find you again.”

Ms Lescott is still riding motorbikes today.

“I still ride to the shops or to go camping — I will never stop riding,” she said.

“I just love the freedom and if everybody rode a motorbike nobody would be depressed.

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How Mareeba horse lover Kellie Malliff saves and rehomes ex-racehorses destined for the abattoir

Kellie Malliff has been surrounded by horses her entire life. She says her mum has a photo of her on a horse at four weeks old and she competed in her first equestrian competition aged three.

Now Ms Malliff, from Mareeba, works as a track rider for her trainer husband, is still involved in equestrian and showjumping. Her other big passion is saving ex-racehorses.

“My family have had horses forever, my grandfather was a racehorse trainer and as soon as I turned 15 I got my licence to ride and haven’t been out of it since,” she said.

“I’ve also competed in showjumping and dressage. I’ll have a go at anything.

“I also worked with (top showjumping trainer) Donal Barnwell at the Billy Stud in the UK.”

Ms Malliff says people in the industry bring her horses that have come to the end of their racing careers.   

She says she has saved more than 50 racehorses from being destroyed and has trained them to become dressage horses, showjumpers and pets.

“From a young age, trainers were giving me their horses for free,” she said.

Ms Malliff says she has conflicting opinions about the number of horses destroyed each year.

“It’s not just the racing industry, it’s any discipline with horses,” she said.

“It’s just that racing has had the spotlight put on it, so it looks worse.

“In any sport you have you good and bad operators, but because racing is televised you can see it as it happens.

“I feel now that more horses end up in a good place rather than ending up in a bad place.

“Unfortunately, we can’t save all of them.”

Ms Malliff said she gets a lot of satisfaction from taking horses that only know how to race and teaching them how to jump or compete in dressage.

“I’ve had a few horses go onto bigger success off the race track than on it,” she said.

“Kid Candy won a major award at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. 

“I’m currently training three ex-racehorses, including Taking Charge, Graceful Jen and my best is Ramsden Street, who is jumping about 1.10 metres at the moment.

“He made it to the Off The Track finals last year.

“Hopefully, I can send him south this year to try and make the finals again.

“Racehorses are the most versatile breed.

“They get a bad rap for being a little crazy but if you take them away from the race track you end up with a completely different horse.”

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Young Indigenous creatives co-design bus ‘wrap’ in reconciliation project in Far North Queensland

A group of young Indigenous creatives from Far North Queensland have co-created a vibrant design “wrapped” around a new bus about to hit the streets of Cairns.

The bus is a new member of the Sunbus fleet and its “wrap” is part of a reconciliation action plan by parent company Kinetic.

The eye-catching design is the joint work of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives at the Indigenous-led program IndigeDesign Labs, and project partner Leigh Harris, a local designer.

IndigeDesign Labs’ Kayden Bosun said the group learnt a lot in the design process as it created different versions of an idea before settling on “community”.

“The design on the bus … has a lot of circles and trails connecting each circle to the centrepiece circle,” Mr Bosun said.

“It [the centrepiece] represents Kinetic’s reconciliation plan … and the trails are connections from the main circle of Kinetic and the community to other communities,” he said.

Mr Harris, who runs design company ingeousstudios and has been working in the space for 25 years, was excited about transferring his skills to young people.

“It’s about telling the stories that are uniquely done through design rather than artwork and telling a modern story that is about reconciliation.

Mr Harris said as important as the design, was the support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, and the backing of traditional owners in their progress.

“It’s really important that organisations and businesses like Kinetic do reconciliation action plans and … it’s very important that they’re backed up by what’s inside.”

Kinetic co-chief executive Michael Sewards said the bus signified the company’s commitment to its reconciliation action plan.

“This is the only bus so far, but … the design will [also] be in every single depot.

IndigeDesign Labs creative Janice Ghee said the group had worked on small projects before but this was the big one.

“I don’t know what I’m thinking at the moment,” she said.

“Seeing what we did here today, maybe we can … do more in the future.”

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Cairns Hospital in code yellow again as demand for emergency care pushes clinicians to the limit

Cairns Hospital has declared a code yellow emergency for the third time this year, in response to increased pressure on services.

