Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Deaths of Douglas Ronald FLOCKTON and Ronald Leslie WHEILDON

Inquest into the Suspected Deaths of Douglas Ronald Flockton and Ronald Leslie Wheildon

Delivered on: 9 March 2023

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : In May 1976, Douglas Flockton and Ronald Wheildon were working up north for the Commonweatlh Department of Construction and staying at the Shepheards Hotel in Geraldton.

On the evening of 27 May 1976, Mr Flockton and Mr Wheildon travelled in a Commonwealth registered car to the Greenough River mouth. They were last seen by a witness in the carpark, where they expressed their intention to walk out on to the Greenough Reef to go hand fishing for crayfish. Mr Wheildon was an experienced fisherman in the area. Mr Flockton was not. It appeared the men had been drinking alcohol and at least one of them was barefoot.

The next morning, the same witness saw their car still parked in the carpark, but there was no sign of either man. When they did not attend breakfast in the hotel, their colleagues went looking for them and, when they could not be found, raised the alarm with local police. An extensive search took place that lasted for many weeks and included searchers on land, in the water and in the air, including divers searching the reef area under water. No sign of Mr Flockton or Mr Wheildon was ever found. Both men were married with children and there was no reason they would not have been in contact with their families if they were alive and well. A local Stipendiary Magistrate reached the conclusion in 1976 that both missing men were deceased, likely drowned in the ocean on the night they went missing.

Recent checks by police with various government agencies has found no evidence that either man has used normal government services since the time of their disappearance. No unidentified remains located in Australia in the decades after their disappearance match their description. Mr Flockton’s family and Mr Wheildon’s family have both come to accept that the two men got into difficulty in some manner while out on the reef on the night of 27 May 1976 and died. They are now simply seeking formal closure and the opportunity to obtain a death certificate.

The Deputy State Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that Mr Flockton and Mr Wheildon are both deceased and their deaths occurred in relative proximity to the time of their disappearance. The Deputy State Coroner was unable to determine how the deceased died, although it was most likely that they drowned. The Deputy State Coroner found that both men died as a result of accident..

Catch Words : Long Term Missing Person: Crayfishing: Reef Fishing: Drowning: Open Finding

Last updated: 21-Mar-2023

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