Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Peter JOHNSON

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Peter JOHNSON

Delivered on : 3 November 2021

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Linton

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : Mr Johnson was a 71 year old male when he was reported missing on 18 October 2019 after his black Ford Focus hatchback vehicle was discovered abandoned with the keys inside in a carpark at the Gap. The Gap is a tourist spot in the Tondirrup National Park, Albany, which also has an unfortunate association with acts of suicide.

Mr Johnson was retired from his position with the Water Corporation and lived alone at the Happy Days Caravan Park in King River, Albany. In July 2014 Mr Johnson was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which at the time of diagnosis had already spread to his bones. Mr Johnson undertook treatment that slowed down the growth and spread of his prostate cancer for several years.

However, in early 2019 Mr Johnson was advised that the prostate cancer indicators showed that the cancer was progressing.  Mr Johnson declined the recommendation of chemotherapy treatment and did not attend scheduled medical oncology appointments at the Albany Hospital. He did, however, continue to attend appointments with his GP for hormonal therapy and radiation oncology. On 8 October 2019 Mr Johnson underwent a CT scan of his chest, abdomen and pelvis.  The scan showed further extension of the cancer into the bladder base. It is unclear if Mr Johnson was aware of the outcome of his CT scan, as he was not due to see his Consultant again until 26 October 2019 to discuss the results, but it appears certain he was at least experiencing increasing pain.

On 16 October 2019, Mr Johnson went to the office of the Happy Days Caravan Park and paid his rent.  He spoke with the Park Manager. who remarked to him that he did not look well.  Mr Johnson advised that he had some painkillers which his doctor had prescribed for him, and he then left the office.  This was the last known sighting of Mr Johnson.

Police later seized CCTV footage from the caravan park, which captured Mr Johnson’s car leaving the caravan park at 1.28 am on Thursday, 17 October 2019.  At approximately 2.30 pm on Friday 18 October 2019, Mr Johnson’s vehicle was found parked in the carpark of the Gap.  It was noted that the car had salt spray across the windscreen, indicating it may have been parked there for some time.  Concerns were raised for the driver of the vehicle, as it was thought possible they may have fallen in the area or possibly jumped from the Gap, given the Gap’s history.  A report was made to the police, who arrived at the Gap carpark at 4.36 pm and found Mr Johnson’s vehicle unlocked with the keys and Mr Johnson’s wallet and personal belongings inside. Police officers also checked Mr Johnson’s caravan and found it in a tidy state with the keys left on the step.

Police commenced and coordinated a multi-agency search on land and in the ocean at the Gap.  Despite all efforts, no sign of Mr Johnson has ever been located.  Mr Johnson’s family and a friend were consulted by police, as part of the search efforts, and they advised that he had indicated that if the pain of his cancer became too much or he was unable to care for himself, he would take his own life.

The Deputy State Coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that Mr Johnson is deceased.  The Deputy State Coroner also was satisfied that Mr Johnson died as a result of suicide on 17 October 2019 at a location near to the Gap.

Catch Words : Long Term Missing Person :The Gap : Land and Air Search : Suicide

Last updated: 19-Nov-2021

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