Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Deaths of Adell Sherylee PARTRIDGE and Veronica Philomena LOCKYER

Inquest into the Suspected Deaths of Veronica Philomena Lockyer and Adell Sherylee Partridge

Delivered on : 23 August 2023

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : Veronica Lockyer and her baby daughter Adell Partridge were last known to be alive in late 1998. They were not seen by any family members after the end of 1998. They were not, however, formally reported missing to police, as family members in Port Hedland/South Hedland believed they were living in Perth, and family living in Perth believed they were living in Port Hedland/South Hedland. In July 2018, Veronica’s daughter, Donna Partridge, who is also Adell’s older sister, reported her mother and sister as missing persons to police. This was after Donna made contact with her mother’s family and became aware, for the first time, that Veronica and Adell were not living with them and had not been seen for twenty years.

Police officers made enquiries and established that Veronica had been in a violent domestic relationship with Craig Partridge, the father of Donna and Adell. The police investigation initially could not locate a record of Veronica or Adell after August 1998, when Veronica had contacted police for help leaving Craig. This raised a significant concern that Veronica and Adell may have been the victims of foul play, so a homicide investigation was commenced.

Police identified a large number of potential witnesses, but unfortunately due to the lapse of time, many were deceased or had limited memory of events. Public records were also difficult to access as many had moved from paper to electronic databases over that time. Nevertheless, further enquiries established that the last formal record of Veronica was a visit she made to the South Hedland Centrelink Office on 25 October 1998. The last formal record of Adell, who was only about six months’ old, was a visit to the Hedland Health Campus on 1 November 1998 and a record of a vaccination she received later that month in Merredin.

The last person who was identified in the investigation as having contact with Veronica and Adell was Craig Partridge, who agreed to be interviewed by police on 18 January 2019. He admitted their relationship had been volatile and they had separated at the time of Adell’s birth in April 1998, which had led to Family Court proceedings in relation to custody of Donna. However, they had then reconciled shortly afterwards and spent time in Hedland and then Merredin as a family. Craig told police the last time he saw Veronica and Adell was before Christmas 1998 when they had driven the the Centrepoint Shopping Centre in Midland. They argued and Veronica took Adell and left, leaving Craig alone with Donna. He told police he never saw or heard from Veronica or Adell again, although he claimed to have tried to find her with the help of government officers over the years.

Craig was recorded as taking Donna to hospital on 27 and 28 December 1998 and there was no record of Veronica or Adell being present at that time. Craig was then taken to hospital on 11 January 1999 in an acute psychotic state. Only Donna was with him at that time and Craig made some comments that he had separated from his partner and he believed she had gone to a women’s refuge. He also told doctors that he had heard voices telling him to harm himself and his daughters. While receiving treatment, he then told doctors he had broken up with Veronica just before Christmas 1998 and she had taken Adell with her and left him with Donna.

Craig gave evidence at the inquest to similar effect, and denied having any involvement in Veronica or Adell’s disappearance.

The investigating officer also gave evidence and indicated that the evidence points to both Veronica and Adell being deceased, and they likely died around the last time they were seen in November or December 1998. No evidence could be found to support or disprove Craig’s version of events.

The Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that both Veronica and Adell are deceased and that they died on an unknown date between 24 November 1998 and 11 January 1999. The Coroner was unable to determine how Veronica and Adell died and the Coroner made an Open Finding as to the manner of both Veronica and Adell’ death.

Catch Words : Long Term Missing Person : Homicide Investigation : Open Finding

Last updated: 12-Jan-2024

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