Readers are advised this article contains the name and image of a First Nations person who has died. The above photo is used with his family’s consent.
Aerial images have helped narrow down the timeframe for the death of a First Nations man whose body was found at an isolated spot on a river several years ago.
The ACT Coroner’s Court is examining the death of 40-year-old Nathan Booth, whose body was found in the Murrumbidgee River near the Kambah Pool on 1 December 2019.
His family, who believe he was murdered, last saw him in June 2019 before he was reported missing that September.
At a directions hearing for the coronial inquest on Monday (21 August), Coroner Ken Archer told Mr Booth’s family and supporters that an analysis on the scene of where his body had been found had been conducted with satellite images.
He said the result was that investigators could determine, within a month, the time when he went into the water.
It was closer to the time he was last seen than investigators had been able to determine before, he said.
Coroner Archer said the inquest was also still waiting on some expert evidence on toxicology issues and from a biomechanic but also wanted a survivalist to say how long a person could survive in the water.
The coroner said the brief of evidence for the matter was going to run into the thousands of pages and will be given to the family by the end of the month.
It will include over 40 statements, including from people approached to see if they know anything about Mr Booth’s death, as well as a lot of expert evidence.
The coroner also warned the family that some of the material in the brief of evidence would be confronting, but it would be up to them and their lawyers to see what the best way was for the brief to be shown to them.
The courtroom heard that when the hearings for the inquest start, on 11 December 2023, it will likely open with a viewing at the river where Mr Booth’s body was found along with the evidence of a person involved in the search and rescue in December 2019.
Counsel assisting the coroner Joe Kellaway said his team was looking at live streaming the onsite evidence into a Magistrates Court courtroom so those who couldn’t make it to the river could still watch what was happening.
Mr Kellaway said much of the investigation started after Mr Booth’s mother reported him missing in September 2019 and a lot of the work police had undertaken would likely form the second phase of the inquest’s hearings in 2024.
He said police had an “enormous” amount of information from the initial inquiries in terms of the various people who had been spoken to.
He was hopeful the advice from the forensic side of the inquest would inform the way they looked at the missing person investigation.
The courtroom was filled with family members and supporters and Coroner Archer said a “nice theme” of the inquest process was seeing Mr Booth so well supported when the matter was heard in court.
He adjourned for another directions hearing on 25 September.
The coroner’s court has previously released a flyer calling for more information on Mr Booth’s death.
Anyone with information to add to the case is encouraged to write to this email address: NBinquest@courts.act.gov.au.