“Tragic murder-suicide” at Whispering Wall

A 38-year-old man and his nine-month-old daughter have died after what SA Police suspect to be a “tragic murder-suicide” at the Whispering Wall in the Barossa yesterday.

Apr 22, 2021, updated Apr 22, 2021
Kobi Shepherdson - her mother's favourite photo. Image supplied by SA Police

Kobi Shepherdson - her mother's favourite photo. Image supplied by SA Police

SA Police assistant commissioner Ian Parrott told reporters this afternoon that while formal identification was yet to take place, police believe 38-year-old Henry Shepherdson from Adelaide’s western suburbs jumped off the edge of the Whispering Wall dam wall at Williamstown on Wednesday afternoon with his nine-month old daughter Kobi, who was attached to him in a child carrier.

Both died at the scene.

An unknown number of witnesses reported seeing Shepherdson and his daughter go over the edge of the dam wall on Wednesday afternoon.

Parrott said police understood that some of the witnesses were children.

Henry Shepherdson was found dead when police arrived at 4.30, while paramedics were unable to save Kobi, who was initially unresponsive and being assisted by members of the public.

“Sadly, the little girl passed away at the scene,” Parrott said.

He described the incident as a “tragic murder-suicide” and an early investigation confirmed the family had a history of domestic violence.

He said Henry Shepherdson had lawful access to Kobi and the couple had no other children.

“The mother did contact triple-zero, in addition to obviously witnesses at the Whispering Wall to provide us with some information,” he said.

Parrott said Kobi’s mother was not at the scene.

“I can’t go much into the relationship (between Shepherdson and Kobi’s mother) because that will inform part of the investigation, but clearly they had a child together, there was a relationship there (and) something has happened in that relationship and for reasons that I think all of us fathom to understand it’s resulted in this just absolute tragic outcome.”

No one else has been contacted in relation to the deaths.

Kobi’s mother supplied photographs of her daughter to the police, including the image above, which she described as her favourite photo of Kobi.

“I think when people see the photographs that her mum supplied that tells the story,” Parrott said.

Whispering Wall in the Barossa. Photo: Wikimedia

Parrott said the incident was a “highly distressing and emotional set of circumstances” for the family’s friends and family, as well as first-responders and witnesses.

Parrott thanked members of the public who assisted at the scene.

“I think in these circumstances human nature kicks in, particularly with an infant child – no one wants to see kids suffer,” he said.

“The bravery, the compassion, I think, that those people showed to help Kobi at the time is immeasurable.

“They’re thrust into a situation that they would have never imagined probably being in.

“(It was) completely out of their control and to respond in the way they did is so amazing.”

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Parrott also thanked the emergency services personnel who responded.

“This is something that none of us ought to experience ever, so the way that the police and ambulance (officers) and other emergency services responded is extremely professional (and) compassionate,” he said.

“I’m very proud of what they’ve done.”

Families of both the deceased have asked for privacy from the media and the broader community.

Detectives from the Barossa CIB and Major Crime Investigation Branch, along with forensic investigators, remain at the scene today to continue investigations.

Parrott said domestic violence was completely unacceptable.

“We all know this – this is not a mystery,” he said.

“If you are feeling unsafe, if you have concerns about your relationship, there are plenty of support resources available, which you can remain anonymous when you make contact.

“Even if it is just to seek advice, even if it is just to talk to someone if there’s not a trusted family member or friend.

“There are professional support services available (and) we encourage people to reach out.”

The Whispering Wall is the retaining wall of the Barossa Reservoir, with the 36-metre high structure built between 1899 and 1903.

The popular tourist attraction was bestowed its name as words whispered on one side can be clearly heard at the other, more than 100 metres away.

“Children in particular love visiting the wall and testing its abilities,” the official Whispering Wall web page says.

Police are preparing a report for the state coroner.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can call LifeLine on 13 11 14 – or you can call the Mental Health Triage Service / Assessment and Crisis Intervention Service on 13 14 65.

SAPOL encourages anyone who is experiencing family violence, or has concerns for their safety or the safety of other family members or friends, to contact police through 131 444 or Triple Zero in an emergency.

Anyone experiencing domestic and family violence can access support or counselling by calling 1800 Respect – 1800 737 732 – or the DV Crisis Line on 1800 800 098.

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