Casino woman Carole Chambers is suing the North Coast Area Health Service over the murder of her parents in 1999.
Casino woman Carole Chambers is suing the North Coast Area Health Service over the murder of her parents in 1999.


By STEVEN GIBBS of the Sydney Morning Herald

TONY PETERSON had been out of the Richmond Clinic psychiatric unit less than two weeks when he killed his neighbours at their Mummulgum property in 1999.

Now Bill and Betty Chambers' daughter, Carole, is suing the North Coast Area Health Service, saying it did not do enough to stop Peterson, who has been in a psychiatric hospital since he killed her parents.

A NEIGHBOUR who reported finding the bodies of Bill and Betty Chambers led police to where they lay on the lawn outside the front door of their Mummulgum home.

"This is the most horrible thing I have ever seen," Tony Peterson repeatedly told the police.

On the lawn near the bodies of Mr and Mrs Chambers, retirees aged 73 and 72 respectively, were the instruments of their violent deaths: Two cast iron frying pans, one cement pot and a small garden spade.

Peterson, a paranoid schizophrenic who had been discharged from hospital for the second time in one month a fortnight earlier, was charged with having murdered them the previous evening or early that day.

The injuries he inflicted upon the couple were so horrific their daughter Carole Chambers says she has not worked a day since learning how they were slain.

Peterson, who was found not guilty of the October 1999 murders by reason of mental illness, is in Morriset Hospital where his custodial status is reconsidered every six months.

Ms Chambers, who now lives in Casino, is seeking to sue the North Coast Area Health Service claiming nervous shock and psychiatric injury due to negligence at Lismore Base Hospital.

But before that claim could be considered by a judge, the 52-yearold has to show why the case should be heard outside the three year time limit from the date her parents were killed.

That application, being resisted by the area health service's insurers, GIO, has been heard in the Supreme Court before Justice Clifton Hoeben over the past two days. The area health service denies any responsibility for the actions of Peterson and does not concede Carole Chambers' claims of injury.

But it does not contest the basic facts about what happened on the night of October 14-15, 1999, at Mummulgum.

From the late 1980s until their deaths the only neighbour Bill and Betty Chambers had was Peterson, whose house was 100 metres from theirs.

There was a great deal they did not know about him.

When Tony Peterson bought the lease on his property in 1990 he was 30, with a police record which began at age 13.

Tony Peterson was also very unwell.

He had shown signs of psychosis since his early 20s and was formally diagnosed schizophrenic at 25.

But while his illness could be controlled with tranquillisers in prison, Peterson became full-on psychotic by injecting amphetamines on the outside.

In the second half of 1999, wired and without any treatment program, he went right off the air.

On August 25 Peterson was arrested going 'beserk' at his de facto wife's home at Kingscliff and scheduled to the Richmond Clinic at Lismore Base Hospital.

Five days later he was discharged after an injection of antipsychotic medicine.

A month later, on September 28, he was arrested menacing a pregnant woman near an ATM in Casino, taken back to the clinic and given a sedative.

Three days later he was discharged again.

On the night of October 14, Peterson's sister rang the clinic to report more disturbing behaviour and, she says, request they send police out to Mummulgum.

No one came.

Justice Hoeben is expected to rule tomorrow on whether Ms Chambers's case can proceed.

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