The internal emergency was called yesterday and ended at midday today, as latest performance figures confirmed the hospital had its busiest month ever in elective and trauma surgery in March.

Anaesthetist and Together union senior vice president Dr Sandy Donald is calling for building works at Cairns Hospital to be expedited, to create space and ease pressure on the system.

Cairns Hospital emergency department experienced its busiest day ever in February.

The hospital’s director of intensive care, women’s and perioperative, Susan Henderson, said they had experienced a significant increase of demand on services, which had led to the most recent internal emergency.

“When we move into our code yellows, we do have to look at how we manage our elective work,” Ms Henderson said.

“Patients would be aware we do cancel some of our less urgent surgery.

“We have seen an increase in presentations at Cairns Hospital and with that has come an increase in emergency and trauma.”

Ms Henderson said over the March quarter, elective surgeries had risen 7 per cent on the previous quarter and that the long waiting list had been cut to 78 per cent.

“There’s been a total of over 1,300 procedures done through the operating suite, that included elective surgery and also our emergency surgeries.”

Dr Donald said pressure on the system had been growing since the peak of the pandemic, and that it had led to delays.

“Ramping — it is just gradually getting worse again, that’s inevitable due to steadily escalating demand, and facilities that just have never kept pace with it,” he said.

“I don’t think we currently have the beds and facilities we need for the population that we treat.

“What we know is when there are patients ramped and there are 10 or 15 patients who should be in a ward but can’t go there.

“That’s a sign of a problem within the entire health service.”

In February, 61-year-old Cairns school bus driver Margaret Leggerini was choking due to a respiratory infection and needed an ambulance to her Bayview Heights home.

“[I was] gasping, absolutely gasping for breath.

“Every breath I took hurt. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to take another breath,” Ms Leggerini said.

Advanced care paramedics attended her home, but she said she was told ramping at the hospital meant she would wait a long time to be treated.

“I just felt sad, it’s the first time I’ve ever had to have the ambulance called for me, and I couldn’t get the help … I couldn’t go to the hospital where I would feel secure,” she said.

Ms Leggerini was treated by paramedics at home and taken to her GP.

“The hospital advised them that if I could go to my GP … that would be a better situation as there was a six-hour wait at the hospital.”

Ms Leggerini said she while the paramedics very helpful, the system needed to be fixed.

“I really feel for them and their workload, and what they have to go through just to try and do their job,” she said.

“I think about if someone was having attack or a stroke or something like that, they probably wouldn’t be here … especially on that day.”

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the state government was moving quickly to expand bed capacity in Cairns. 

She said an announcement is imminent on the proposed medical research area outside the hospital. 

“In the next couple of weeks I believe we’ll have the work that’s been done, due diligence work being done on identifying sites’ innovation, research and education centre,” she said.

“Why that education centre is important is because currently all of that research and education is currently happening inside the hospital so once we establish the land and build the centre and move those services out … we’re going to immediately be able to create extra bed capacity.”

She also said work is progressing on an expansion of mental health facilities at the hospital.

“We’re moving very quickly on the enhancement that we’re making at Cairns Hospital, the land is already there for construction to start on the mental health unit.

“I think it’s around an extra 30-bed capacity through the education centre and around another 70 through the mental health, so about 100 extra beds.

“We’re moving as quickly as we can.”

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Queensland couple fined for animal welfare offences over ’emaciated’ puppies

A Far North Queensland couple who fed two puppies an almost exclusively vegan diet, leaving them severely malnourished and underweight, has been banned from owning pets for three years and fined nearly $9,000.

James McKenzie and Megan Price from Cow Bay, north of Cairns, were each charged with two counts of failing to treat an animal and one count of failing to comply with an animal welfare direction (AWD) between April and May 2020.

The bull-arab-cross puppies, named Roo and Ula, were seized from the couple after the RSPCA made several visits to their property to investigate reports of animal cruelty and found the dogs were being fed chickpeas, quinoa, rice and grains.

After being seized in May, the dogs underwent days of emergency treatment, which resulted in Ula being renamed and re-homed after his condition improved.

Roo, however, did not respond well to emergency rehabilitation and was euthanased on the advice of three independent vets who held concerns around his quality of life due to lifelong pain.

