Carley Metcalfe.
Carley Metcalfe. NSW Police

INQUEST: Why doctor doesn't believe Carley took her own life

LATEST: A doctor has told the coronial inquest into the circumstances surrounding the death of her patient in Northern NSW that she had been on a strong road to recovery from substance abuse in the lead-up to her disappearance and death.

Carley Metcalfe, 41, was reported missing three weeks before her body was found on the bank of the Brunswick River Mullumbimby in late November 2017.

As her treating GP, Dr Bronwyn Hudson told Lismore Coroner's court on Tuesday she was the "firm opinion" Carley Metcalfe did not take her own life.

Dr Hudson told the inquest Ms Metcalfe did not meet that criteria of a patient with suicidal ideations.

"Carley did not fit that picture," Dr Hudson said.

"It would take an event or a very rapid unravelling for that to change."

Ms Metcalfe, 41, was reported missing three weeks before her body was found.

She had been taken by ambulance to Lismore Base Hospital about 12pm on November 1 and discharged the following day.

Dr Hudson told the court she wished she had been told Ms Metcalfe was at the hospital.

Dr Robert Byrne, a psychiatric registrar at the hospital at the time, told the inquest his initial minute assessment of Ms Metcalfe led him to believe her disoriented state was more likely caused by drug intoxication and withdrawal.

But he hoped to keep her in the emergency department overnight and have her re-assessed in the morning and ordered a test to confirm or rule out drugs.

He began writing his notes on the patient at 8.39pm and was unable to conduct a proper mental health assessment.

Counsel assisting the coroner asked him about this situation.

"I'm asking you to confirm … you weren't able to do… a thorough mental health assessment because you weren't able to engage with Carley?" she asked.

Dr Byrne replied: "that's correct".

"I was unable to complete that process due to Ms Metcalfe's exhaustion and confusion," he said.

"It was very difficult for me to obtain much information at all from her at that point.

Dr Byrne said "acute typical symptoms" of auditory hallucinations or delusions were not apparent to him when he assessed Ms Metcalfe.

The inquest heard she had consumed cannabis "recently" but denied using any other illicit drug.

When he raised the proposal of having her remain in ED overnight and re-assessed in the morning, Dr Byrne said this was not well-received by a senior doctor.

"My view was she wasn't appropriate for admission to the mental health ward at that time," he said.

"But given her condition …I wanted her to stay overnight at the hospital to be reassessed in the morning. That was my plan."

The inquest continues.


Original story: The inquest into the mysterious death of a woman whose body was found at the Brunswick River in 2017 is due to continue today.

The body of Carley Metcalfe was found near Mullumbimby on November 29. 2017, three weeks after her parents reported her missing to police.

An inquest into the circumstances surrounding her death began more than a year ago, but was put on hold last March due to COVID-19 concerns.

The inquest continues in Lismore Coroners Court before State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan today.

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