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Tasmanian lecturer’s death could have been prevented after one-punch attack, coroner finds

Pulse Tasmania
Academic Stewart Williams from the University of Tasmania died after an alleged one-punch attack in Hobart in 2019. Image / University of Tasmania

A senior Tasmanian lecturer who died after a one-punch attack at a Hobart nightclub in 2019 could have been saved if his internal bleeding had been detected and treated in a timely manner, a coroner has revealed.

Stewart Williams, a 54-year-old lecturer, had dedicated several years to his work at the University of Tasmania before his untimely death on March 2, 2019.


In her recently published findings, Coroner Olivia McTaggart said Williams died from both blood loss and airway obstruction sustained in the attack in the early hours of 24 February 2019.

She said Dr Williams was in Mobius nightclub on Despard Street when be became involved in a “brief verbal altercation” with his attacker Beau Kelly, who used words similar to “You want me to f**k you up?” before delivering a single, devastating punch to Williams’ face that left him unconscious.

Dr Williams was rushed to the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) where he was found to have fractures to his facial bones surrounding the eye.

The Royal Hobart Hospital. Image / Pulse

“Although it was not recognised by treating doctors until it was too late, he also sustained a posterior epistaxis (bleeding at the rear of the nasal cavity) which caused unstemmed blood loss ultimately resulting in haemorrhagic shock and death in hospital six days later,” Coroner McTaggart said.

“It is likely that, if the source of the bleeding had been detected and treated in a timely manner, as it should have been, Mr Williams would have survived.”

She did not pass any blame to the medical staff for not recognising the bleed until it was too late, despite several signs that should have warranted consultation from a nosebleed expert.


“The deficits in his treatment were not attributable to any one individual and there is no suggestion that the treating staff were not attempting to do their best in the circumstances.”

“I acknowledge that the RHH acted promptly upon the recommendations of the RCA Report in order to improve its systems and procedures in the relevant areas.”

“I convey my sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of Dr Stewart Williams.”

His attacker Beau Wayne Kelly pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison.

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