On one of the first visits in April last year, the RSPCA inspector was told Roo had injured a back leg when jumping off the couch.

The couple told the inspector they had put the dog’s leg into a homemade cast, which they learned to construct from the internet, because they did not have the money to take the dog to the vet for treatment.

Roo was found to be underweight, struggling to stand and suffering blisters on his stomach due to the homemade cast rubbing against his skin.

The couple was issued with two AWDs — ordering them to have the puppy examined by a vet immediately.

The couple told the inspector that puppies Roo and Ula were being fed on rice and chickpeas as the couple had run out of dog food and were unable to buy more.

Days later, when the RSPCA followed up on the dogs’ welfare, McKenzie told the inspector the dogs had “gone to God”.

“They’re not with us anymore,” McKenzie told the inspector.

Less than a week later, the RSPCA learned Roo and Ula were back at the property.

A search warrant of the couple’s property found there was no dog food or meat products at the property, only human food, including lentils, rice, pasta, quinoa and grains in the pantry and fridge.

Price told the inspector she made her own dog food for the puppies but refused to disclose what ingredients she used.

After being seized, both dogs were assessed by veterinarian Dr Paul Matthews as being “emaciated” and suffering severe calcium deficiencies.

Giving evidence, Dr Matthews said approximately three months of inappropriate diet had led to severe nutritional imbalance in both puppies.

The couple was ordered to pay more than $8,600 in fines, legal costs and veterinarian bills.

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Jayden Penno-Tompsett became ‘aggravated’ over missing drugs before walking into bushland, inquest hears

The last person to see Jayden Penno-Tompsett before the 22-year-old disappeared in the Queensland bush has told a coronial inquest about his final hours.

Mr Penno-Tompsett went missing in the Charters Towers area during a three-day road trip from Newcastle to Cairns with his friend Lucas Tattersall to celebrate New Year’s Eve in 2017.

Mr Tattersall told a Cairns court on Wednesday the pair had planned to meet up with more than a dozen other young people, who were all members of a friendship group known as the Dead Beat Drug Club on Facebook.

The court heard the pair picked up an assortment of drugs, including ecstasy, in Newcastle for the group’s use in Cairns.

The court heard while the rest of the group flew to the Far North Queensland city, Mr Penno-Tompsett and Mr Tattersall decided to drive Mr Tattersall’s car to avoid police detection at the airport.

Mr Tattersall told the inquest the pair had been using drugs throughout the road trip, and became involved in a verbal argument on a remote road near Charters Towers on the morning of December 31.

“That’s when it all went to shit,” Mr Tattersall said.

Mr Tattersall told the court his friend claimed he had lost drugs that he intended to sell to his friends waiting in Cairns, and they stopped by the roadside near Charters Towers to look for them.

“He pulled up eight or nine times to search all the bags in the car, his ice was misplaced somewhere … he was getting really aggravated,” Mr Tattersall said.

“He got his MDMA, smashed his phone and then proceeded to start walking off from the cars towards the trees.

“I proceeded to follow him, but he said, ‘Leave me the f*** alone.’

“I checked trees, I didn’t know what the case was.”

Mr Tattersall said it was a very hot day, and after searching for several hours, he left the area and drove to Cairns.

When questioned by counsel assisting the coroner, Joseph Crawfoot, whether he had anything to do with Mr Penno-Tompsett’s disappearance, Mr Tattersall replied, “No”.

Another friend of the missing man, Jed Wakefield, gave evidence via video link, telling the court he was surprised when Mr Tattersall showed up at a Cairns hotel without Mr Wakefield’s “best mate”.

“He (Mr Tattersall) was fried, he looked unhealthy … he had been on the drugs for a day or two … he was absolutely cooked,” Mr Wakefield told the court.

“It was awkward. People were asking him where Jayden was.”

Mr Wakefield was asked why the group continued to party and do day trips to islands and swimming spots, instead of immediately notifying police that Mr Penno-Tompsett was missing.

“We knew they [Penno-Tompsett and Tattersall] had a fight and that Lucas left him there,” Mr Wakefield said.

“We were thinking he was just doing his own thing.”

