Grieving Victorian Family Say Police Failed Them
A missing man whose body was found next to his car in the Victorian bush may have died of natural causes, but his family say an inadequate police search contributed to his death.
The body of Matthew Williams, 37, was found in forest near Blackwood six days after he left home to go gold prospecting in nearby bush in December 2014.
"The police made their mistakes," Mr Williams' brother Andrew told an inquest at the Victorian Coroner's Court on Thursday.
An autopsy was unable to determine the cause of death because of the body's state of decomposition, but it's believed Mr Williams collapsed suddenly.
His body was found next to his car on a disused bush track on December 27 by a group of men on a camping trip.
He was reported missing on December 21 by his partner when she was unable to reach him on his mobile after he failed to return home to take their son swimming.
Police found keys still in the ignition of his Mr Williams' car and the driver's door open.
A police officer who examined the scene said it appeared as though Mr Williams had been gathering his belongings when he collapsed.
A pathology report was unable to detect any snake bites on his body because of the state of decomposition.
But the autopsy did find his heart was "noticeably enlarged", which might be linked to an underlying heart condition.
There were also no signs of trauma or injury to his body.
The report was not able to pinpoint a time of death, but did not find evidence of prolonged survival following a collapse.
Mr Williams' family allege the search was inadequate because his body was found along a disused track near an area police had already searched.
"I think police know they made mistakes, and their excuse is 'Well, he was already dead, it doesn't matter that we stuffed up'," said Mr Williams' brother, Andrew.
The family say a failure by police to search for a missing person in an effective and appropriate manner could have implications for others.
"What if a person is lying there with a broken leg and dies of thirst," said Andrew.
Coroner Rosemary Carlin will hand down her findings at a later date.