In the ‘completely lawless’ Australian city of Fregon, SA, where violent sex attacks go unchecked

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Deep in the Australian outback is a small town with no police presence, where horrific violence is a daily occurrence and sexual assault is not monitored.

Hidden in the red dust of the South Australian desert about 1,300 km north of Adelaide, the ‘completely lawless’ community of Fregon is home to one of Australia’s most shocking crimes.

Outback nurse Gayle Woodford, 56, who took on a role with the Nganampa Health Council and often traveled to Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands for work – was trapped and then kidnapped, raped and murdered before falling to a shallow grave was buried in 2016.

Gayle Woodford's body (pictured) was buried in a crude grave three days after she went missing at her home in Fregon, north SA.

Gayle Woodford’s body (pictured) was buried in a crude grave three days after she went missing at her home in Fregon, north SA.

Fregon's 'completely lawless' community (pictured) is claiming one of Australia's most shocking crimes

Fregon’s ‘completely lawless’ community (pictured) is claiming one of Australia’s most shocking crimes

The death of the mother of two sparked a number of investigations into the dangers faced by health workers in remote areas and cast a spotlight on the reality in Fregon.

On Thursday, SA Deputy Coroner Anthony Schapel issued a damning report on the tragic end of Mrs. Woodford by local resident Dudley Davey, who is now serving a 32-year sentence for the crime.

His findings paint a disturbing picture and recommend a permanent police presence given the level of violence.

Between 200 and 300 people live in the city at any time.

The violence in Fregon was described by a doctor of several years in remote communities such as this one as ‘persistent’ and ‘ongoing,’ says the report.

“If there was no violence in the Fregon community on a particular day, it was a good day.”

Fregon is hidden in the red dust of the South Australian desert about 1,300 km north of Adelaide

Fregon is hidden in the red dust of the South Australian desert about 1,300 km north of Adelaide

The death of the mother of two sparked a number of investigations into the dangers faced by health workers in remote areas and shed a spotlight on the reality in Fregon (pictured)

The death of the mother of two sparked a number of investigations into the dangers faced by health workers in remote areas and shed a spotlight on the reality in Fregon (pictured)

Deep in the Australian outback is the small town of Fregon with no police presence, where horrific violence is a daily occurrence and sexual violence goes unchecked.

Deep in the Australian outback is the small town of Fregon with no police presence, where horrific violence is a daily occurrence and sexual violence goes unchecked.

Gillian Steel, the manager of Fregon’s Kaltjiti Arts, said The Australian the area ‘definitely’ needs a manned police station.

She related how she was forced to barricade herself at the art center after a group attacked her and demanded money with a steel bar.

‘There are constant problems. It has only gotten worse. Gambling is a real problem, it brings a whole host of other problems, and the little kids are doing it too, so the police will help, ‘she said.

Davey, the “cold-blooded” murderer convicted of Mrs. Woodford’s gruesome death, had a litany of sexual assault to his name prior to the attack.

Part of Mr. Schapel’s report asked how a depraved perpetrator with such a long list of convictions could be released unsupervised into a remote community.

Dudley Davey (pictured, center) then pleaded guilty to her rape and murder and is serving a minimum of 32 years in prison

Dudley Davey (pictured, center) then pleaded guilty to her rape and murder and is serving a minimum of 32 years in prison

The four-wheel drive ambulance Mrs. Woodford used for her job, which was driven by the 34-year-old man charged with theft and her alleged murder

The four-wheel drive ambulance Mrs. Woodford used for her job, which was driven by the 34-year-old man charged with theft and her alleged murder

During his trial, the court heard that the then 34-year-old had carried out a number of attacks on women over 20 years old, including an “ eerily similar ” attack on another nurse in Fregon in 1998.

The practitioner described Fregon as “completely lawless” and the most violent place she had lived and worked while employed by the NHC in the APY countries.

“To the point where she felt serious thought needed to be given to withdrawing services from this community to bring them to an end,” the report says.

“The murder of Mrs. Woodford is consistent with the widespread lawlessness within the Fregon community and the fact that this atmosphere of dysfunction and violence has remained largely uncontrolled.”

Gayle Woodford's husband, Keith Woodford (pictured, center), outside Adelaide Coroners Court in 2020 with family

Gayle Woodford’s husband, Keith Woodford (pictured, center), outside Adelaide Coroners Court in 2020 with family

A colleague of Gayle Woodford, Belinda Schultz (right), arrives at the Adelaide Coroners Court in January 2020

A colleague of Gayle Woodford, Belinda Schultz (right), arrives at the Adelaide Coroners Court in January 2020