A young woman whose boyfriend allegedly beat her up made a desperate call to police – only to be arrested, thrown in a police van and accused of assaulting him.
Rosie Cooney called women’s helpline 1800 RESPECT in March 2019 after she claimed her partner Christian Sawczak punched her in the face, headbutted her and threw her belongings outside at his parents’ home in the Blue Mountains.
‘My boyfriend just beat me up,’ she told the woman on the other end of the line, in footage obtained by ABC’s 7.30. ‘What do I do? Do I call the police?’
At the advice of the operator, Ms Cooney called triple zero and relayed the incident to the dispatcher.
‘Hi, I just tried to call you. I didn’t think it was a problem, but my boyfriend beat me up,’ she said.
When asked if any weapons were used, Ms Cooney responded through tears: ‘No he just hit me with his fist and he hit his head against me. He pushed me, he threw all my belongings outside.’
Rosie Cooney called police after her partner Christian Sawczak allegedly punched her in the face, headbutted her and threw her belongings outside. Pictured: Ms Cooney talking to police
But when police arrived at the house, Ms Cooney had gone for a walk, giving Mr Sawczak the opportunity to allegedly fabricate the story to the officers.
Police bodycam footage showed Mr Sawczak claiming he was actually the one who had been assaulted.
‘She kept following me and following me. I tried to get in the car to go, and I was pushing her out, and we bumped heads,’ he said.
‘And I put the pressure on her arm, pushing her out of the car, and that was out of place obviously. But I did it.’
The officer pressed Mr Sawczak about his claims against Ms Cooney.
What I saw that day, the way I was treated, just demonstrated that you don’t call the police when you’re assaulted … It’s not safe to trust the police
‘Christian, in terms of her behaviour do you have any fears about her behaviour towards you?’ he asked.
‘Do you fear that she’ll assault you? Do you fear that she’ll damage your property or anything like that?’
Mr Sawczak admitted he wasn’t concerned about his girlfriend.
The responding officer believed Mr Sawczak’s version of events, and said he didn’t ‘believe there’s any case to answer in terms of an assault allegation’.
Ms Cooney returned to the house and listened in on the conversation for about 30 minutes, before police eventually noticed she was there.
The officer asked a visibly distressed Ms Cooney if she wanted to talk about what happened.
‘Um, it doesn’t matter, it’s fine. I’m not allowed… I can’t… No it’s fine. I’m sorry to waste your time, it’s nothing,’ she told the officer.
When asked if she had ‘been assaulted today,’ Ms Cooney responded through tears ‘it’s fine, it’s nothing, alright’.
Ms Cooney told the ABC she felt ‘ambushed’ by the police officer, and didn’t feel comfortable discussing the incident with him as he was clearly skeptical.
‘How could I speak to them? They’d already made up their mind,’ she said.
In another heartbreaking bodycam video, Ms Cooney – after admitting she had been assaulted – asked the police how to ‘make [Mr Sawczak] stop hurting me’.
‘I’m scared to talk to him. He’s not working this week and then he loses it. He breaks things, he breaks glass, he breaks all my things. He hit me.’
Mr Sawczak’s mother then cut off the devastated Ms Cooney, declaring: ‘That isn’t how I saw it’.
‘You didn’t see him in the laundry hitting me then out in the car he was hitting me because I didn’t want him to go, I just wanted him to talk to me about it,’ she told her mother in law.
The footage then took a disturbing turn, when the officer sternly warned Ms Cooney that she would be in ‘big trouble’ if she was lying.
‘If you want to make allegations of assault in a statement, I’m happy to take those allegations from you and investigate… but you must understand that if you make false allegations, that is an offence,’ he said.
More bodycam footage showed a Ms Cooney, who was visibly terrified, being loaded into the back of a police paddy wagon
‘And if it comes out they are false – listen [to me] – allegations, and there’s evidence to the contrary, you may be in trouble. So you need to be sure you’re telling us the truth.’
The police left without taking a statement from Ms Cooney, before later returning to tell Mr Sawczak he could take out an AVO against her if he wished.
He also told Ms Cooney that she could be charged with assault over her boyfriend’s claims that she stopped him from getting in his car.
Mr Sawczak made a statement to police and in a shocking turn of events, it was Ms Cooney who was arrested for a domestic violence assault, as well as trespassing after she returned to the home to pick up her bike.
‘But I didn’t hit him, he hit me,’ she told police at her front door as they came to arrest her.
More bodycam footage showed a Ms Cooney, who was visibly terrified, being loaded into the back of a police paddy wagon.
She was taken to Katoomba police station, where officers locked her in a cell for six hours.
Her assault charges were dropped, but she pleaded guilty and was convicted of trespass.
Ms Cooney told the ABC that her encounter with police made her question who she was, and how she deserved to be treated.
‘It makes you question things about the law, about police and about society,’ she said.
‘What I saw that day, the way I was treated, just demonstrated that you don’t call the police when you’re assaulted … It’s not safe to trust the police.’
Ms Cooney called for change, and said the misjudgment of just one officer can have ‘detrimental effects on someone who’s actually suffered’.