He told the court Mr Tattersall had shown up in Cairns with far fewer drugs than the group was expecting, and that he believed his missing friend was in possession of the other drugs.

But he denied the drugs were the reason the group took several days to report Mr Penno-Tompsett missing.

“I don’t recall saying, ‘No, we don’t go to the police,'” Mr Wakefield said.

The missing man’s cousin Timothy Westcott was also part of the group from Newcastle who travelled to Cairns for New Year’s Eve.

The court was shown a copy of a text message Mr Westcott sent to Mr Tattersall, after he found out his cousin had gone missing, urging him “don’t go too (sic) the cops”. He also offered him a bed at his hotel.

“I didn’t want to call the cops because I didn’t want to get him into trouble … I knew he [Penno-Tompsett] had half the drugs,” Mr Westcott said.

He also said he didn’t realise his cousin had been dropped off in remote bushland in western Queensland and he thought he would just “catch a train to Cairns.”

A large-scale police search was launched on January 3, after several members of the group eventually went to Cairns police to report Mr Penno-Tompsett missing.

The inquest heard police searched an enormous area around Charters Towers.

Mr Tattersall also led police to the spot where he said Mr Penno-Tompsett left the car and walked into bushland.

On Tuesday in court, Mr Penno-Tompsett’s mother Rachel Penno said she believed her son was murdered.

She also raised concerns about the Queensland Police investigation, saying an officer initially told her that her son had probably “run off with a Swedish backpacker”.

Ms Penno also revealed she had not read the 170-page police report before giving evidence.

She gave evidence again in court on Wednesday, having read the document, and conceded that police had “done a lot of work”.

“They have done their job, there was a bit of lack of communication … I didn’t really know what was going on,” Ms Penno said.

The inquest continues.

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ABC Far North and Cairns Show Society bush poetry competition returns

Due to popular demand the ABC Far North and Cairns Show Society bush poetry competition is set to return.

Bush poets are being encouraged to throw their hats in the ring and finalists will be given the chance to perform their works live at the upcoming Cairns show.

The judges for this year’s competition are ABC Breakfast presenter Kier Shorey, long-time CWA member and bush poet enthusiast Meg Trimble and former ABC Rural reporter David Howard, who said he could hardly wait.

“I’m so delighted that this competition is back,” Howard said.

Ms Tremble said that bush poetry was about Australia and Australians.

“Bush poetry should be about the Australian way of life, but the Australian way of life changes from generation to generation,” she said.

Judging will take place weekly so get your entry in now to be named one of the weekly finalists.

Entries can be sent to PO box 932 Cairns 4870, or via email to

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What will the federal government’s $10 billion reinsurance pool mean for you?

For over a decade Ann Greer has called her apartment at the Metro Quays home, but an insurance hike of $100,000 for the building in the past year is taking the joy out of her dream digs.

The Townsville woman said the city lifestyle her apartment offered first attracted her to the location but she is now worried about increasing insurance bills.

“We couldn’t get insurance, there was only one insurance company even offering insurance for strata at that point in north Queensland,” Ms Greer said.

Ms Greer is now paying $3,000 in body corporate levies to cover the costs — almost double from previous years.

“It all goes on size and I don’t have a very big unit,” she said.

Ms Greer’s story isn’t unique, with insurance prices increasing across north Queensland in the wake of the 2019 floods.

“The issue has been either you don’t have insurance and therefore you can’t sell because no-one is going to buy a unit when there is no insurance on the building, or the levies are so high that people won’t buy in,” she said.

“From what I understand very few buildings have not had really extraordinary increases in their insurance.”

The federal government announced today that from July next year, a $10 billion reinsurance pool will be introduced in a bid to reduce home and business insurance premiums in northern Australia.

The pilot program will subsidise the cost of insurance coverage for cyclones and related flood damage.

The government expects the program will reduce premiums by more than $1.5 billion for households, strata, and small businesses north of the Tropic of Capricorn over 10 years.

In excess of 500,000 property insurance policies are expected to be eligible to receive cover.

“Homeowners and businesses have been faced with crippling insurance costs, and in some cases, can’t get insurance at all,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said the government investment would reduce premiums by acting as “a floor underneath the insurance industry”.

