Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of James John BRENNAN

Inquest into the Death of James John BRENNAN

Delivered on : 19 January 2024

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Summary : James Brennan was last confirmed to be alive on 8 May 1967. He has not been seen or heard from since that time. In October 2018, more than 50 years after his disappearance, Mr Brennan was reported missing to police by his daughter. Mr Brennan’s daughter had been trying to locate her father since 2014, without success.

Police commenced in inquiry into Mr Brennan’s disappearance in October 2018. Mr Brennan’s daughter had told police about a conversation with her mother, prior to her mother’s death in 2011, which had caused her to fear her father had been killed by another person and disposed of in a well on a property in Wagin. Police officers investigated this allegation, including going to Wagin with a forensic anthropologist to see if the site should be forensically excavated, but it was established the well was no longer in existence due to siteworks at the property over the intervening years. No evidence was found to support the conclusion Mr Brennan had been the subject of foul play.

The police investigation established that Mr Brennan and his former wife’s relationship had been volatile and their six children had been taken into care due to allegations of alcohol abuse, family violence and neglect. After the couple separated, Mr Brennan’s estranged wife formed a new relationship and most of the children went to live with her in another town. The children never saw their father again, although there was documentation indicating Mr Brennan had been in contact with the authorities seeking to have contact with his children before he disappeared.

Mr Brennan had experienced some health issues, both physical and mental, which had led him to be hospitalised at times, However, there were no medical records found for Mr Brennan in any state or territory of Australia after 1967.

Mr Brennan was originally from Scotland. There were no records of Mr Brennan leaving the country to go to Scotland, or elsewhere, and it was noted Mr Brennan’s family from Scotland had come to Australia to look for him in the 1970’s, after he unexpectedly ceased communicating with them in 1966. Despite making inquiries and putting out an advertisement seeking any information about him, they did not find him.

Mr Brennan had been in trouble with the authorities for various reasons, including non-payment of family maintenance and harbouring an illegal immigrant. He last appeared in court on 8 May 1967. Immediately prior to that time, he had been living in Subiaco in Perth. Attempts were made to serve outstanding warrants on him after this time, and there was information to suggest he’d moved to Meekatharra so efforts were made to locate him there, but he was never found and the warrants were never served and there were no records of Mr Brennan having any contact with the authorities in any state or territory of Australia after 1967.

The police investigation into Mr Brennan’s investigation concluded that Mr Brennan was likely deceased, given he would be 95 years old today, he had never made contact with any family members after 1966, which was out of character, and there was no record of his existence after that time despite his previous history of regular contact with various authorities before that time.

The inquest hearing explored the evidence of Mr Brennan’s movements leading up to 8 May 1967 and confirmed there has been no sighting of him since that time and there are no records of his existence after that date. The investigating officer confirmed the police believe Mr Brennan is deceased, but there is no evidence to establish how or when he died. However, the police have found no evidence to suggest there are any suspicious circumstances surrounding his death, other than his former wife’s report of a dream about him being in a well, prior to her death.

The Coroner found that the death of Mr Brennan had been established beyond reasonable doubt. The cause of death was unascertained and the manner of death remains open.

Catch Words : Long Term Missing Person: Open Finding.

Last updated: 4-Apr-2024

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