Tag: WA


Friend of missing prospecting couple refuses to testify, fearing trap by police


Sandstone 6639

A man named as a suspect in the case of two prospectors who disappeared in remote Western Australia has been compelled to answer questions at an inquest, after voicing concerns his evidence may “incriminate” him.

Key points:

  • Raymond and Jennie Kehlet travelled to remote WA with Graham Milne
  • Both went missing, and Mr Kehlet’s body was later found down a mine shaft
  • Mr Milne, the last person to see them alive, is still considered a suspect by police

Graham Milne is the last known person to have seen Raymond and Jennie Kehlet alive, when the three of them went on a prospecting trip to Sandstone, about 700 kilometres north-east of Perth, in March 2015.

Mr Kehlet’s body was found down a mineshaft about three weeks later, but no trace has ever been found of Ms Kehlet.

On the first day of the inquest last week, police identified Mr Milne as a suspect in the case, testifying some of the information he told investigators was not supported by evidence.

The inquest was also told police had intended to charge him, but the move was rejected by state prosecutors.

Milne fearful of being charged: lawyer

At the start of proceedings on Wednesday, Mr Milne’s lawyer, Glenn Cridland, said his client wanted to “exercise his right not to answer questions” on the grounds “they may have the tendency to incriminate him”.

Mr Cridland said since the investigation first began, Mr Milne had fully cooperated with police.



Photo:

Graham Milne was concerned any testimony would be used against him by police. (ABC News: James Carmody)

He provided four written statements, allowed his property to be forensically searched and took part in two video recorded interviews — one of which lasted more than 12 hours.

But Mr Cridland said it was “starkly obvious” from the evidence of police that they had wanted his client to be charged and the answers he provided at the inquest could be an opportunity “to fill in the missing bits of a prosecution case”.

“One can see where the police case is going,” he said.

“If this matter was where he had refused to cooperate before, then it would be expedient for him to answer questions in a fact-finding exercise.

“It’s not expedient, it’s oppressive because of the cooperation which has been remarkable to date.”

Offer of immunity

WA coroner Ros Fogliani ruled that “for the ends of justice” Mr Milne should be compelled to answer questions, but said if she was satisfied he was truthful at the end of his evidence, she would consider granting him a certificate of immunity.

That would mean any answers Mr Milne gives to the inquest could not be used in any criminal prosecution of him.



Photo:

Raymond and Jennie Kehlet went missing while prospecting near Sandstone in the WA outback. (Supplied)

When Mr Milne’s testimony proceeded he described Jennie and Ray Kehlet as “good friends” he met at the mine site where they all worked.

He described the couple as “being two peas in a pod” and said their friendship developed when Mr and Ms Kehlet showed an interest in prospecting and he agreed to train them.

Mr Milne has denied having anything to do with the couple’s disappearance and he has never been charged.

The inquest continues

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


Dog may be behind disappearance of prospecting couple in WA outback, expert says


Perth 6000

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.

Key points:

  • 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.



Photo:

Raymond and Jennie Kehlet went missing while prospecting near Sandstone. (Supplied)

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.



Photo:

Graham Milne accompanied Raymond and Jennie Kehlet on their fateful prospecting trip. (ABC News: Joanna Menagh)

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.



Photo:

Raymond and Jennie Kehlet went missing while prospecting near Sandstone. (Supplied)

“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.



Photo:

Emergency crews searched the area near Sandstone for the couple in 2015. (Supplied: WA Police)

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.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


This may be as close as we get to a ‘shark proof’ Western Australia


Perth 6000

Every day, in the soft morning light, hardy souls venture out into the Indian Ocean from Cottesloe Beach.

Key points:

  • Cottesloe Beach installed a shark barrier in November last year to improve safety
  • Mayor Philip Angers says there are more swimmers and beachgoers as a result
  • Shark prevention measures are in focus following a fatal attack off Esperance

They stroke across the bay, regardless of wind or weather.

Many have wispy white hair and the kind of skin you get after a lifetime in the sun.

They remember vividly when Ken Crew was killed by a shark while swimming in knee-deep water at North Cottesloe in 2000 and the suspected fatal shark attack on Bryn Martin in 2011.

But this year, something is different. Their ranks have grown.

The Town of Cottesloe has put up a shark net and it has attracting ocean swimmers in their droves.


Video: Elleka Healy takes a dip to show you what the shark barrier looks like underwater.

