Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murdered Woman’s Desperate Call for Help Mishandled by Emergency Operator

Penelope Pratt, 27. Police handout photo.

The killer of an Australian woman murdered over a $160 drug debt has been sentenced to prison. James Potter, 26, was given a sentence of 24 years for the 2010 killing of 27-year-old mother Penelope Pratt. His accomplice, Aaron Gibson, 33, was previously sentenced to 22 years for the murder. Pratt was shot in the head three times, stabbed in the chest, and had her throat cut. Her body was dumped in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.

Before she was killed, Pratt called triple-0, Australia’s emergency telephone number, twice, begging for police intervention. Both times, the operator was unable to understand Pratt’s location and hung up on the terrified woman without passing the information along to police.

Andrew Wellwood¬†of the¬†Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority said the call was not handled appropriately: “We know that Penny Pratt was in difficulty and we certainly didn’t provide the empathy and support that we think she needed when she dialed triple-0, the call was really focused on controlling the call rather than providing the empathy and support that Penny actually needed,” he said. “If the call had been handled appropriately it would have been passed on to the police, certainly we won’t make a judgement on what may have happened following that.” The operator who handled the call, Wellwood said, was dismissed from the job.

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