“That will encourage more insurance companies into the market,” he said.

Mr Morrison told Cairns radio station 4CA that he was aware “it’s been a cause of great concern in the north for a very long time”.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick said the state government welcomed the plan for more affordable and accessible insurance premiums.

However, Mr Dick called for more detail from the prime minister, and for the program to be up and running before the scheduled date of July 2022.

“What we now need to see from the Morrison government is delivery,” he said.

“The announcement today says nothing is going to happen until 2022. That means another cyclone season that we’re going to have to live through without that pressure being brought to bear to make sure insurance premiums go down.”

Meanwhile Mr Morrison declined to put a figure on how much the price of premiums might fall by.

“We have a more cautious view on that, but let’s just see how that plays out.”

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said a taskforce led by the Treasury would work closely with the insurance industry and deliver the final design of the reinsurance pool.

“More affordable insurance means peace of mind for hundreds of thousands of Australians across northern Australia, knowing that their economic livelihoods are protected,” he said.

The federal government has also pledged $40 million for the North Queensland Strata Title Resilience Pilot Program, aimed specifically at reducing the cost of strata insurance, also known as body corporate insurance.

Federal Housing Minister Michael Sukkar said the three-year pilot program would subsidise the cost of cyclone risk mitigation.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said it sounded like good news, but the devil would be in the detail.

Cr Hill said if executed correctly the scheme could lead to real savings for people in Townsville.

“There was a paper presented to the ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Competition] by an insurance group claiming that if reinsurance was to be established for this part of the world it could drive down costs of as much as 40 per cent purely on a home,” she said.

“One of the things we want to see is if people want to live in apartments and buy apartments they should be able to get insurance for those apartment at a very reasonable cost.” 

Cr Hill said she hoped residents, businesses and local government would be consulted as the plan developed.

“Insurance, even for local government, is a problem. We need to understand how this reinsurance pool will work and can local government access it for civic theatres and community centres and playgrounds because at the moment things like playgrounds aren’t covered by insurance,” she said.

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Jayden Penno-Tompsett’s mother at odds with police at coronial inquest into disappearance

The mother of a young man who disappeared in mysterious circumstances while on a boys’ trip has told a coronial inquest she believes her son was murdered.

Jayden Penno-Tompsett was 22 when he disappeared on December 31, 2017, while on a road trip with friend Lucas Tattersall from Newcastle to Cairns, where they had planned to spend New Year’s Eve.

The pair arrived in the small town of Charters Towers, about 130 kilometres west of Townsville in North Queensland, where Mr Penno-Tompsett got out of the car he was a passenger in and walked into bushland.

He was never seen again.

A three-day coronial inquest in Cairns is examining the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, including where and how he died.

Mr Penno-Tompsett’s mother Rachel Penno was the first of 11 people due to give evidence in court this morning, as eight other family members looked on.

Ms Penno told the court her son had a “beautiful, generous nature” but was also troubled, had used the drug ice and gone missing in the past, around three months before her son and his friend travelled north.

She said the last she had heard from her son was when she sent him a text message asking if he was OK on Friday, December 30, 2017.

He replied the next day — the same day he disappeared — with a message simply saying “yeah”.

Counsel assisting the coroner Joseph Crawfoot asked Ms Penno what she thought had happened to her son.

“He was murdered.”

Ms Penno raised concerns about the Queensland police investigation into her son’s disappearance in court, citing a conversation she had with a senior detective working on the case.

She told the court the officer had told her that her son had “probably run off with a Swedish backpacker” and then laughed.

“They were under the impression he had just run off,” Ms Penno said.

Detective Sergeant Peter Edwards led the investigation and also gave evidence in court.

He said police drove around several properties in the Charters Towers area with the missing man’s friend and driver of the car that night, Mr Tattersall, several days after Mr Penno-Tompsett disappeared.

Detective Sergeant Edwards said Mr Tattersall eventually led them to the place where he said he last saw his friend get out of the vehicle and walk into bushland.

The court also heard an examination of Mr Tattersall’s car, which the two men had travelled in, had not had any traces of blood.

The inquest continues.

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