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Drowned girl’s mum wanted pool fence fixed before death

THE mother of a little girl who drowned in AFL coach Mark Harvey’s back yard pool asked for permission to block a gap in its fence which she thought posed a danger to the three-year-old.

Property manager Laura Teal told a coronial inquest today that at an inspection in June 2008 Monica Harris raised concerns about a gap at the barbecue on the fence perimeter at the Essendon house.

Ms Teal said plants, bikes, climbing equipment and furniture were located close to the barbecue.

“Ms Harris raised the issue of the pool fence around the barbecue and her concerns about toddler access,” she said.

“She asked me to gain the landlord’s permission to put up lattice at her own expense.”

On September 26, 2008, Lauren Harris drowned in the swimming pool of the house in Roberts St that her parents rented from Harvey and his wife Donna.

The inquest has heard that the bluestone barbecue provided “climbing steps for small children” to a gap in the pool fence.

Ms Teal said after the June inspection she sent Donna Harvey an email which read “(the tenants) are concerned about their 3-year-old getting into the pool enclosure from the sides of the BBQ”.

Ms Harvey emailed back “tell them they can put something up near the pool at their own expense”.

Ms Teal said she completed a number of courses at the Real Estate Institute of Victoria to become a qualified real estate agent and property manager but pool safety was never mentioned.

“There was nothing in my training that informed me as the the specific requirements, standards, guidelines with regard to pool fences,” she said.

“I’m not trained in pool fencing.”

After Lauren drowned Ms Teal said Brad Teal Real Estate introduced its own policy that every landlord of a property with a pool or spa had to provide a current compliance certificate or written notification it was compliant.

Ms Teal said the Harrises paid $800 week rent with a $3400 bond and Ms Harvey insisted on a three-monthly inspection of the property.

Before she commenced her evidence deputy state coroner Iain West granted Ms Teal an indemnity against self-incrimination after finding there might be evidence that she had committed a criminal offence.

Under cross examination from Richard Stanley, for the Harris family, Ms Teal said there was “frustration” at the constant stream of emails she exchanged with Ms Harvey following requests from the tenants for maintenance issues to be addressed.

Mr Stanley read out one email to Ms Harvey in which Ms Teal said “you don’t understand how sick I feel that I have to call or email you about another drama”.

Ms Teal told the inquest she was concerned she was in “constant nagging mode” about the property although she admitted none of the maintenance issues raised by the Harris family were unreasonable.

Mark Harvey, who is currently assistant coach at the Brisbane Lions, passed on his family’s condolences to the Harris family from the witness box yesterday.

He denied that in 2004 he received a warning from a building surveyor and in a council notification that the pool fence was unsafe.

The inquest continues.