Tag: Mr Kehlet
The daughter of a woman feared dead in WA’s outback says her family’s worst-case scenario has been realised, with authorities unable to find her five years after her disappearance.
- Raymond Kehlet died and his wife vanished on a WA prospecting trip
- A coroner has been examining what happened on the fateful journey
- The ordeal has had an immeasurable impact on the couple’s family
Kelly Keegans read an emotional statement at an inquest examining the death of her stepfather Raymond Kehlet, 47, and the suspected death of her mother, Jennie Kehlet, 47, during a prospecting trip to Sandstone, about 700 kilometres north-east of Perth, in March 2015.
The couple’s disappearance sparked the most expensive search in WA’s history, which ended after Mr Kehlet’s body was found down an abandoned mine shaft.
The inquest has heard his cause of death could not be ascertained.
No trace has ever been found of Mrs Kehlet.
Ms Keegans broke down as she read a statement to the court saying her mother had been full of life.
“She created warmth and she was the tightest hug,” Ms Keegans said.
“When this all started our worst-case scenario was that mum would never come home at all.
“They deserve so much more than the death they’ve been reduced to in the eyes of the world.”
Daughters learnt of stepfather’s death through the media
Ms Keegans said she and her sisters learnt of the discovery of Mr Kehlet’s body through the media.
“No one checked to see if we had been told,” she said.
“It’s a terrible, sick feeling when I think of him down the bottom of that mine shaft.
“He should be here with us.”
She also described her family’s pain at learning the bank had foreclosed on the pair’s house in Beverley, in the Wheatbelt, before a death certificate had been issued for her mother.
Family has hopes for justice
Mr Kehlet’s brother Malcolm also addressed the inquest, saying the impact the couple’s deaths had on his family was immeasurable.
“Ray and Jennie were always together and an inseparable pair,” Mr Kehlet said.
“These years have taken a heavy toll on our family and friends.”
He said he hoped there would ultimately be justice for his brother and that Ms Kehlet could eventually be found and laid to rest.
Last month, a man named by police as a suspect in the case gave evidence at the inquest.
Graham Milne had accompanied the Kehlets on the prospecting trip to help them search for gold.
During his testimony Mr Milne told the inquest the last time he saw the couple alive was on Saturday March 21, two days after they arrived and set up camp.
That day he had gone out prospecting on his own, before returning in the early hours of the next morning, packing up his things and leaving the campsite without saying goodbye.
He denied having anything to do with the pair’s disappearance.
Coroner Ros Fogliani will hand down her findings at a later date but today indicated they would include a conclusion that Ms Kehlet was no longer alive.
A search and rescue expert has told an inquest into the mysterious disappearance of two prospectors in WA’s outback that it is possible they met their deaths after they chased their dog when it ran away from their campsite.
- The Kehlets were reported missing on March 19, 2015
- They had been prospecting in a remote spot about 700km north-east of Perth
- Mr Kehlet’s body was found down a mineshaft, his wife remains missing
The inquest is examining the case of Raymond and Jennie Kehlet who were last seen alive in March 2015 while on a prospecting trip with a friend, Grahame Milne, to Sandstone, about 700 kilometres north-east of Perth.
Concerns were first raised for their safety about 10 days after they left home, when their dog, a great dane called Ella, was found wandering in a caravan park in Sandstone.
The town was about 30 kilometres from the Kehlets’ campsite, which was found abandoned with clothes on the line, half-drunk cups of tea and a wasps nest inside one of their unlocked vehicles.
An extensive land and air search was conducted and Mr Kehlet’s body was found down an abandoned mineshaft, but no trace of Ms Kehlet has ever been found.
The inquest has been told Mr Milne, who claims he left the campsite to return to Perth three days into the trip, is a suspect in the case but he denies having anything to do with the Kehlets’ disappearance and has not been charged.
Quad bike points to dog search, expert says
Senior Sergeant Jim Whitehead, a search and rescue expert with Queensland Police, was asked to review the search operation undertaken by the WA authorities and provide a possible scenario for what happened.
On Friday, he testified that based on information he had been given and an examination of the scene, it was his opinion the Kehlets left their campsite hastily on their quad bike to look for their dog, which liked to chase animals.
He said at some stage he thought they had got off the quad bike, which was found about 300 metres away from the camp, and as Mr Kehlet was running up a rise leading to a mineshaft, he had tripped and fallen into it.
Sergeant Whitehead said the discovery of cigarette butts with Ms Kehlet’s DNA on them near the mouth of the shaft suggested she remained at the top of it for some time.
“She may have sat at the mouth of the shaft … hoping that he had just hit his head … and maybe that he would come to,” Sergeant Whitehead said.
“Partners tend to stay together and maybe she was hoping Ray would come to and they’d be able to work their way out of it.”
Sergeant Whitehead said darkness then may have fallen quickly and Ms Kehlet had tried to find her way back to the campsite, but she had got lost and perished.
He said his theory was purely from a search and rescue viewpoint, saying he was not a detective and had not addressed anything to do with the possibility of a third party being involved “at all”.
He said his scenario was also based on a number of assumptions, including that the dog ran away from the camp to chase animals.
“If that is incorrect, it could impact on the conclusions,” he said.
“It’s possible, if that’s incorrect, then everything that follows is incorrect.”
Original search failed to find body
The inquest later heard Mr Kehlet’s body was found down the mineshaft days after search teams had originally “cleared” it.
The body was discovered on April 8, 2015, by senior firefighter Ashley Gasmier, who testified he ended up going back to the mineshaft as part of an exercise to provide the media with footage of what searchers were doing.
He said that particular mineshaft was chosen for ease, because it was closest to where his team and equipment were, and they decided to do what was called a “quick and dirty descent” in a harness attached to a rope.
“I went about three quarters of the way down and thought I’m here I might as well look around. That’s when I located the body,” he said.
Mr Gasmier said the body could not be seen from the top, because it was located off to the side where the mineshaft widened at the bottom.
He described the position as “not common”, saying if a person had fallen down the shaft, he did not think that would be how their body would end up.
“If someone has fallen down a mineshaft … they would be located in view,” he said.
“If someone falls down it, they go straight to the bottom, the body doesn’t roll. If they’ve hurt themselves they move to a position to be located, to be seen from the top.”
He also said there was a red 20-litre jerry can on the other side of the shaft, which was positioned upright and “looked as if it had been placed there”.
The inquest continues next week when Mr Milne is expected to give evidence.