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.