Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Conrad thon MPANZA

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Conrad Thon MPANZA


Delivered on : 15 February 2021

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Urquhart

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : On about about 6.00 pm on 7 January 1978 the Captain of the South African registered vessel, S.A. Skukuza, received advice that a crew member, Conrad Thon Mpanza, was missing from the vessel. Mr Mpanza has not been seen since. At the time of his disappearance Mr Mpanza was 24 years old.

Mr Mpzana was employed as a crewman on-board the bulk carrier, S.A. Skukuza. This vessel was operated by the South African Marine Corporation which was based in Cape Town, South Africa. Mr Mpanza was last seen alive at about lunchtime on 7 January 1978. When Mr Mpanza failed to attend for his evening meal the vessel’s second engineer advised the Captain. At the time the vessel was reported to be about 40 miles south of North West Cape and about 10 miles off the coast of Western Australia. A search of the vessel failed to locate Mr Mpanza.

The vessel turned around to carry out a search of the waters with crew being posted as lookouts at the deck’s railings. During the search, radio messages were sent that man was overboard and the location was provided. There were no replies from other shipping. The weather at the time was described as being a south-westerly wind, force 5 with moderate to rough seas and swirls. The Australian Marine Operations based in Canberra confirmed that the S.A. Skukuza had reported a man overboard at 6.50 pm on 7 January 1978. The search continued until about 7.50 pm, with no sightings, when it was abandoned due to darkness. After unsuccessfully searching for Mr Mpanza the S.A. Skukuza turned back around and continued its course to Esperance, arriving in the early hours of 11 January 1978.

The Captain reported the disappearance of Mr Mpanza to the Esperance Police Station on 11 January 1978. Police were advised that no one saw Mr Mpanza fall overboard and that, as crew members were off duty, it was not noticed Mr Mpanza was missing until dinner time. Attempts by Esperance Police to speak to the crew were made but most of them were Zulu and could not speak or understand English. However Police inspected Mr Mpanza’s sleeping quarters and personal affects and found only clothing and a few sundry papers. There was no evidence gathered as to Mr Mpanza’s state of mind, his relationship with the rest of the crew, or any indication that what had happened was anything other than an accident. Western Australian Police concluded there was no evidence to indicate any criminality in the disappearance of Mr Mpanza and he was recorded as a missing person. The S.A. Skukuza departed the Esperance Port at 6.50 am on 12 January 1978.

The Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Mr Mpanza is deceased and was deceased in relative proximity to the time of his disappearance. The Coroner was unable to determine how the Mr Mpanza died and made an Open Finding as to the manner of his death.

Catch Words : Missing Person : Open Finding

Last updated: 31-Mar-2021

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