A YOUNG Melbourne mother of two was murdered and her body dumped in bushland after her distressed call to triple-0 was not referred to police, an emergency call centre has confirmed.
James John Nathan Potter, 26, of Ferntree Gully, was found guilty of murdering Penelope Louise Pratt, 27, who was shot three times in the face, stabbed in the heart and had her throat cut in 2010. Her body was later dumped at Olinda in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. Potter was sentenced to 24 years’ jail. Ms Pratt had twice called triple-0 for help on the night she was killed. The first call was disconnected and police who called her back were unable to reach her.
During the second call, she told an operator at ESTA: ‘‘Trust me, you want to get to this address’’, after explaining she was hiding in some bushes from three men she feared were going to hurt her. Emergency call centre ESTA confirmed on Tuesday that the second of two triple-0 calls Ms Pratt made on the night had not been forwarded to police.
During the call, Ms Pratt grew increasingly distressed as she argued with the ESTA operator, who repeatedly asked for details about the identities of her attackers and reasons why police should be sent to her address. ESTA spokeswoman Rosie Mullaly said the operator had since been disciplined and removed from police call-taking duties but was still employed at the organisation.
‘‘The call-taker did not follow our standard operating procedures and Penny Pratt didn’t get the empathy and the support that she needed from the calltaker,’’ Ms Mullaly said.
‘‘The focus of the call was to control [the conversation], which is also important in order to get people help. But she did not provide [the empathy needed] and we absolutely acknowledge that,’’ Ms Mullaly said.
‘‘Undoubtedly the circumstances of Penny Pratt’s death are tragic and we really regret what has happened. We offer sincere sympathy to Penny’s family and friends.’’
Ms Mullaly said that ESTA had since appointed two new centre managers and strengthened processes for internally reporting potentially significant issues.
Justice Almond described the murder as ‘‘shockingly callous’’ .
Ms Pratt pleaded for her life as she was shot three times — twice by Potter’s co-accused Aaron Gibson and once by Potter— following an argument over a $160 drug debt, the court heard.
She was then stabbed by Potter and her throat was cut before he told his two accomplices: "Nobody’s leaving" and "If I go to jail everyone’s going to jail".