WA coroner examines decades-old mysteries

Decades-old missing persons mysteries are being examined by a West Australian coroner. Picture: File image/Getty
Decades-old missing persons mysteries are being examined by a West Australian coroner. Picture: File image/Getty

A DECK hand on a prawn trawler who fell overboard almost 40 years ago is among long-term missing persons cases being examined by a West Australian coroner.

A brief inquest on Tuesday heard John Patrick Maher, 24, was relatively inexperienced in the industry when he lost balance and fell backwards overboard in rough seas off Carnarvon in April 1980.

As he swam towards a lifebuoy throw in his direction, he disappeared beneath the waves and was never seen again.

Coroner Evelyn Vicker heard on Tuesday the WA Police Force believed Mr Maher was dead.

On Monday, the same coroner heard the case of James Clarke, a mental health patient who wandered away from a Mundijong hospital in May 1966 and disappeared without a trace.

Homicide squad detective Michael Greene said he believed the 61-year-old, who was considered a model patient, was dead given he would now be well over 100 years old.

“I think it’s incredibly sad. We just know nothing about him,” Ms Vicker said.

Last week, she examined the case of 52-year-old fisherman Francis Joseph Newby, who vanished in high seas off Carnarvon in April 1978 after a wave caused his vessel to capsize and break.

Ms Vicker said she suspected Mr Newby had been injured and drowned.

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