Dransfield: Coroner’s Report, 1973

Newspaper account of Coroner’s report, June 1973

THE POET WHO KEPT ON HATING HIMSELF
[newspaper headline] Sunday Mirror, June, 1973

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A brilliant young Australian poet and author killed himself because he loved the whole world but hated himself, a leading psychiatrist said this week.

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      “He never learned to criticise or show any hostile feelings toward others,” the psychiatrist said.

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      “He abhorred violence and wrote in his poetry a great deal of beauty.”

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      “But, at the same time, he would admit feeling very murderous toward himself.”

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      Dr. D.E. Lawrence, staff psychiatrist at the Canberra Community Hospital, was giving evidence at the City Coroner’s Court into the death of Michael John Dransfield, 24, in the Mater Hospital, on April 20.

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      Dransfield, author of three books and on a Commonwealth scholarship to write a novel, died a month after injecting an unknown substance into his jugular vein.

“Not exactly surprised”

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Dr Lawrence told the court, in a written statement, he was “not exactly surprised” at Dransfield’s death.

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      Dr Lawrence said he had been treating Dransfield for some months, at Canberra Hospital, for a depressed condition.

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      “Michael never learned to express hostile feelings in the context of a loving, warm relationship without the fear that, in doing so, the relationship would be destroyed,” the psychiatrist said.

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      “He thought the whole world was beautiful.”

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      “But, from early adolescence, Michael found himself harboring suicidal thoughts.”

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      Dr Lawrence said Dransfield had made many attempts to harm himself, with tablets, a knife and, on one occasion, a gun.”

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His sister, Frances Elizabeth Dransfield, of Ben Boyd Road, Neutral Bay, said Dransfield had arrived from Canberra for the weekend and stayed with her and their mother.

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      “I arrived home from work about 5 pm on March 20,” Miss Dransfield said.

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      “I went to the kitchen, then had a feeling he still in the unit.

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      “I found him apparently asleep, fully clothed. I did not realise for about 10 minutes that he was unconscious.

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      “I found a syringe on the desk but it appeared to be empty and unused.”
dransfield-coroner-waller
[Sunday Mirror photo of Coroner Mr Kevin Waller]

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The Senior Coroner, Mr K. M. Waller, SM, said there was evidence that Dransfield had been using drugs during 1966/67.

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      “But his mother, a medical secretary, is quite firm he was not using drugs at the time of his death,” Mr Waller said.

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      “However, needle marks show he certainly injected himself with something.”

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Mr Waller found that Dransfield had died a month later, without regaining consciousness, from pneumonia and acute brain damage following a self-injection of [an] unknown substance.

END