Woman who supplied homemade booze “targeted people with alcoholism”
Magistrate Helen Barry also said more people could die without tougher rules on the purchase of stills that are used to make alcohol.
An inquest found the illegal sale of homemade alcohol contributed to the deaths of the three residents of an Indigenous reserve near Collarenebri in February and March last year. They were aged in their 30s and 40s.
Norman Boney, his sister Sandra Boney and her partner Roger Adams consumed an unknown quantity of “moonshine” in the months before their deaths. It was supplied by another woman, Mary Miller.
Ms Miller denied selling the alcohol, but the coroner found “the overwhelming and only conclusion is that Mary Miller was in fact selling moonshine (homebrew) to the residents of Walli Reserve during the period of 2014 and 2015”.
Lavinia Flick, who was related to Mr Adams, earlier told the inquest the deaths had a huge impact on the community.
“The sadness that you feel, there are no words for it,” she said.
“Mary opened her shop the next day after they died like it was nothing.”
Ms Barry said it is impossible to disagree with Ms Flick’s conclusion that: “Mary targeted people with alcoholism. She targeted people with an addiction and disease. It was our people that were affected by it.”
The inquest was told distilling alcohol without a licence is illegal and easy to get wrong.
Professor Ian Whyte from the Department of Clinical Toxicology and Pharmacology at Calvary Mater Hospital in Newcastle gave evidence at the hearing.
“A relatively small dose can cause blindness and ultimately death.”
‘Gap in the legislation’ could have ‘fatal consequences’
The coroner said it was legal to purchase a still that holds less than 5 litres for the purpose of distilling water or essential oils.
But in practice, it can be used to illegally manufacture alcohol and “because there is no licensing requirement, that activity is likely to remain undetected unless there is a catastrophic event such as in the loss of lives such as those of Sandra, Norman and Roger”.
“Because of the gap in the legislation, there is the potential for fatal consequences.”
Ms Barry said she would send these findings to the Commonwealth Attorney-General and Minister for Finance for their consideration.