VIEWERS of Monday night’s Four Corners program on the accidental killing of Orange teenagers Eliza Wannan and Will Dalton-Brown at a paddock party near Molong in 2010 did not get an accurate picture of the police investigation, the NSW Police Force said yesterday.
Four Corners aired “While they were sleeping” 12 days after the findings of a coronial inquest into the teenagers deaths were handed down by magistrate Sharon Freund.
The teenagers were run over by then 17-year-old Rhys Colefax, the son of a police officer formerly stationed at Orange Police Station.
The coroner said in her findings Mr Colefax being the son of a police officer did not compromise the investigation, the investigation was thorough and, that if anything, steps undertaken by the police may have gone against the driver.
The NSW Police Force declined to be interviewed but said in a statement the program effectively ignored a detailed and independent review of both the evidence and the investigation.
“This significant omission denied the program’s viewers of material that would have benefited their understanding of these tragic events,” the statement said.
The investigation into the teenagers’ deaths was reviewed by Canobolas Local Area Command Superintendent David Driver. His review was subject to a further review by another superintendent at the Professional Standards Command.
This was not mentioned in the program.
Four Corners made references to the investigating constable Grant Gannon not getting a statement from Mr Colefax and only trying to contact him twice.
The coroner noted in her report that by law a person of interest is entitled to invoke their right to silence and “it would have been improper for Senior Constable Gannon to have pursued the matter further at this stage”.
She also noted that Senior Constable Gannon did not charge Mr Colefax with any other offences, such as driving without being accompanied by a fully licensed driver as he was only a learner, because he was concentrating on “the bigger picture”.
Ms Freund said if Mr Colefax had been charged with the lesser offences he would have lost his licence for a short period of time and received a fine.
However, Four Corners stand by their report.
The journalist Caro Meldrum-Hanna declined to be interviewed and her producer sent the Central Western Daily a statement that said the program did include details of the independent review.
The program only mentioned the review carried out by Superintendent Driver.
The statement said police, the coroner and the Department of Public Prosecutions weren’t interviewed.
The program’s presenter Kerry O’Brien acknowledged the coroner’s findings at the end of the show in one sentence and directed viewers to the program’s website to see the responses of the police and the DPP.
Internal investigations meaningless to grieving father
FOR grieving father Andrew Wannan, police could have completed thousands of internal investigations and it would have made no difference to how he felt about the handling of the investigation into his daughter’s death.
He wanted an independent review compiled by a source separate to the police.
An investigation was carried out by Canobolas Local Area Command police in the hours and weeks after his daughter Eliza and her friend Will Dalton-Brown were reversed over by a teenager driving a ute.
He was never charged because the deaths occurred in an area that was not deemed to be “road-related”.
The investigation was reviewed by the Professional Standards Command but none of that meant anything to Mr Wannan because the reviews were carried out in-house.
He said in many ways the Four Corners program that aired on Monday night was the closest he would ever get to a review by an outside source.
“I don’t believe it was ever examined by any independent authorities. It was manifestly inadequate,” he said.