Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Sharon Elizabeth FULTON

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Sharon Elizabeth Fulton (AKA Hulme)

Delivered on: 10 January 2023

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations :N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : Sharon Fulton disappeared in Perth on 18 March 1986. An order was made pursuant to s 23 of the Coroners Act that Ms Fulton was suspected of being deceased, and her death was a reportable death, so an inquest into her death was mandatory. The Deputy State Coroner found that Ms Fulton is deceased and that she died as a result of homicide by a person or persons unknown.

Sharon Elizabeth Fulton (aka Hulme), has not been seen since 18 March 1986. She has not made contact with family or friends, including her four children, since that date. At the time of her disappearance, Sharon was living with her children and husband, Mr Robert Fulton, in Duncraig. Sharon was a valued member of the community, often noted to be fully devoted to her children, with a strong social network around her. Under these circumstances, it was understood by those close to her that she would not willingly be away from them. The marriage between Sharon and Mr Robert Fulton was described as volatile, with the couple engaged in counselling in the lead up to her disappearance and Sharon indicating at least at one stage that she wished to end the marriage. Her husband, Mr Robert Fulton, was the last person reported to see Sharon alive on 18 March 1986. He did not report her missing to police until 21 March 1986, after being requested to do so by her mother.

Following an early investigation conducted by the Missing Persons Bureau, Sharon’s case was transferred to the Major Crime Squad following concerns raised by her mother, stepmother and friends that Sharon had met foul play at the hands of her husband. When questioned by police, Mr Robert Fulton gave a number of versions of events, but the primary one was that he had last seen his wife when he dropped her at a train station on 18 March 1986. She had an overnight bag and he believed she planned to meet with another man. The Major Crime Squad investigated the matter for a number weeks before ultimately finding that while the circumstances of her disappearance were suspicious, there was no evidence to support a charge against any person. The matter was then returned to the Missing Persons Bureau.

Several cold case reviews were conducted in the years following Sharon’s disappearance and while the case was classified as a suspected homicide, there was insufficient evidence to have charges laid against a person of interest. In the intervening years, the family of Sharon have been active and vocal in seeking out answers.

More recently, all of the evidence was collated and the matter was referred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether there was sufficient evidence for any indictable charges to be laid. The advice provided was that there were no reasonable prospects of conviction on the evidence provided. As a result, the matter was referred to the State Coroner as a long term missing person case. A direction was made pursuant to s 23 of the Coroners Act that there was reasonable cause to suspect that Sharon Fulton was deceased and that her death was a reportable death. This required an inquest to be held.

An inquest into the suspected death of Sharon was held before the Deputy State Coroner in May 2022. All of Sharon’s children attended for the duration of the inquest, either in person or remotely, and provided evidence either orally or in writing. Mr Robert Fulton was summonsed to attend as a witness, but he failed to attend. At the conclusion of the inquest, her Honour found beyond all reasonable doubt that Sharon died on the morning of 18 March 1986. Her Honour also found, to the requisite standard, that Mr Robert Fulton was either directly or indirectly involved in the death of Sharon Fulton. Further, her Honour also found that all other possible manners of death were excluded, other than homicide, either lawful or unlawful. As Sharon’s death occurred by homicide by person or persons unknown, her Honour reasonably suspected that an indictable offence has been committed and as such, exercised her powers to refer the matter to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions pursuant to s 27(5) of the Coroners Act.

Catch Words : Long Term Missing Person, Suspected Homicide

Last updated: 27-Jan-2023

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