THE families of Eliza Wannan and Will Dalton-Brown returned to court in Orange yesterday seeking answers to what unfolded on a district property in January 2010 when the young people were run over in their sleeping swag and killed by learner driver Rhys Colefax.
Before any evidence was heard, Deputy State Coroner Sharon Freund adjourned the inquest so counsel for both families and Mr Dalton-Brown’s father Gerry Dalton could leave the court room to inspect the swag in which Ms Wannan and Mr Dalton-Brown were sleeping on the night they died.
Police investigator Senior Constable Grant Gannon was cross-examined all afternoon by solicitors for both families after Ms Freund had earlier lifted a suppression order on the name of the driver of the vehicle.
Under cross examination by solicitor for the Wannan family, Michael Schwab, Constable Gannon told the court he had not a lot of experience in investigating motor vehicle deaths and a decision not to call the crash investigation unit in from Bathurst was a decision made at a higher level in the Canobolas Local Area Command.
While Mr Schwab continued his questioning of how Constable Gannon had determined the speed and path of the vehicle driven by Mr Colefax without the help of specialist investigators, solicitor representing NSW police Patrick Saidi objected to the line of questioning, saying the detective had already provided an answer to the court.
“It [crash investigation unit] is a specialised body called for specialist reasons,” Mr Saidi said.
When it was the turn of solicitor for the Dalton-Brown family Adam Johnson to cross examine Constable Gannon he was harsh in his criticism of police.
He said there was a public perception that the fact Mr Colefax was the son of a police officer and that photographs on Facebook on the night of the party had shown the him drinking, as well as evidence the learner driver had driven unsupervised on roads in the area on the night of the party without any follow up charges by police, lacked transparency.
During further questioning Constable Gannon told the court the alcometer used to test Rhys Colefax and return a negative reading on the driver, was found two weeks later to be faulty and had to be sent away for repairs.
Mr Johnson also questioned the detective about a photograph of an Esky on the back of Colefax’s vehicle which Constable Gannon said he didn’t look inside.
“Were you not alerted to alcohol being involved - and it never occurred to you [to look inside]?”
However Constable Gannon said his priority was investigating the death of the young people and not charging Mr Colefax with driving offences around the time of the tragedy when around 70 witnesses were interviewed.
Earlier in the day forensic specialist Doctor Allan Carla told the court via telephone link the injuries sustained by the two young people were consistent with traumatic asphyxiation followed by a cardiac arrest and resulting brain damage.
However he said it was impossible to tell how closely the cardiac arrest had followed the initial crush injuries restricting breathing as no autopsies were carried out.
The inquest into the death of Ms Wannan and Mr Dalton-Brown was stopped abruptly in May 2011 when Ms Freund told the court she believed there were reasonable grounds the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) might lay charges against Mr Colefax.
However the DPP decided not to proceed on any charges and this week’s hearing date was set down for the final days of evidence.
Today the families of the young people are expected to put impact statements to the court.