Rhys Colefax’s decision not to give police a statement after he reversed over Eliza Wannan and Will Dalton-Brown was his legal right, Deputy State Coroner Sharon Freund heard in Orange Court yesterday.
The evidence was heard on the final day of an inquest into the death of Ms Wannan and Mr Dalton-Brown on a property near Orange on Australia Day 2010.
The pair died after Mr Colefax backed his utility over them in the early hours of the morning while they were sleeping in a swag on the ground.
Under cross examination from Mr Colefax’s solicitor Mason Manwaring, the investigating officer Detective Senior Constable Grant Gannon said it was not unusual for persons of interest in cases to seek legal advice and, acting on that advice, not give statements to police.
As part of further questioning from Mr Manwaring, Detective Gannon said Mr Colefax, who was a learner driver at the time, had complied with all police requests the morning following the tragedy, had told police at the scene his version of events, agreed to a random breath test and accompanied police to Orange Base Hospital for blood and urine samples to be taken.
Mr Manwaring also put it to the detective that as Mr Colefax was 17 at the time, a telephone call to his father, who was a serving police officer, was appropriate action.
Mr Manwaring also raised the issue of a press statement made by Inspector Peter Atkins following the deaths of the two young people that stated alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the investigation and referred to the negative alcometer reading taken at the scene.
“He said it was a tragic accident and on the morning (of the incident) that was the view,” Mr Manwaring said.
Detective Gannon confirmed the alcometer used for testing was found two weeks later to be defective and sent away for repairs.
Counsel assisting NSW Police in the inquest, Patrick Saidi, questioned Detective Gannon about the issue of conflict of interest as Rhys Colefax’s father Brett was a serving police officer in the Canobolas Local Area Command.
“What was your relationship with Brett Colefax?” Mr Saidi asked Detective Gannon.
“I didn’t mix socially with him, we were in a separate building then at the station, and I had no conversations with him other than to see him at the Christmas Party.”
However he said he did speak to other senior officers at the station, crime manager Denese Godden and investigations manager Detective Sergeant Andrew McLean, telling them Mr Colefax was the son of a police officer.
Detective Gannon said he made the decision the case did not come under the legislation related to an accident on a public road and was not road related.
Therefore the blood and urine samples taken from Mr Colefax at the hospital could not be used as evidence in the case.