The drug-addled driver who killed Home And Away star Jessica Falkholt and her family in a horror crash lied about needing methadone so he could get even more prescription drugs just hours earlier, an inquest has heard.
The shock act was detailed by a doctor who resorted to prescribing Craig Anthony Whitall valium after he turned up to the Shoalhaven Memorial Hospital’s emergency department on Boxing Day 2017.
Lidcombe Coroner’s Court heard that Whitall’s agitation in the waiting room let to him being escalated after presenting at 8.08am.
Whitall told the triage nurse he missed the last three days of his methadone program because he had not been able to obtain a supply over the Christmas period.
He later saw Dr Brona Geary and told her he hadn’t eaten in days.
She said he displayed “overt signs” of withdrawal, including dilated pupils.
“He was much taller than me, and towered over me and squared up to me when he first came in,” Dr Geary said.
“He was quite aggressive in his manner and it was quite difficult to extract historic details from him regarding his utility of methadone.”
Staff at the hospital were not permitted to supply methadone to patients under any circumstances, the court heard.
Instead Dr Geary gave Whitall four 5mg tablets of diazepam – or Valium – and expressly told him not to take them all at once.
She told the court she believed it was the best course of action to alleviate the symptoms he claimed to have been experiencing, including agitation, anxiety and muscle cramps.
“He told me he hadn’t eaten in several days so there was a possibility he would have become dehydrated,” Dr Geary said.
“I guess I trusted him in that I expressly told him not to take them all at once.”
She offered him a sandwich and drink in an attempt to keep him at the hospital a bit longer but he left soon after.
At 10.42am the Toyota Triton ute Whitall was driving crossed onto the wrong side of the Princes Highway and slammed into the Mazda SUV carrying the Falkholt family.
Both cars erupted in flames, killing Whitall, Lars and Vivian Falkholt at the scene. Jessica, 28, and Annabelle, 21, were pulled from the car but succumbed to their horrific injuries in hospital.
It is now known Whitall was lying about his access to methadone, after a post-mortem toxicology report found levels in his system consistent with someone on the opiate maintenance program.
The 50-year-old had a cocktail of drugs in his system, including Valium, ice, TCH and potentially fatal levels of the antidepressant deptran, which the court has heard he was heavily abusing in the months before the crash.
The inquest heard Whitall had attended another south coast facility, Milton Ulladulla Hospital, the day before making the same claims about needing methadone.
Dr Geary said Whitall avoided questions about that presentation but she still believed he needed treatment for his claimed methadone withdrawals.
Counsel Assisting the Coroner Donna Ward asked Dr Geary whether she thought Whitall might be an “unreliable historian” based on his behaviour and repeated requests for drugs.
The doctor said although she had her suspicions, she gave Whitall the “benefit of the doubt” like she would any patient, and “trusted the symptoms he was reporting”.
She planned on giving him one tablet and a script for three more but said Whitall pushed back telling her he was strapped for cash and it would be “an inconvenience” for him to visit a pharmacy.
An expert cleared Dr Geary’s treatment of Whitall and found she was dealing with a “difficult patient” on a busy day in the emergency department.
Dr Robert Day was not critical of the use of diazepam but said giving Whitall four tablets “led to significant risk” he would take it all at once “with sedative effects likely within 30-60 minutes”.
The inquest heard Whitall visited both Shoalhaven and Milton Ulladulla hospitals in the months before the crash claiming he had run out of diazepam or deptran or lost his scripts.
Dr Qays Alsha’er told the inquest Whitall was “quite demanding and intimidating” in his request for diazepam when he attended a hospital on October 5 and he made a note for GP Francesco Rossi he was concerned about drug-seeking.
The court heard he recorded prescribing Whitall one diazepam tablet, but pharmaceutical benefits scheme records show Whitall filled scripts for seven Valiums, 20 Panadeine fortes and nine deptran pills that day.
Dr Alsha’er said he had no memory of prescribing the extra medications.
The inquest continues.
Originally published as Shock act before actress and family killed