(ABC News)

As he emerged from the surf, Chris Chalwell confirmed it was the net that had drawn him here — he was not game enough to swim at Cottesloe before it.

“I think it’s a wonderful addition to Cottesloe Beach, I can come down here and I feel quite safe,” he said.

“It’s just fantastic to swim out there with that knowledge, or that hope, actually, that that barrier will work.”

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Mr Chalwell said swimming in the shark net was the safest he could feel.

“I’ve actually been lucky enough to see a seal on the other side of the net, looking back at me, saying ‘how do I get onto your side’?” he said.

“So it gives you an idea or a feeling of safety.”

Nets dotted up and down the coast

Shark attacks were again front of mind in WA this week after Gary Johnson was killed on Sunday while diving off the coast of Esperance.

The search for Mr Johnson’s body was called off by police this morning, pending any new information being received.



Photo:

Gary Johnson was taken by a suspected great white shark near Cull Island. (Facebook: Esperance Dive Club)

In an all-too-familiar drill, the attack has left concerned community members calling for more action to protect ocean users, the WA Government restating the measures it is taking, and a grieving family calling for calm, saying their loved one knew the risks.

Until now, Chantal Barrett has only ever done distance swimming at Cottesloe in organised events.



Photo:

Chantal Barrett (blue bathers) previously only swam distance events at Cottesloe in a group. (ABC News: Eliza Borello)

“It almost creates a nice sea lane swimming pool, but you’re always feeling safe as well,” she said.

“It definitely gets everyone outside, being fit, happy, active. I definitely see a lot more people swimming and training down here.”



Photo:

A man takes an early morning swim inside the shark net at Cottesloe Beach. (ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)

Other shark nets are dotted along the WA coastline, including at Sorrento in Perth’s northern suburbs, Coogee near Fremantle and in the regional towns of Dunsborough and Albany.

Des Lord, who swims in the nets at Coogee and Dunsborough, was impressed with Cottesloe’s barrier.



Photo:

Des Lord also swims at other netted beaches. (ABC News: Eliza Borrello)

“If you see the size of the mesh of the net, you’d probably get some small wobbegong-type sharks through, but nothing more than that,” he said.

The beach nets are part of a range of measures different levels of government have employed across WA to help mitigate as much as possible the risk of shark attacks.

Since February 2019 a smart drumline trial off Gracetown has caught and tagged two great white sharks.


Video: Great white shark caught on a SMART drumline in WA's south west

(ABC News)

In 2017, the State Government introduced a $200 rebate on shark deterrent devices to make them more accessible to divers and swimmers.

Enhanced monitoring has also been installed at beaches including Gracetown and a SharkSmart app has been launched to better track shark activity.

According to WA Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley, there are an estimated 1,600 endangered white pointer sharks between WA and Victoria.

Tourists think Australia is ‘full of sharks’

Cottesloe Mayor Philip Angers said he welcomed the positive response to the net.

“We’re now getting very strong crowds very early in the morning, like 5:30am, where people would never swim before, mainly because that’s the dusk and dawn period and people are a bit scared,” he said.

“That goes through until about 7:30am, quarter to eight, and then after that we tend to get a lot of tourists and just ordinary beachgoers, who probably don’t want to do laps for the Rottnest Swim but they just enjoy the beach.”



Photo:

Cottesloe Mayor Philip Angers says visitor numbers had swelled since the barrier went in.

The perceived boost to tourism and local businesses, in particular, has pleased Mr Angers.

“I looked the other day when I was here and I went past so many hire cars,” he said.

“Tourists tend to think Australia is just full of sharks.

“In reality the risk of a shark attack is very low, but I think it’s in your mind and the net or barrier takes that away.”



Photo:

Cottesloe Beach is one of Perth’s most popular destinations for locals and tourists. (ABC News: Eliza Borrello)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news


National forecast update: Yet more dangerous fire conditions on the way


Adelaide 5000

With another cold front on the way, the end of the week looks set to bring more challenging conditions to fire grounds in Australia’s south-east.

Key Points

  • Fire danger is set to ramp up again at the end of this week, with hot weather forecast for SA, the ACT, NSW and Victoria
  • Rain is expected to fall over parts of WA, and it’s hoped a hot air mass over the centre will begin to disperse
  • More promising is the Indian Ocean Dipole’s return to neutrality, but forecasts don’t show any strong trend towards rain

The front, currently impacting Western Australia’s south-west coast, will drag down hot air from the centre as it moves across the country, increasing temperatures and fire danger in the south-east into the weekend.

