A detective giving evidence at the coronial inquest into the death of Moree man Gordon Copeland has been told he did not do enough to raise concerns with senior officers.
Mr Copeland's body was found three months after disappearing into the Gwydir River during a police incident in the early hours of July 10, 2021. The coronial inquest into his death began in Moree on Monday, July 18.
The court heard on Wednesday morning that Detective Senior Constable (DSC) Bradley Beddoes received a call from Leading Senior Constable Crystal Manusu, after the search had been called off, informing him that Mr Copeland's family had attended Moree Police Station with new information.
The family informed police they had had been told Mr Copeland, who was missing, was in the vehicle involved in the incident.
This was after an initial search - for someone seen in the river - had been called off because DSC Beddoes and his colleague had come to the conclusion that there were only two people in the car, and were accounted for.
Leading Senior Constable Manusu attempted to validate the information provided to the detectives that only two people were in the car, and how they came to that conclusion, given the new details provided by the family.
But DSC Beddoes explained he was not able to tell the leading senior constable at the time where their information had come from, as another covert operation was taking place.
The detectives had received their information from listening devices, and legislation did not allow him to share the details.
The state coroner, Her Honour, Magistrate Teresa O'Sullivan, interrupted questioning when she had heard Senior Constable Beddoes had told Leading Senior Constable Manusu to contact the duty officer if she had concerns.
"She was trying to validate something you had told her that there were two people, do you agree with me you hadn't even validated the information," the coroner asked.
"In my mind I had," Senior Constable Beddoes answered.
"But you hadn't validated it, had you?," she said.
"If validate means speaking to the actual people involved then, no," he said.
She continued: "Or anyone else who had been involved... or speak to any of the police officers involved?"
"You're asking her to accept that you had validated it, when you hadn't validated it.
"Did it enter your mind at this point, after the conversation with Leading Senior Constable Manusu, that there was a possibility that there may have been three people, there may have been more than two people in the car?" she asked.
"If she's concerned, weren't you concerned?"
"You've given evidence of your level of concern if someone was in the river given what the river looked like to you... why did you say that ... if you're concerned, do something! What did you do as a result of being concerned?" she asked.
"Nothing at that stage," he replied
"I don't know, I cant answer that sorry. If someone was in the river ... Some searches had to recommence and that sort of stuff and certainly that's not my call whether those happen," Senior Constable Beddoes said.
"If it's based on the information you've just given to Leading Senior Constable Manusu, you're saying that you're satisfied that there's no-one in the river ... but you're also saying now today, that you weren't satisfied, that there possibly could have been three people in the car."
"Prior to that conversation I was satisfied only two people were in the car and accounted for, but when at that stage further information came to hand, it changed," the detective said.
"That's right, it changed, and it made you think maybe there wasn't two people in the car, maybe there was three."
"One hundred per cent, yes."
"This is when you knew the search had been called off."
"And yet you did nothing?"
"I just don't know what I was expected to do at that stage."
"What do you think you could've done that consideration might be given so the search could be put back on again?" the coroner asked.
"That was the reason why I advised Leading Senior Constable Manusu to contact the Inspector," DSC Beddoes said.
"Why didn't you contact the inspector?... You've now got concerns, you're not sure if there are two people or three, yet you said to this officer who was worried enough to ring you at 2.30 in the morning, if you've got concerns to contact someone."
Leading Senior Constable Manusu had told Senior Constable Beddoes she was reluctant to call the duty officer after already speaking to them a number of times. Senior Constable Beddoes stated he had a good relationship with that acting inspector and confirmed he was Manusu's senior officer.
He was asked, upon reflection if it would have been a good idea to make the call.
"Possibly but I still don't know why she didn't. I really don't know," Senior Constable Beddoes said.
At the conclusion of his evidence, Senior Constable Beddoes offered a teary apology.
"It's so tragic that the family has to lose another family member and I've been there. I can assure you that on this day I did everything I could to try and locate who was in that river. Clearly now, it wasn't good enough and I'm sorry, but I did my absolute best. I'm sorry for your loss."
Senior Constable Beddoes and other witnesses continue to give evidence on Wednesday.
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