Mum mourns free spirit Joe Gumley

JOE Gumley’s ashes will be thrown to the wind in the bush he loved so dearly near Ulladulla.

His adoptive mother Betty said although her son had lived a rough life, he had always been good to her.

Mr Gumley, 47, was killed in the early hours of Friday morning at Shellharbour’s high dependency mental health ward.

“I loved him so much, it’s just hard to fathom someone would do that to him,” she said.

“He was a good son, he never did any harm to me... he was there if I needed him. 

“He just liked to be free, live on the street - that was his choice.”

Mrs Gumley and her late husband Lionel adopted Joe when he was just five months old, after his birth mother died nine days after he was born.

His sister Margaret Lang remembered was always accompanied by his guitar.

In fact he could pick up any musical instrument and soon be playing it like a seasoned veteran, she said, and loved nothing more than to make people smile through his music.

He was also a talented artist, particularly in the indigenous dot-style paintings.

Mrs Gumley remembered her son’s passion for music, and his desire to be free.

She said he had opportunities to live in a house, but preferred the solace of the bush.

“He liked anything, any music at all really,” she said.

“He said ‘I don’t want to live in a house, I want to be free’... he liked the bush.

“Everybody looked out for him and made sure if they saw him in the streets they would give him something to eat – people were really good to him.”

Mr Gumley was a common sight on the streets of Ulladulla, busking with his guitar. He slept rough, regularly camping or sleeping in public toilet blocks.

Mrs Gumley said the last time she spoke to her son was the Tuesday before he was killed.

“He always said ‘I love you mum’”’ she said. “I miss him and I’ll always love him no matter what.”

Mr Gumley was allegedly beaten to death with his own electric guitar by another patient.

Paul Hindmarsh, 31, appeared in Port Kembla Local Court on Friday, charged with the murder of Mr Gumley, who was found with fatal head injuries by a staff member during morning rounds at the hospital.

Police allege Mr Gumley was struck in the head with the electric guitar during a dispute between 6.30am and 7.50am in the hospital’s high dependency mental health ward.

Staff in Shellharbour Hospital’s mental health unit told police Hindmarsh had been displaying unusual behaviour before the incident, investigators have revealed.

Mr Gumley’s body was discovered by a worker after he noticed blood on the wall near his bed and went to inspect.

Staff told police in the hours before the alleged attack, Hindmarsh had been seen watching a female patient through the glass insert on her bedroom door - behaviour that was highly unusual for him, a police statement said.

At 6.30am nightshift workers conducted a routine inspection of the room shared by Hindmarsh and Mr Gumley, and reported both men appeared to be sleeping.

However, less than 90 minutes later Mr Gumley’s body was discovered sitting upright on his bed, with a blanket covering an injury to his head and an item described by police as “a blue coloured strap” wrapped around his neck.

Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Hindmarsh, who by this time had run out of the room and into a nearby courtyard area, allegedly confessed to “attacking Joe” when questioned by a staff member, however did not respond when asked why.

He was taken to Lake Illawarra police station where he was charged with murder.

Appearing in court, Hindmarsh did not apply for bail and it was formally refused.

His lawyer, Angela Melouney, told the court Hindmarsh had been at the hospital as an involuntary patient for some period of time.

Police documents said both Hindmarsh and Mr Gumley suffered from schizophrenia and substance abuse.

Ms Melouney said it was likely Hindmarsh’s mental health issues would play a large role in determining how the court matter proceeded in the future, flagging the possibility he could be declared mentally unfit to enter a formal plea and face a trial.

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