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.
The coroner has launched an appeal for information about the mysterious death of a First Nations man whose body was found at an isolated spot on a river several years ago.
The call has been made in the midst of reports that some people are afraid of speaking up about the death of 40-year-old Nathan Booth out of fear of “repercussions”.
Nathan’s family last saw him in June 2019 before his body was found in the Murrumbidgee River near the Kambah Pool on 1 December.
While a coronial inquest into his death started earlier this year, it has been a long wait for answers for his family, who believe he was murdered.
“Everyone knows Nathan didn’t get down there on his own,” his sister Deanne Booth said.
“We know there’s no way Nathan went down there [by himself], did anything to himself or had an accident of any sort.”
Nathan’s body was found below the Red Rock Gorge lookout, a relatively isolated spot.
“Why would he be down there? There’s no reason for Nathan to be down there,” Deanne said.
She also thought an autopsy hadn’t explained what had happened to her brother and said there were many rumours about his death.
“Even today we are still hearing the stories,” she said.
A directions hearing for the inquest was held on Tuesday (27 June), with the ACT Galambany Court packed with people wanting to hear the latest developments.
“It is really quite moving to me to see Nathan so well represented in this room,” Coroner Ken Archer told the crowd.
“This proceeding is open to you, always.”
After the hearing, the coroner’s court released a flyer calling for more information.
Anyone with information to add to the case is encouraged to write to this email address: NBinquest@courts.act.gov.au.
Deanne said this process meant people’s identities would be protected and people could stay anonymous if they chose.
“We’re hoping it brings us the answers that we need and confirms the stories that people were too frightened to tell,” she said.
She said even this year, people have approached her to say they want to tell her stories about the case.
“You can tell they want to say something, but they don’t want to be involved at the same time,” she said.
She said there were a lot of reasons why people were afraid of speaking out.
“A lot of them were fearful of the repercussions that would happen to them if they spoke out,” she said.
“We just want to get close to the truth, because there are a lot of stories out there.
“The family wants justice for Nathan, we deserve justice for Nathan. Nathan deserves justice.”
Deanne, who was speaking to Region while she was with members of her family, said she really appreciated the respect given to her family inside and outside the courtroom by everyone assisting the inquest.
“The community is happy that this is going the way it’s going,” elder Stancy Booth, who is Nathan’s aunt, said.
“It’s not only just for us, it’s for other families as well and for people in the community.”
“Other mothers have been going through the same thing that [Nathan’s mother] Rayleen has been going through, so we are hoping it’ll help them as well,” another of Nathan’s aunts, elder Coral King, said.
The inquest will hold another directions hearing on 21 August and is scheduled to start its hearings proper on 11 December.