There is also likely to be rainfall in northern and central WA, and the potential for some of the hot air mass that has been lurking over central Australia for the past few months to be cleared out.

Early next week there is a chance of a sprinkling of rain over the east coast, but the coast is only tipped to receive about 10 millimetres, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.

External Link:

BOM provides an update about the elevated fire danger

“Ten millimetres isn’t a particularly significant amount of rainfall, so it is unlikely to do any significant contribution in terms of easing the conditions,” senior climatologist Agata Imielska said.

“Right now there isn’t really any significant rainfall on the forecast that would either ease the fires or the drought conditions we’ve been experiencing for quite some time.”

The bad news

The current reprieve from the worst of the heatwave and fire conditions in the south-east will be short.

The west has gotten the heat first with catastrophic fire danger forecast for the Goldfields region on Thursday and temperatures reaching well over 40C in the state’s south-east.

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South Australia will be next, with six districts expected to experience extreme fire danger conditions on Friday.

Adelaide is forecast to reach 42C on Friday, while Bordertown, in the state’s south-east, is also set to peak at 42C.

Meanwhile, in the state’s north, Oodnadatta is forecast to get up to 47C.

But the heat is not forecast to linger long, with the temperature in Adelaide expected to plummet to a maximum of 25C on Saturday.

Southern and eastern Victoria are also expected to be hot on Friday, and the heat will extend into Saturday for the north-west of the state.

The mercury will push 39C in Bairnsdale, while Mallacoota, in fire-ravaged East Gippsland, will hit 41C on Saturday.

Saturday will also bring dangerous conditions for NSW, with a wind change coming up the coast in much the same way as the change that came through on New Years Eve.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has declared a tourist leave zone along the South Coast, from the Victorian border to Batemans Bay.


Infographic:
The NSW RFS declared a “tourist leave zone” between Batemans Bay and the northern edge of the Victorian border.
(Supplied: NSW Rural Fire Service)

Sydney city is forecast to miss out on the worst of the heat, but Penrith, in Western Sydney, is forecast to get up to 45C on Saturday.

Canberra is expected to swelter through a 42C day on Saturday.

The good news


Infographic:
It is still a long way our so don’t get your hopes up too much but there is rain forecast for the south east-early next week. Bigger totals are expected for Western Australia over the next few days.
(Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology )

Luke Huntington, duty forecaster at the BOM in WA, said northern Australia is expected to get their usual showers and thunderstorms over the next few days, with totals increasing inland on Friday and into Saturday.

“We will see increased moisture from just offshore from the Kimberley Coast,” Mr Huntington said.

“That’ll be dragged along the mainland later in the week.

“It looks like on the Saturday there will be a rain band stretching from the Kimberly right through until the Eucla region and that’ll cool the air through that region.”

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There is also a cold air mass expected to move over the south of the state on Friday, which will get pushed up into central parts of the state by a strong ridge of high pressure with south-easterly winds.

Mr Huntington said that should also help to flush out the hot air.

“Without that hot air in that region we are unlikely to see any of those really hot temperatures … at least for the next couple of weeks, before that hot air could build up once again.”

It is not looking like NSW, SA or Queensland will get that sort of reprieve, but at this point something is better than nothing — and there is other good news.

IOD finally backing off
External Link:

Understanding the Indian Ocean Dipole

The last year has been hounded by one of the strongest positive Indian Ocean Dipoles (IOD) on record, but it returned to neutral territory this week.

Usually the IOD breaks down as the monsoon approaches the Northern Territory in early December, but better late than never.

“[The return to neutrality] will contribute to less of a warm air mass over the state,” Mr Huntington said.

External Link:

Andrew Watkins Tweet

“With that breaking down, we typically get the increased rainfall and perhaps the monsoon trough eventually beginning to form over the northern part of the state.”

Despite the monsoon still not having begun, things are starting to look decidedly more tropical up north.

“Some of the guidance is going for increased rainfall over that northern part of [Western Australia] and perhaps a tropical low may form over the weekend and into early next week,” he said.

“We may also see an increased risk of a tropical cyclone — at this stage it’s pretty uncertain, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

With the positive IOD gone and Australia’s other major climate drivers also forecast to remain neutral, the rainfall outlook over the next few months does not show any strong trend towards wetter or drier conditions.


Infographic:
This map is looking decidedly less brown than it has in recent months.
(Supplied: BOM)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news




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