THE marriage of a terminally ill Rockingham woman – which was conducted while she was unconscious and dying – has been declared illegal.
Sophia Williams’ mother Maria Gormally, speaking exclusively to the Weekend Courier, said the family was relieved by the latest development in the long-running saga that has gained nation-wide publicity.
On October 7, 2015, while Sophia was unconscious and in the final stages of palliative care from breast cancer, her then-partner filed a waiver with Rockingham Magistrates Court so that they could be married that same day.
Sophia never regained consciousness, but the wedding went ahead even though she could not say “I do” or sign her name on the marriage certificate.
Celebrant Diane Caratozzolo-Waddington last month received a penalty equivalent to a good behaviour bond after pleading guilty to a charge of purporting to solemnise a marriage.
Three weeks after the court case, the family received a letter from the WA Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages confirming that the marriage was illegal and void – and had been removed from the marriage register.
Mrs Gormally paid tribute to her daughter, who died after a 15 year battle with breast cancer on the same day of her illegal marriage.
She said the events of that day hit her family hard.
“What happened on that day was unforgivable. I just don’t understand how the celebrant could have married her, knowing the state Sophia was in,” she said.
“We could not do anything being in England, it just broke our hearts knowing we were helpless to help her.
“We relied on her son Austin, his dad Gareth and his wife Loretta to look out for her which they did.
“I just miss her so much – we couldn’t even get to the funeral.
“We had a memorial service for her here with all the family – we are a big family , there were many people there who all cherished Sophia.”
She said Sophia’s death came quickly.
“We knew she was unwell but we didn’t expect it that quickly,” she said.
“Sophia sent me some pictures of her a few months earlier and she was just so thin – I could see it in her arms.
“She just kept saying ‘Mum I’m fine – don’t worry about me. I’ll put the weight back on’.”
Mrs Gormally said she had many great memories of her daughter.
“She was a lovely, model child – everybody loved her and she was always happy and smiling,” she said.
“She would do anything to help people, (she had) such a beautiful nature.
“We all just miss her so much.”