Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Sebastian POULSON

Inquest into the Suspected Death of Sebastian POULSON

Delivered on : 13 April 2021

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Jenkin

Recommendations : N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : Mr Sebastian Poulson (Mr Poulson) was 38 years old when went missing from the Wangkatjunka Community (the Community), about 110 km southeast of Fitzroy Crossing between about 2.00 am and 7.00 am on 19 October 2014.  He has not been seen or heard from since.

Mr Poulson’s had been admitted to the Alice Springs Hospital on 12 May 2014, after presenting with a one-month history of shortness of breath and swelling of the lower limbs.  He was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease, decompensated congestive cardiac failure, severe tricuspid regurgitation and rapid atrial fibrillation.  After treatment, he was discharged home on 27 May 2014 to be followed up by the cardiology clinic.  Mr Poulson was also admitted to hospital on 21 September 2014 with shortness of breath.  He disclosed that he had been non-compliant with medication and that he had missed a recent hospital appointment.

Mr Poulson lived in the Northern Territory and he and a group of relatives and friends travelled to the Community to play football.  This was his first visit to the Community and the group arrived at sunset on 16 October 2014.  The group sent the next few days playing football, swimming and playing music.

On 18 October 2014 Mr Poulson and others went into Fitzroy Crossing to do some shopping.  That evening Mr Poulson, who was an accomplished musician, played in a band.  He was described as being sober and in a happy mood.  At about midnight, Mr Poulson and his cousin went back to the house they were staying in and Mr Poulson went to sleep on the front verandah.  Mr Poulson’s cousin woke up sometime between 2.00 am and 3.00am on 19 October 2014, and saw Mr Poulson asleep on the verandah.

When the group woke at about 7.00 am, Mr Poulson was not on the verandah.  It was assumed that he had gone for a walk, but when he was still missing at lunchtime, the group became concerned and drove around the Community and to local water holes looking for him.  Tracks apparently made by a pair of thongs were found near the front gate of the Community, but they led back to the house Mr Poulson had been staying at.

On the morning of 20 October 2014, Mr Poulson had still not be sighted and the group drove into Fitzroy Crossing to continue looking for him.  They called in to nearby town camps without success and visited the local Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre where they obtained copies of Mr Poulson’s photograph which they posted around the town.  Centre staff notified police who arrived and spoke to the group.  As it was getting dark, it was decided police would visit the Community the following day.

During the period 21 - 25 October 2014, police coordinated an extensive air and land search in an unsuccessful attempt to find Mr Poulson.  Day time temperatures at the time were above 42°C and the search concentrated on water sources in the vicinity of the Community.  Family members, friends and Community members assisted with the search but no sign of Mr Poulson was found.  Police sought advice from a survival expert and the search was suspended 25 October 2014.

The coroner was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Mr Poulson was deceased.  However, the coroner was unable to determine how Mr Poulson’s death occurred and made an Open Finding as to the manner of Mr Poulson’s death.

Catch Words : Missing Person : Land and Air Search in Remote Region : Open Finding

Last updated: 11-May-2021

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