Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Hok Cheun HOU

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Hok Cheun HOU

Delivered on : 9 February 2022

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : Mr Hok Cheun Hou was working as a general steward on an ocean liner, the Coral Princess, when he disappeared in March 1989.  The vessel was in Australian waters when Mr Hou went missing, 200 nautical miles off the coast of Exmouth.  He was 57 years of age.

Mr Hou’s superior, who was in charge of Mr Hou’s duties, recalled seeing Mr Hou when he completed his duties at 7.00 pm on the evening of 22 March 1989, but did not recall seeing him again.  On 23 March 1989, crew members raised the alarm that Mr Hou was not in his usual place when on duty and had not appeared for breakfast in the crew’s mess room.  Mr Hou did not respond to any calls which were made over the public address system.  At 9.40 am the Captain was advised that Mr Hou could not be found on board the ship.  The Captain coordinated a further thorough search of the vessel, but no sign of Mr Hou was found.  At that time, the coordinates provided showed the vessel was 200 nautical miles off Exmouth.  The Captain turned the vessel around and they followed a path along a reciprocal track to their previous course, with lookouts posted to search the water for any sign of Mr Hou.  Assistance from another vessel in the area was also provided.  The search continued until 1.30 pm, but Mr Hou was not located.  His personal documents and effects were located but nothing in the form of a suicide note. 

Police were notified that Mr Hou had disappeared and a search of the water and vessel failed to locate him.    Police investigations followed normal avenues of inquiry but Mr Hou has not been seen or located since March 1989.

The Deputy State Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Mr Hou died around the time of his disappearance on 23 March 1989 and his death was likely due to drowning or injuries sustained when he hit the water, on the basis it appears he either accidentally fell or deliberately went overboard.  The Deputy State Coroner found there was insufficient evidence to be able to be satisfied of a cause or manner of death and the manner therefore would remain as an Open Finding.

Catch Words : Missing Person : Marine Search : Open Finding

Last updated: 19-Mar-2022

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